• St. Thomas Community Helps Bring Clean Drinking Water to Students in Iraq

    Students for Justice and Peace at the University of St. Thomas, in collaboration with other student groups and departments, raised more than $1,400 last spring to pay for a water-filtration system that is now used by the 300 students at the Imam Redha Elementary School for Girls in Najaf, Iraq.

    The money was used to buy a medium-sized water purifier that produces 100 gallons of clean water per day. This effort is part of the Minneapolis-based Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project’s (IARP) Water for Peace program.

    Sami Rasouli, director of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT), orchestrated the arrangement of Najaf as Minneapolis’ sister city and started the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project. In fall 2009, he spoke to a group of St. Thomas students, including Students for Justice and Peace (SJP).

    The water-filtration system purchased by University of St. Thomas students produces 100 gallons of clean water per day.

    The water-filtration system purchased by University of St. Thomas students produces 100 gallons of clean water per day.

    As one of SJP’s new project facilitators, student Brent Lehman took on Rasouli’s challenge to connect St. Thomas and the globally conscious members of SJP to a broader community. The group showed interest in the water-filtration project and looked for ways to involve other students at St. Thomas.

    Campus organizations were asked to participate in a month of fundraising that began with a panel discussion (marking the seventh anniversary of the war in Iraq) and ended on Earth Day.

    Fundraising activities that St. Thomas students hosted included:

    • With help from Dining Services and SJP’s correspondent Todd Empanger, an “empty-bowls meal” allowed students to sell donated handmade pottery bowls filled with free soup. The donated bowls came from high school art teachers around the country and from St. Thomas students who had created pottery bowls in the past.
    • Bicycle Enthusiasts at St. Thomas (BEAST) helped put on a bike race through Minneapolis.
    • Donations were collected at an information table and at a Campus Ministry Mass.
    • Money was collected during a demonstration against the war in Iraq.
    • Student Clare Naughton raised $100 by allowing donors to cut off her dreadlocks at the price of $5 per lock.
    • The Music Department collected donations at its spring choir concerts. (Special thanks go to Dr. Vanessa Cornette-Murtada and Dr. Angela Broeker.)
    • Student Casey Johnson made muffins for the Music Department and accepted donations.

    According to the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project, the province of Najaf (located 100 miles south of Baghdad, population of 1.2 million) has approximately 500 schools and 20 hospitals and clinics that are in need of water-sanitation systems. The main water system in Najaf is being restored gradually, but the water is contaminated with bacteria from sewage.

    The Imam Redha Elementary School for Girls in Najaf, Iraq, is located about 100 miles south of Baghdad.

    The Imam Redha Elementary School for Girls in Najaf, Iraq, is located about 100 miles south of Baghdad.

    Water for Peace, in partnership with Muslim Peacemaker Teams, sells three sizes of water systems at a cost of $250, $500 and $1,000 that can provide clean water for 100, 400 and 800 students per day. Each system also needs a small electrical generator that costs $250.

    Students for Justice and Peace began in Campus Ministry during the 1980s. It is a group of students dedicated to education and action on social justice and the promotion of peace on the St. Thomas campus and in the world. SJP meets at noon Thursdays in Room LL01, John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts. Everyone is welcome.

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