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Water for life, souls

Walk4Water4 seeks record amount April 30
by: VERN UYETAKE Again leading the bucket brigade for Walk4Water4 are co-chairpersons, from left, Mary Austin, Linda Favero and Beth Olen. Hundreds of other walkers will join them April 30.

Walk4Water4 will give the people of Lake Oswego the chance to provide a lifetime of clean water for people living thousands of miles away.

All it will take is a short walk and a few dollars on April 30 at Foothills Park.

The three co-chairpersons of the event - Beth Olen, Linda Favero and Mary Austin - are anticipating another great success.

'We're going for $40,000,' Olen said.

'Our goal last year was $24,000, and we raised $35,000,' Favero said. 'Our goal this year is 400 walkers. I'm very thematic. I like all the fours.'

Austin pointed out, 'One hundred percent of walker registration fees go to water projects in Africa.'

The event is already off to a promising start because anonymous donors have promised to match up to $10,000 of registration fees and donations.

Walkers will get a lot for walking 1 mile and donating $35. Walk4Water4 will be more like a celebration than a mere charity walk. The lineup of attractions will include African drumming by the Lewis and Clark Marimba Ensemble, water education exhibits, refreshments and merchandise for sale. Plus, high school students Field Hubbell and Anna Engstrom will be selling water pitchers.

Along with the festivities and food, Walk4Water4 will again have a Zambian native on hand to provide firsthand testimony about the real-life experience of a woman walking 4 miles every day to a mud puddle to bring back contaminated water that will likely make her family ill.

This year the special guest will be Bwalya Melu, who oversees projects on AIDS, HIV and malaria for World Vision.

'There are huge, huge water needs in Africa,' Melu said. 'Only 37 percent of the people have access to safe water, and you can't do much without access to water.'

'When we bring in someone from Zambia it has powerful impact in Lake Oswego,' Favero said. 'We might be able to visualize the problem, but we don't live it. To have Bwalya here is a priority for us.'

Certainly a factor in the rising success of Walk For Water are the results the event has achieved in its first three years of existence. The thousands of dollars raised have gone to build bore holes that provide fresh, safe water.

As Olen said, 'Hope is coming.'

'We have the means and technology to give this water,' she said. 'Let's deal with substantive issues and stop the deaths of children. Let's follow through and make it happen.'

Walk4Water4 has an additional theme this year -'Sanitation is dignity.'

'Sanitation and hygiene are so important,' Favero said. 'We want to give a lot more education about them this year.'

'If we add (the practice of) sanitation along with availability of water, we can reduce child deaths by 50 percent,' Melu said. 'Connecting the two is the next step in learning how to utilize water.'

While Walk4Water4 will be helping many Zambians experience a healthy life for the first time, participants will gain something great, too.

'This will benefit the souls of Lake Oswego,' Favero said. 'People will come away from this feeling they've done something good. It's a small thing to do to have such huge impact.'

The event will begin at 9 a.m. on April 30, with registration starting at 8:30 a.m. Foothills Park is located at 199 Foothills Drive.

Registration and payment is available online at www.waterafrica.org .