DeKALB – Jessie Shattuck’s shoulders were burning with pain Thursday as she took her 18th lap around the Martin Luther King Jr. Commons.
But Shattuck, a junior at Northern Illinois University, continued to carry her two gallons of water around the quarter-mile perimeter of the commons in support of a good cause, she said.
Shattuck was joined by dozens of other NIU students, professors and community members in the Walk with Water fundraiser benefitting the nonprofit Tanzania Development Support organization in DeKalb.
The event, which raised more than $2,000, represented the girls in Tanzania who often walk an average of six miles a day carrying five pounds of water for their families, said NIU history and women’s studies instructor and Tanzania Development board member Sandra Dawson.
When the girls are out carrying water, they are not able to attend school for the day, which is a problem, she said.
“The idea is to raise awareness between walking with water and education,” she said.
Dawson said at schools in the poorest parts of Tanzania, a country in southeast Africa, it’s common for an entire class to share a single textbook. When a student misses school, she cannot make up the lessons, which can lead her to fail exams and ultimately drop out of school, she said.
“The education that they’re getting is pretty limited,” she said.
Kurt Thurmaier, a professor of public administration at NIU, said educating girls in impoverished countries such as Tanzania is especially important because research has shown educated women will double their income, have fewer children and provide their children with an education.
“Educating girls through high school is absolutely essential to breaking the cycle of poverty,” he said.
To help break this cycle, Thurmaier, along with Tanzania Development volunteers and about 10 to 15 students, will use the money raised from the Walk with Water event to help buy building supplies to construct a library during a planned summer trip to Tanzania.
One of the students embarking on the trip is Cory Lipsett, a junior history major at NIU. Lipsett, who is visually impaired, will work to better assist the people with disabilities in Tanzania, he said.
Lipsett also will be helping the other volunteers work with Tanzania residents to build a library that will benefit about 2,000 students of all ages.
After realizing how fortunate he was compared to those in Tanzania, who often don’t receive a higher education, Lipsett said he believes education should begin at a young age if students want to succeed.
“It starts from the ground up,” he said.
Thurmaier said the trip will give be a transformative experience for the students and volunteers.
“This is an unimaginable world to millions of people,” he said. “They [will] see the world as it is for millions of people.”