(The following letter has been received for publication.)
To the students, staff, and families of Sandy Hook Elementary,
When I heard about what happened to your school and community last winter, I couldn't understand it. Nobody could. No words can do justice to the sort of feelings we had when we heard about your loss. We felt powerless to help; what could we do? Our answer was different than one might expect. While I can't even begin to understand what you have gone through – I want to explain something I hope brings you some small comfort.
My school, Kamiak High, has a tradition of funding the construction of wells in Liberia, West Africa through the Well Done Organization. So after we heard about the tragedy at Sandy Hook, our leadership class decided to fund a well at an elementary school in Liberia, in honor of the lives lost. Some worried a well in Liberia wouldn't have enough of a direct impact on your community. But we believed helping other children in the name of yours was a way to honor one community and help another at the same time. But winter break was only a week away, and that meant we had to raise $2,500 in five days. We have a school of roughly 2,200 students and we encouraged each student to bring in one or two dollars. Thus, our Student Council approved the idea on a Wednesday, sent envelopes to each third period class on Thursday, and by Friday, we'd raised $2,500.
I was in sixth period. We had only ten minutes until the bell rung to let us out of school for Winter Break. But break wasn't on my mind. The well was. Your town was. My assistant principal asked if he could talk to me and said three words I’ll never forget, “We did it.” Never in my life have I been so happy. One, this would mean that an entire village in Liberia would receive water, and two, my school united out of love and support for Sandy Hook, and worked together in a way that we haven't ever before.
Now, a well stands at Beneniah Elementary School in Liberia. The name of the well, “Aqua Vitae,” means “Water of Life.” Each of your loved ones' names is engraved on a plaque on that well, and it is accessed by elementary age children who would have otherwise grown up spending hours every day collecting water for their family just to survive. That well gives them hope, and health, and chances they wouldn't have had before.
Death is something that your town has faced too much of, far too early. But I want you to know that your loved ones inspired action. They brought water to Beneniah Elementary, united Kamiak High School, and showed me that there is good to combat evil in this world.
We offer this well to you as a sign of our support and love for you and all you've lost.
Stephen Chun, age 17
Kamiak High School
1081 Harbour Pt. Blvd Mukilteo, WA 98275 May 10, 2013