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C of I grad starts fundraiser to improve Palestine school facilities

A mere four days after The College of Idaho’s Commencement ceremony, recent mathematics-computer science graduate Ahmed Arafat ’17 returned to his homeland of Palestine, traveling to the small farming village of Kafa in the West Bank on a mission: to bring water to a place in desperate need of it. Now a month into the project, his mission has expanded toward improving the facilities of Kafa’s primary school, providing necessary basic amenities for the school’s 300 students.

“I was super shocked when I saw the state of the school’s faucets and bathrooms,” Arafat said. “I had mixed feelings about the poor conditions. The only thing that I had in my mind is that I must do something about this.”

For months, Arafat had been preparing to aid Kafa after receiving a $10,000 Davis Project for Peace Award, which he intended to use to construct a filtrated well and piping system to allow Kafa’s villagers to store and distribute clean and fresh water, bypassing the need to turn to comparatively more expensive options for water access.

Since his arrival to Kafa on May 24, Arafat has worked with the villagers to successfully build the well originally outlined in his Davis project, “Access to Water: A Matter of Health, Education and Justice.” In the midst of the month of Ramadan, a holy month observed by Muslims characterized by fasting, Arafat and the volunteers he gathered completed the 350 square-meter well, with plans to complete the accompanying filtration system later this summer.

“It has been a ride,” Arafat said of the construction process. “Many things that were unexpected have happened, but that’s part of the fun. My favorite part so far is the struggles I have had to go through. They taught me how to be patient, positive and productive. I also loved seeing many kids trying to help with what they could, even though this job required hard labor.”

With plans for the well ahead of schedule and set to begin gathering water by the winter, Arafat has now turned to a new phase in his project: improving the local school’s access to clean water and renovate its bathroom facilities.

Located right on the border between the West Bank and Israel, Arafat said the school’s location makes it uniquely situated to serve a large amount of students. However, although Israel claimed control of the West Bank territory in 1967, the Israeli government has not given the school much financial support, leading to the school’s facilities to deteriorate. Arafat said he wants the school to have regular access to filtered, cooled water, as well as new faucets and a renovated bathroom area, all of which he believes will improve the students’ physical and mental health and give them the peace they need to continue pursuing their educations.

“For kids to witness and experience all of the chaos that is going on in the region in addition to not having clean water is a 21st-century disaster,” Arafat said.

Arafat has launched a GoFundMe page designed to gather donations to make all the improvements he can for the school’s water access. Arafat has donated $100 of his own money toward his goal, which has also been pledged $1,000 of support from the C of I’s Student Senate and donations from members of the C of I’s faculty and staff.

He said for every individual donation he receives at $100 or more, Arafat will plant an olive tree in the village, as well as record their names on a poster that will hang next to the finished water tab units. He hopes to utilize the strength of social media, beginning with the hashtag #HabibiForCleanWater. His fundraising goal is $5,000, but he said he will do whatever he can to improve the school’s situation with any amount of donations he can receive.

“At the end, doing something is better than doing nothing,” Arafat said. “So I will do what it takes to fundraise and see where I go from there.”

If you would like to donate or learn more about Arafat’s project, visit his GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/HabibiForCleanWater.      

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.