PICTOU – Middle and high school students from local schools gathered last Friday at the deCoste Performing Arts Centre for an historic WE Walk for Water Day rally to promote clean water sources around the world.
The rally was among many similar events that took place across Canada, the U.S. and Great Britain to celebrate what students have been doing to deliver safe, accessible drinking water to those living without it among their many activities.
“It’s because of you students that everyone has learned about what we do,” said Kate Haire, who manages the Atlantic WE schools.
Haire introduced Craig Keilburger who, with his brother Marc, co-founded the WE Movement more than 20 years ago. Programs the movement offers include ME To WE, while events include the We Day presentation and water walk that took place on Friday.
Daniel Rose, a Grade 10 student at Northumberland Regional High School, and Talitha Tolles, associate director for indigenous programs and global program innovation at WE, emceed the morning program that included remarks by various presenters and indigenous dancing.
“Our water is sacred,” Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul said. “We all have to do our part to take care of our water.”
Pictou Mayor Jim Ran noted the effects the town’s waste water treatment plant have had on ensuring waste water is treated before it enters Pictou Harbour.
“Pictou Harbour is poised to be cleaner than it has been in a long time,” he said. “I feel very comfortable that we’re going to be well looked after.”
Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane recalled the opportunity her daughter has had to help people in other countries while singling out clean water as a basic human right.
“We have to do a better job to make sure people have clean water,” she said.
Central Nova MP Sean Fraser praised how the event focused on water. He recalled former president John F. Kennedy saying the Nobel prizes for both peace and science should go to the person who solves the world’s water problems.
“We have to find solutions in really unique ways,” he said. “What shocks me is the indigenous (Canadian) communities that do not have access to clean drinking water.”
He referred to a goal to end the need for boil water advisories in Canada’s First Nations communities by 2021.
Four NRHS students — Rachael Rowan, Cyenna Lake, Jud Gunning and William Austin — shared their experiences after their recent WE trip to Nicaraugua.
“It was an amazing bonding experience,” Rowan said.
Two students from Thorburn Consolidated School — Riley Van Larkin and Bethany Lemare-Johnson — shared about the Change for Change program that has helped them raise $10,000 for programs that include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pictou County, the Pictou County Fuel Fund and Roots for Youth.
Westville’s Reid Sutherland is studying biology at the University of New Brunswick. She is among those who continue to be involved with the We movement after graduating from high school and noted how many friends she has made during the field trips she joined.
“I have friends all over the world,” she said.
Georgia Murray is in Grade 11 and Nina Davey is in Grade 10 at Pictou Academy. They are among those who also look forward to continue contributing to the movement.
“I hoped to be engaged and part of it,” Murray said.
“I’ve always loved ME To WE and, like Georgia, I hope to continue to be part of it,” Davey said.
The rally in Pictou concluded with students representing the schools taking turns carrying a jug of water while walking part of the Jitney Trail from the deCoste Centre and back.
Tracy Stuart, who was an Olympic bronze medalist in 2008, addressed the gathering and joined Mayor Jim Ryan taking turns carrying a jug of water.
“I think it’s invigorating when you see a group of young people wanting to make change in the world,” she said. “Their light will shine and create more momentum to create change around the world.”
From left: Georgie Murray, Nina Davey, Tess Murray and Ella Parsons gathered jugs for various school teams to carry for the We Day walk for water.
INSET: Tess Murray, left, hands water jugs to students for their We Water Walk.