Thirst Gala raises funds for building wells in Swaziland

Science teacher Jason Maas-Baldwin playing guitar for students at the Thirst Gala. Photo by DIEGO CABRERA.

By: AVA CRAWFORD

In order to provide clean drinking water to people without access, Carmel High School’s This Club Saves Lives raised $3,000 for the Thirst Project to build wells in Swaziland through a sold-out dinner fundraiser, the Thirst Gala, on Oct. 27 at the CHS performing arts center.

The Thirst Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building wells where there is limited access to safe drinking water, hosts their red-carpet Thirst Gala every year in Hollywood where the group raises 20 percent of its funding for water projects.

Carmel High’s own Thirst Gala is a dinner consisting of salad, pasta and bread served by teachers, who also entertain the attendees. The club has put on their own gala for CHS students since 2014, selling 150 tickets for $20 each, raising roughly $3,000 year.

“The club pretty much came about because of the Thirst Gala,” club advisor Leigh Cambra says. “It was how we were inspired to start the club.”

In addition to Swaziland, where This Club donates every year via the Thirst Project, the nonprofit also builds wells in India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, Uganda and El Salvador.

This year, the club received donations of pasta from Gusto’s, Vesuvio, Nicole’s Catering, Pasta Palate, Sarah LaCasse Catering and Rancho Canada.

“We get salad mix donated from Taylor Farms,” Cambra says. “Pebble Beach Company lets us use their plates and silverware, and they wash it. I think it’s great that there are restaurants that are willing to give food to support this cause.”

Thirst Project builds 95 percent of their wells in Swaziland, where one well costs $12,000. The most expensive wells are built in Kenya for $20,000, and the least expensive are in Uganda for $8,000.

“Everything you submit, it’s all going to the wells,” says Evan Wesley, vice president of student activation for the Thirst Project. “Last year, we had around 500 schools donate.”

Thousands of schools across the U.S. raise money for the Thirst Project through various fundraisers, like the gala. All public donations to Thirst Project go directly to building the wells, while all operating expenses are covered by the organization’s donors.

As of October 2017, Thirst Project has completed 920 water projects.