By: Daisy Rocha Issue: Transformation Section: Community
Brings Water to South Sudan
Nearly one billion people have no access to clean water. They walk miles each day for water, but the water they find is dirty. They suffer because of the lack of clean water resources and are not able to break away from a cycle of sickness and poverty. According to The Water Project, nearly 80 percent of illness in developing countries is linked to poor water and sanitation conditions. But eight-year-old Paul Felix is on a mission to provide fresh clean water to thousands of people on the other side of the world in South Sudan.
But how? How can a third grader fix this global issue?
Felix is certainly a bighearted young entrepreneur. While he loves Cub Scouts, baseball and reading the Lord of the Rings series, he has always had that special care for helping others. He has studied other cultures with his family and is quite aware about the world around him. He understands that as global citizens, his family is very “rich.” Since kindergarten, Felix’s teacher, Terri Greer, explains, “He has had the leadership and intellect to change the world and the compassion to have people come alongside him and help.” Needless to say, this has stayed with Felix and his family and has been an asset toward who he is today.
Felix’s mother, Laura, tells of how late one night after tucking him in, he could not go to sleep. And after rolling around for a while, he realized there was just no use. As he lay awake in his bed, it struck him that there was something bothering him—there was an ache in his heart. “Paul cried and cried,” she says. Obviously there was nothing wrong with him physically—as he lay there perfectly healthy—but there was the ache that stemmed from his concern about the world’s lack of clean water for developing countries. The thought that thousands of people did not have access to clean water saddened him. “I was surprised he had tears for that reason,” says Laura and she asked him, “What should we do about this?”
It soon became clear that he must do something to help.
After doing some research with his mom, Felix decided to raise money to build a water well in South Sudan. “The people who live there and their beautiful faces inspired me,” he says.
At a young age, and after watching an emotional video, he realized the brutality and struggle that the people of South Sudan have endured after years of war. That’s what prompted him to locate the well there. He knows that many children from the local villages have died from diseases such as malaria, typhoid and skin diseases because the only available water is dirty. “It’s important to have water. It’s an essential thing to survive. These people have to walk five miles to get it and then five miles back—that’s ten miles and the water is not even clean. It’s ridiculous! We have to fix it!” exclaims Felix. Although he does not know what village his well will help, he says, “What I know is that there is going to be a well in Sudan!”
It is certainly a big project for an eight-year-old, but it is his dedication and motivation that keeps him going. Recently he was asked why he wants to help others half a world away, when most kids his age are playing video games, hanging out with their friends and doing other fun activities. His response: “We should be helping others. Plus it’s cool to see what you can do to the world.” He goes on to explain that if he had the opportunity to talk to anyone from history, he would want to meet Abraham Lincoln and ask him where he found the courage to write the Emancipation Proclamation.
From the moment Felix was born he had big bright eyes—the eyes of an innovator with a bright future ahead of him. He grew up with world maps in his bedroom, and it was meant to be that he would do amazing things, like build a well in South Sudan, which will be just one project of many. He is young entrepreneur with innovative ideas and a big heart—traits that motivate his desire to finish the well.
“He makes informed decisions as if his heart is leading him to do it. I am just his ‘assistant,’” explains his mother. It’s not easy for Paul to get up in front of a huge crowd and talk, but he says in order to be a successful young entrepreneur, “You have to be thinking, following your dreams, and most importantly, you have to believe in it.”
With the help of his mother and his church Paul has been able to raise more than $2,600 in donations and is just over halfway to funding the entire village well, which will bring fresh, clean water to approximately four hundred people.
His young entrepreneurial heart is truly making a difference in the lives of others. “The most satisfying moment in this project is the encouragement. Someone gave $100 and we also got a $500 donation for the well,” Felix says. He is undoubtedly an entrepreneur who knows the value of giving back to the community and will likely achieve great things in life. His mission is crystal clear: “I want the well to be done now. People need it NOW. We’re not only helping people now, but we’re helping future generations.”
“Paul is visionary, humble, compassionate, dynamic … the list could go on and on. We are very proud that he inspires other kids. There was a student from a middle school that heard what Paul was doing and gave him all the money he saved from his allowance. It was incredible,” says Laura. Recognizing the dire need in the village, Felix is currently on a mission to get his entire school involved so that he can fundraise faster. When asked why it is important for youth to start becoming aware of global issues at a young age Laura says, “They can make a difference. They are our future and need to understand the importance of taking local, national and global action.”
As for Felix, he continues to inspire others to help anyway they can and take that global entrepreneurship vision and mind-set to another level. He knows that clean water doesn’t just save lives, it changes them forever!
To help Paul reach his goal of $5,000 to build the water well in South Sudan, please visit his fundraising page at http://thewaterproject.org/community/profile/laura-felix. Daisy Rocha is the youth marketing intern and aspiring journalist at YouthBiz, Inc.