Indiana Letkemann

Indiana Letkemann

MEI students take part in empathy walk

The students walked from their campus to Mill Lake with jerry cans to emulate what young Ethiopian girls go through every day

Twenty-eight MEI students took part in an empathy walk for water last Saturday.

The students hiked from their campus to Mill Lake with jerry cans, filled them, and then carried them back to the school to emulate what young Ethiopian girls go through every day when walking to fetch water for their families.

The students came up with the idea last year after learning about the girls’ plight through Abbotsford’s Run for Water.

“I heard about the students who did the walk last year, and I thought it wouldn’t be so bad,” said Grade 11 student Mike Peters. “They said it was so hard, and I thought you whiners! It will be fun. But I was wrong. I started to hate water half way through. It was so hard. Here I am an eighteen-year-old healthy boy struggling to carry this water and little 12-year-old girls do this every day. It is tragic.”

He went on to explain the group relied on singing songs to help pass the time

“You are constantly changing positions, and by the end of the walk you have tried every possible way to hold the jerry can,” said Chelsea Pedersen, also in Grade 11. “You never fully understand it until you do it.”

This year’s empathy walk had an even deeper meaning for Grade 10 student Indiana Letkemann, who had the opportunity to actually walk for water in Ethiopia with her family on spring break.

“[In Ethiopia] we walked two kilometres with the full jerry cans, which were about 44 pounds,” she explained. “The girls there gave us ropes to tie the jerry cans onto our backs. Within the first few metres the ropes were cutting into my back so much I had to take them off and try to carry the jerry can the rest of the way. I made it, but it was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, and the water was so brown and full of disease that we would never drink it here.”

This year’s Run For Water – which includes a five- or 10-kilometre run, half or full marathon – takes place in Abbotsford on May 26. The event started in 2008 as a way to raise funds to provide clean water for people in the developing world. More than 4,200 runners took part last year.

For more information on the Run for Water, visit