Why one 14-year-old girl, Kevin Kilroy, started “Girls Helping Girls” with Wells Bring Hope
A little more than a year ago, my dad walked in the door, put a book in front of me and said, “Flip through it.” It was Water is Key: A Better Future for Africa, full of photographs by former L.A. County District Attorney Gil Garcetti. I couldn’t believe what I saw and I couldn’t believe what I read. I never knew that the lack of clean water could cause so much harm—terrible diseases…even death.
I was shocked to learn how much Nigerien girls suffer. Women and girls are responsible for gathering water for their families. They walk 4-6 miles a day and do the back-breaking work of pulling up water and carrying it back on their heads. They do this every single day of their lives.
This daily trek takes hours, and in addition to being exhausting and painful, it means that these girls miss out on something that I take for granted, an education. Without an education, these girls marry at a very early age, as young as 12, and 75% of them are married by the time they turn eighteen!
These statistics made me think about how different my life would be if I had been born there instead of here. That made me more determined than ever to do everything I can to help improve the quality of life for girls in Niger.
Before reading the book, I couldn’t have named even one country in West Africa, but by the time I finished, I was determined to do something and I started by spreading the word. If I didn’t know about this problem, I figured that my friends and classmates didn’t either. I had a meeting with the assistant principal and pastor of my school and parish, St. Paul the Apostle, and we arranged for me to speak at five Masses that weekend.
In my five-minute presentation, I talked about the immense challenges of life in Niger, at the time, one of the three poorest countries in the world. (It is now the second poorest country.) I spoke about life expectancy and about how 5,000 African children die every day, often from diseases related to a lack of safe water.
Then I told the parishioners about Wells Bring Hope and how it only takes $5,600 to drill a well and save lives. That weekend I raised enough money for two wells and more kept coming in. I started raising money at school too, participating in fundraisers where I did things like wash dishes for tips. My friends became interested, and they started helping too. We raised enough money for five wells, giving more than 3,000 people access to clean, safe water, exactly what I was hoping for.
The children of my generation do not appreciate being the last to know things. We are great believers in fighting for the greater good, but we have to know what to fight for! My main goal is to spread awareness–to make sure that people know how easy it is to save lives with safe water, to make sure they know that it is as simple as drilling a well. I hope that other people, especially girls like me, will be motivated to do what I did and raise money to help people who so desperately need it.