HANDS ACROSS THE WATER (HAW)
The Youth Division of Woman, Cradle of Abundance
An international service club empowering children on both sides of the globe to make a difference!
Sponsors of the Community Charity School in Goma (eastern DRC)
Fundraising for education
Instilling a sense of gratitude for what they have in US children
In "The Star Thrower", author Loren Eisley tells the story of a young girl walking along the seashore throwing starfish stranded on the beach by a storm back into the ocean. A man approaches her and asks what she is doing. "Throwing starfish back into the ocean so that they won't die," she replies. He responds, "But there are thousands and thousands of starfish on this beach. How can you possibly hope to make a difference?" She looks at him thoughtfully, then picks up another starfish and throws it back into the ocean. "Well, I made a difference for that one," she says perkily. After some thought, the man joins her, and their example persuades others to join, until all the starfish are saved.
Hands Across the Water began in 2009, as an email pen pal program under the direction of teacher Cheryl Ciaranca, at Community Middle School in West Windsor-Plainsboro school district in NJ. The email friends from the villages of Kaboke and Munene, near Uvira, in war-torn Southern Kivu, eastern Congo, were affectionately called the starfish. New Jersey students were stunned to learn their Congolese counterparts were living on less than $1.00/day, and many were not attending school because they did not have the fees, or shoes to wear. The relationships with their friends from Congo took time to develop - the culture in Congo dictates that one does not complain or share one’s hardships with others, so it was very difficult for the Congolese students to open up and share. Over time, those in contact with Congolese students came to realize the level of poverty and suffering these children endured. Responses from Congo often took weeks because the children had to work to earn enough money to share a computer at the internet café, a 2 mile walk from their village, and across a bridge frequently washed out by storms. Often the power at the cafe was off or their internet connection was down due to the active militia warfare in the area. One 8th grader from CMS, sent a photo of his family gathered at the Thanksgiving table in his home. His counterpart in Congo responded that he was extremely pleased to receive a photo of his friend’s family, but wanted to know how many people from his village were going to take part in this feast. When told that only the people present in the photo were going to eat all that food, his simple response was “WHY?”. Compassion for these very destitute Congolese children lead to a student driven evolution of HAW as it became fundraising organization to help support the starfish. HAW shipped shoes, school supplies, books and clothing. Learning that education is not free in the DRC, HAW moved on to raise funds to pay tuition, supplies and school and state exam fees. Over a period of 10 years HAW provided the means for uniforms, supplies and state exam fees for 36 Congolese orphans from Kaboke and Munene. All of these students went on to graduate high school. In Congo this diploma is the Equivalent of an associates degree.in the U.S. These hardworking students were the first in their families to earn a diploma. Many have gone on to be trained in the Quaker peace program through CENEDI and are working with young children in the Uvira area. Over the years, Hands Across the Water has grown into an international service club active in 2 middle schools and one high school. In 2013, the director of CENEDI made the members aware of the desperate situation in Goma, northern Kivu, informing us of orphaned children on the streets, unable to attend school and falling victim to militia groups. Funding a school seemed impossible, but don’t try to tell dedicated middle schoolers that something can’t be done. Members of HAW stepped up the fundraising efforts and with great pride funded the opening of an elementary school. Community Charity School , named after Community Middle School, opened in 2015. CCS offers free education to orphaned and disadvantaged children. In Northern Kivu, where violent crime, militia warfare, and disease are as much a part of life as learning to read and write, CCS has a proud tradition of providing an excellent education in the belief that it can make all the difference to these children, their families and their region. This process has had a powerful impact on the students in the U.S. As they worked to assist these very vulnerable children they have reported that exposure to another culture, so drastically less privileged than their own, has been life changing. Through the years students have dedicated themselves to seeking donations through various fundraising efforts and events. From the starfish of Kaboke and Munene to the orphans attending Community Charity School, HAW has been a journey and a powerful learning experience for all involved,positively changing lives on both sides of the globe.