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One Drop of Water at a Time: Solidarity Moves the Global Movement for Social Justice

November 2007

In times of war and institutionalized terrorism, examples of solidarity between people in the United States and the Global South give us hope for a better world. In fact, it is only through solidarity with people that we will never actually meet that we can build the “global movement for social justice”.

Here is a case that has re-energized us at Grassroots International this end of year.

Last spring, Grassroots made a brief presentation to students of Boston’s Philbrick School about our work to support rural communities throughout the globe to reclaim their rights to land, water and food.

The students wanted to organize a school-wide activity to bring water to thirsty families and crops. After learning about the plight of other children in Brazil, they decided to organize a fundraising campaign to build a cistern that will collect rainwater for domestic use in a rural community.

Fourth and fifth graders of the Philbrick School constructed a small model of a paper maché rural home and a cistern sitting under a roof eave. They placed the model in the school’s front hall. Students dropped coins on the paper maché house, the coins rolled into a gutter and dropped into the cistern. Coin by coin, the group was able to raise $268 to support the construction of a cistern in Sítio do Lúcio in Brazil. Read here the article in the Bulletin News.

The students asked Grassroots to come into their classrooms to talk about the right to water and to channel the money to its partner organization Polo Sindical.

The students from Philbrick knew that their initiative will help more than one family and one community, as water in Sítio do Lúcio is always shared in moments of scarcity. They also learned during the campaign about unequal distribution of water around the world and Brazil’s dry Northeastern region.

Northeast Brazil has a beautiful coast and the world’s largest and most populated semi-arid area in the countryside with 25 million people. Cyclical droughts in this region cause as much damage here as Hurricane Katrina wrought in New Orleans.

With the cistern, the family and the community of Sítio do Lúcio will have a better chance to cope with the droughts. The model of new cistern in Sítio do Lúcio was developed by local rural communities and can supply a family of 5 people for 8 months.

The news about the initiative of Roslindale’s youth was received by Polo Sindical with great joy.

“I am forwarding your message to the board of directors. Personally, I am thrilled with this beautiful initiative of the children from Roslindale, who live in a different reality, but are very concerned with the challenges of other children from Sítio do Lúcio”.

Later in the same day, the general coordinator of Polo Sindical, Rita de Cássia sent a message to others in the Semi-Arid Network, a grassroots initiative of farmers associations, indigenous people and women’s organizations. The contribution of students from the elementary school of Philbrick is a good example that solidarity is what moves our passion for social justice.

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