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After learning at church the stunning estimate that a child dies every 15 seconds from contaminated water, Aiden Doggett told his grandparents he didn't want presents for his 10th birthday -- he wanted money to build a well in Africa.
Further discussion with the Oregon boy's grandparents, George and Shannon Hazel, revealed that cash instead of birthday presents from relatives likely wouldn't be enough for the project.
So, with the help of Hope Community Church in Oregon, Aiden is trying to raise $8,000 to build a hand-pump well on the property of Church of the Nazarene Child Development Center near Lilongwe, Malawi. It will provide clean, free water to people and animals in the area.
"I just don't want any more kids to die," the Coy Elementary third-grade student said last week.
The year-long campaign, started before Aiden's March 17 birthday, has raised more than $2,500 so far. If more than $8,000 is raised before his 11th birthday, Aiden has plans.
"I'm going to see if I can build another well," he said.
Hope Community Church through its missionary contacts in Africa found a site for Aiden's goal, and the church has provided fund-raising assistance, explained his mother, Heather Hazel-Doggett.
Initially, Aiden wanted to build a model of the village out of Legos and have people sponsor his efforts, Ms. Hazel-Doggett said. Getting that many Legos proved impossible, so Aiden settled on collecting donations, she said.
Inspired by Aiden's project -- and not to be outdone -- his younger brother, Lucius Doggett, is forgoing presents for his 8th birthday in June to get money for seeds or another need in the Malawi village, Ms. Hazel-Doggett said.
In a video on the church's Web site and Facebook page made before his birthday, Aiden made his plea public.
"I have too much stuff, and I don't need any more," Aiden says in the video, which has been sent to Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres in hopes of gaining financial support.
He adds in the video: "God doesn't want the little kids to die, and neither, neither do I."
Aiden said he not only was shocked to learn people in Africa don't have clean water, but that they have to walk miles to get what they do have, returning to their villages carrying heavy burdens. His Malawi well project will be supervised by Nazarene Compassionate Ministries.
Donations have come from relatives, Hope Community members, and others who have heard about Aiden's project, Ms. Hazel-Doggett said. They raised more than $200 recently at Coy Elementary too, she said.
Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6087.