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Published on April 23rd, 2014 | by Mace & Crown Administrator

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Students Rebuild Water Challenge: The Bead Project

While some contemplate the seemingly difficult decision of choosing between Deer Park and Dasani, many do not even think about the approximately 1 billion people in this world who do not have access to clean drinking water.

According to the YouTube video “Water Changes Everything,” by the organization charity: water, women and children in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America,walk up to three hours a day to collect water from swamps, rivers and ponds using a jerrycan, a container typically used for gasoline.

The water they collect is dirty, contaminated and contains germs that lead to serious health issues such as a dehydration, diarrhea and even death. They have no other options.

Thankfully, there is a solution.

Thanks to Ruth Freisenbruch, an aspiring art education teacher and ODU student, and Students Rebuild, a non-profit organization, all ODU students have the opportunity to help bring clean drinking water to villagers in Tanzania by completing one simple task – making a paper bead.

The Students Rebuild Water Challenge is a global collaborative art effort to help generate funding for water projects in Tanzania.

With partnership with charity: water and Global Nomads Group, The Students Rebuild Water Challenge asks individuals from all over the world to come together to create paper beads that can provide thousands of Tanzanians with clean water.

For every 20 beads made, one villager will have access to clean water, and according to the Students Rebuild Water Challenge website, the Bezos Family Foundation, a private, independent foundation, will match the amount of beads made to fund for 41 water projects that will serve 16,000 people in schools and communities in Tanzania.

Freisenbruch stumbled upon the project while completing a research assignment for potential lesson plans in her Art 305 class, elementary art education methods and classroom management.

Freisenbruch, along with other Art 305 students, had to base their semester assignments on the overall curriculum concept: art for social change.

Originally, Freisenbruch was looking up how to create paper cranes from The Japan Project, a previous global collaborate effort by Students Rebuild to help raise money after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011, but found out about the Water Challenge.

Excited about joining this collaborative global art project, Freisenbruch approached her professor, Patricia Edwards, senior art lecturer at the ODU Virginia Beach Higher Education Center, and together worked to spread the word of this project to many schools, organizations, and individuals within the community.

“The beads have been made by students at Salem Elementary, Bayside High School, Granby High School, and ODU Career Switchers. There has [also] been community outreach bead making at the ODU Dr. Seuss Birthday Celebration, ODU Virginia Beach Higher Education Center, and the ODU National Art Education Associations members [who] worked with the Hope House Foundation,” Freisenbruch said in an email.

Having already collected 1,727 beads, which do not include the beads from the Higher Education Center, the project has grown significantly within the community and far exceeded Freisenbruch’s expectations.

“When I began, I had no idea that…we were going to be able to produce enough beads for 86 plus [Tanzanians].”

The project’s goal is to collect 323,460 beads that will provide clean drinking water for 16,173 villagers.

The main question is ‘why beads?’

For the African culture, beads are symbolic and have been a tremendous part of life in Africa for thousands for years. According the Students Rebuild Water Challenge Fact Sheet, the beads have been used for ceremonies, significant life events, currency, communication and adornment.

The process to make a bead only takes minutes, and gives people of all ages the opportunity to participate in a worldwide project that not only provides the people in Tanzania with clean drinking water, but also allows individuals to join a global effort to help create change.

“Art is such a powerful medium that easily transcend[s] international boarders and unites us all,” Freisenburch said.

The global project has also incorporated Vik Muniz, a world-renowned artist and academy award nominee for best feature documentary, Waste Land.

Muniz is an artist the students have studied previously due to his unique ways to create spectacular tableaus recreated from original photographs using trash and unconventional materials, such as chocolate sauce and diamonds.

With the beads that are sent in, Muniz has agreed to create a benefit poster for the project, a similar approach he did using the paper cranes from the Japan devastation three years back.

Using Muniz as an inspiration to the overall semester theme, Edwards connected the materials used in this project to how her students, future teachers and art educators, are able to use such materials with their future students.

“What I absolutely love about this project is so often we as educators are trying to keep our learning and teaching at a budget and using simple materials like magazines that are discarded, glue sticks…and scissors, you can create beautiful, aesthetically magnificent works with very little money.”

What started out to be a class research assignment for Freisenburch, has developed into a community involvement.

“I believe this project has been so successful because of the big ideas which were integrated: global awareness, collaboration, social responsibilities, critical thinking, creative thinking, recycling, and changing the world through art,” Freiseburch said.

To contribute, a table is set up inside the Virginia Beach Higher Education Center Atrium until May 1, and has specific instructions to follow to create a five different bead designs.

To learn more information about Students Rebuild and the Water Challenge, visit studentsrebuild.org.

Veronica Singer
Staff Writer


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