Sawyer Anderson, 12, of Fargo, North Dakota, a sixth-grader at Oak Grove Lutheran School, has raised well over $100,000 to dig water wells in communities in need overseas by selling homemade cookies and self-designed handbags, along with a book she wrote and illustrated to educate other children about the scarcity of clean water in parts of Africa. When her father returned from a church trip to Zambia, he told Sawyer about kids there who had been injured or drowned while trying to get clean water. “All of this just to get water, when we can simply go to the tap or refrigerator,” she said. “I instantly thought that it wasn’t fair. Every child should have clean water.”
Sawyer asked if she could sell cookies at her grandmother’s garage sale, hoping to raise $50 for the cause. After collecting more than three times that amount, she continued to sell cookies, eventually raising nearly $5,000. Then she designed a handbag made of a colorful African wax fabric – like one her father had brought back – and got 100 volunteers at her church to sew them. More than 300 bags were sold for $50 each, and one was auctioned off for $6,250 at a charity auction. Next, Sawyer wrote and illustrated a children’s book about the challenges that poverty-stricken villages in Africa face in getting safe water. More than 6,000 copies have been sold, each generating $60 with matching funds from two charitable organizations. In addition, Sawyer has spoken at more than 90 schools, churches, businesses, service clubs, nonprofits and other groups, explaining the need to provide clean, pure water to communities in need overseas.