By Kevin Redding
The soap suds were flying as young members of a Mount Sinai church hosed down dozens of cars this past Saturday to better the lives of children in need around the world.
During a car wash fundraiser Aug. 12 on the grounds of the Mount Sinai Congregational, United Church of Christ on North Country Road, members of the church’s youth group cleaned cars for three hours and raised $320 in donations. All proceeds are going toward clean and safe water filtration systems for impoverished communities in faraway countries.
In these areas, which include villages in Africa, Asia and South America, life-threatening diseases emerge from contaminated waters, taking the lives of a child every 15 seconds.
From the money raised, four $79 filtration systems will be purchased and delivered to these communities in need by Compassion International, a child-advocacy organization that’s been helping the poor worldwide since 1952.
Each village will receive a filtration system which also includes two buckets, a hose and training on how to maintain it so it can provide a lifetime supply of water.
“We got to choose what we wanted the money to go for,” Natalie, a 12-year-old church member from Rocky Point, said during the car wash.
When she and others in the youth group, which is made up of fifth through 12th grade students from five local school districts, saw the water initiative among a long list of others on the Compassion International website, Natalie said it immediately excited them.
“A lot of people are getting sick because they’re drinking dirty water, so we chose to do something to give them clean water,” she said “It makes me really happy to know someone else is going to have a better life because of this. It’s one of my life goals to help people around me, and make the world a better place.”
Natalie’s youth group friend Sylvia, 12, from Selden, said she was also moved by the idea, and decided to join the cause.
“To me that’s just incredible,” Compassion International communications director Tim Glenn said upon hearing about the car wash. “To see youth — 10- to 12-year-olds — come together to raise money to change a family’s life like that — I just love that. In 2017, a day and age where we’re told to think of ourselves first, there are teenagers and young people out there who are putting the needs of others first, to make sure their basic needs are met.”
Mount Sinai Congregational began its partnership with Compassion International roughly a year ago when a member on the church’s Board of Christian Outreach decided to sponsor an 8-year-old girl from Kenya named Kanana Ferry through the organization.
A first-grader living in the village of Ruiri, Ferry has become an honorary member of the church’s youth group through letter correspondence and is frequently provided tuition assistance, books and games.
“From there, the kids got interested and thought that any child should have water, any child should be able to go to school; they’d say ‘let’s do more,’” said Mary Larson, one of the youth group leaders. “I’m so proud of them that they’re taking their Saturday to do this. It’s important to help those who are marginalized, but they’re also working
together to get this done.”
While Natalie, Sylvia and 10-year-old Jake scrubbed Toyotas and Mercedes with sponges and sprayed windshields and each other with water, other kids held up signs on the side of the road waving more cars in.
“In a few hours of the day, a world change can be made,” said Jake, from Stony Brook, before washing down a pickup truck.
Earlier this year, the kids raised more than $200 to donate chickens and miscellaneous supplies to help families in need, and regularly host fundraisers to pay for mission trips.
Youth group leader Stephanie Clark, who grew up attending the Mount Sinai church, said she’s always happy to see how enthusiastic the kids are about helping others.
“It’s very exciting,” said Clark, whose husband Michael also became a youth leader. “I think it’s good to have a community like this growing up. And growing up in this church, when I was young, I looked up to older members and now they look up to older members. That’s just how we are.”
Glenn said he personally visited some of the poor villages in South America and witnessed how much the water filters boost the morale of families. Each filter produces up to one million gallons of clean water and lasts years, he said.
“I want to thank the youth group and church so much for stepping up and changing the lives of families,” Glenn said. “Thank you for thinking beyond yourselves and taking the time out of your busy schedules to do something like this for others you may never meet.”