In shower striking for others, PALS reunite on campus

Annual fundraiser to bring life-saving water systems to Africa brings students group together for a great cause

Senior PAL Bella Russo makes a sharp cut in the grass as she veers around the Well Aware sign nearing the halfway point of the water walk obstacle course.

Dave Winter, MacJournalism co-adviser

As part of its participation in the 2021 Shower Strike, the Mac Peer-Assisted Leadership and Service club, or PALS, participated in a Water Walk on Saturday, organized by Well Aware executive director Kareece Sacco and development associate Anna Provenzano. The event centered around an obstacle course that Sacco created to help the PAL’s understand the water difficulties of living in east Africa

My family and most PALS are either not bathing, taking only bucket baths, or taking four-minute military showers to raise funds for sustainable water.”

— PALS sponsor Richard Cowles

“The water walk was a great way to step into someone else’s shoes and really empathize for these women who go through so much struggle for water (which is something we take for granted),” said junior PAL Gage Sanchez, who recorded the fastest time through the course while carrying a five-gallon jug of water.

Junior PAL Elly Schotmann added that the Well Aware visitors to campus have worked with communities that don’t have running water, specifically in Kenya and other places in Africa.

In order to help bring life-saving water systems to drive economic development and empower communities, the PALS are once again participating in the Shower Strike by conserving water by limiting or outright elimination showers for a week. The strike began on Earth day and continues through midnight on Wednesday.

At the heart of the Shower Strike is PALS sponsor Richard Cowles.

“My family and most PALS are either not bathing, taking only bucket baths, or taking four-minute military showers to raise funds for sustainable water,” Cowles informed the faculty via email on Friday.

Sanchez and Schottman are both option for the military showers but both said they would consider doing the bucket bath or going showerless when they participate in the Shower Strike next year.

The water walk was a great way to step into someone else’s shoes and really empathize for these women who go through so much struggle for water.”

— junior PAL Gage Sanchez

Sanchez said that the worthy cause has had an added benefit: to bring the PALS together on campus together as a group.

“PALS is something that is definitely not meant for a pandemic,” Sanchez said. “ This year has really put a strain on PALS because overall planning and execution has just been so much harder online. … PALS revolves around community and socializing and so without the ability to be in contact with people in person it is hard to gain that sense of community.”

Sanchez and Schottman both said it has been harder for the PALS to sustain connections with their elementary and middle school mentees during visits on Zoom because well, we are all tired of Zoom by now, aren’t we?

“Just sitting and talking can be a little difficult,” Sanchez said. “It has made me think outside of the box though especially when it comes to games online or activities to promote online bonding.”

Sanchez’ ingenuity is just one example of the PALS resilience in the face an isolating pandemic. He says that resolve to keep the PALS together and doing good work begins and ends with Mr. Cowles.

I was really happy getting to hang out with other PALS at the water walk, since we haven’t been able to have many social events this year due to COVID. It was also surprisingly competitive and for a great cause.”

— junior PAL Elly Schottman

“Since we are in a pandemic the natural instinct would just be to cancel everything but it’s really amazing to see the effort he puts in to make everything work,” Sanchez said.

Schottman says the Cowles adjust the PALS’ zoom sessions in order to create a sense of community online.

“We have community time at the beginning of class in breakout rooms where we talk and answer fun questions Mr. Cowles gives us,” Schottman said. “The questions are very similar to icebreaker questions. Two I remember are ‘What three things would you bring to a deserted island?’ and ‘What qualities do you look for in a friend?’”

Saturday’s event helped make the PALS feel less like they were on an island and much more like they were among friends.

“I have found that when we do have a rare (COVID-safe) gathering nobody takes it for granted.” Sanchez said. “When people show up we all understand that we need to cherish that time and make the most of it so we usually have great time.”

Well Aware executive director Kareece Sacco explains to the PALs how women in Kenya have to walk an average of six hours per day to bring potable water to their communities because they don’t have sustainable water systems. Photo by Dave Winter.

While Sacco stressed the importance of conserving water, there was no such restriction on pizza consumption. Photo by Dave Winter.

While filling water jugs for the water walk obstacle course challenge, PALS sponsor Richard Cowles talks with Sacco about the amazing physical fitness of the men, women and children he encountered in Chad during his service in the Peace Corps there. Photo by Dave Winter.

Cowles daughter Megan demonstrates how African women and girls put water containers on their heads to transport them long distances. While the technique works well for experienced water walkers, Sacco recommended that the PALS not risk injury by imitating the technique. Photo by Dave Winter.

Well Aware executive director Kareece Sacco and development associate Anna Provenzano dispensed plentiful amount of knowledge before the water walk and free pizza after it. Photo by Dave Winter.

Junior PAL Elly Schottman was the first to try the water walk obstacle course. Her time held up pretty well earning her third place overall and fastest among the female PALS. Photo by Dave Winter.

Senior PAL Hannah Zuniga makes the wide turn after carrying the water container through the ladder. Competitors started at the ladder, made a compete circuit past the Well Award sign and around a tree before finishing with a second run through the ladder. Photo by Dave Winter.

With the bus that carried the LASA junior varsity baseball team to campus for a showdown with the Knights on the McCallum baseball field proudly displaying an AISD Pride Week banner, senior PAL Isabela Tellez adjusts her hold on the water jug during her water walk obstacle course run. Photo by Dave Winter.

Senior PAL Bella Russo makes a sharp cut in the grass as she veers around the Well Aware sign nearing the halfway point of the water walk obstacle course. Photo by Dave Winter.

During his turn on the water walk course, senior PAL Nick Reedy established a new fastest time. It looked like it would hold up until soccer stalwart and speedster Gage Sanchez set the fastest time of the day. Photo by Dave Winter.

With his shirt looking increasing like a superhero’s cape, junior PAL Gage Sanchez speeds around the water walk obstacle course, posting the fastest individual time that would be recorded during Saturday’s event. Photo by Dave Winter.

Sanchez celebrate’s Sacco’s announcement that he has set the new fastest water walk obstacle course time of the day. Photo by Dave Winter.

Taking her turn on the water walk obstacle course, freshman Sam Cowles successfully completes her first run through the ladder at the start line. Photo by Dave Winter.

Junior PAL Bobby Currie made up for lost time by making this tight turn around the Well Aware sign during his run, the anchor run, in the student water walk obstacle course competition. Photo by Dave Winter.

To the victor goes the free Shower Strike T-shirt. Water Walk champion Gage Sanchez gets first pick of the Shower Strike T-shirt pile. Photo by Dave Winter.

By virtue of his second-place water walk time, senior Nick Reedy also earned an early visit to the free Shower Strike T-shirt pile. Photo by Dave Winter.

Junior Elly Schottman, the first racer on the course, was the last racer to earn a free prize Shower Strike T-shirt for her third-best time on the water walk obstacle course. Photo by Dave Winter.

PALS sponsor Richard Cowles threw down the gauntlet in the faculty competition for fastest water walker by posting a sub 20-second time despite carrying two five-gallon water canisters instead of one. Photo by Dave Winter.

Answering the challenge of Cowles’s water walk run with two water canisters, MacJournalism co-adviser Dave Winter also navigates the course with twice the water of the student competitors. Photo by Bella Russo.

Winter fell backward with incredulity at the Sacco’s announcement that somehow he had edged out Cowles for fasted faculty water walk obstacle course time. Photo by Bella Russo.

Tellez and Ruso sit in the socially distant pizza circle the PALs made to devour their well-earned water walk pizza lunch courtesy of Well Aware. Photo by Dave Winter.

Participating PALS choose between one of the three Shower Strike options: (1) no shower (2) bucket bath or (3) military shower. Photo by Dave Winter.

The Well Aware Shower Strike ends at midnight on Wednesday. To make a donation, please visit their fund-raising site at this link.