Hawkeye instructor helps local students raise funds and awareness for clean water in Africa

posted on Thursday, August 16, 2018 in  College News

Hawkeye Community College wants to develop students who can impact the world. For Fine Arts instructor Jennifer Bates, that global goal hit especially close to home recently.

Inspired by a former student from Africa, Bates teamed up with Kingsley Elementary School in Waterloo on a project that is raising funds and awareness for clean water in sub-Saharan Africa.

With various kinds of support from Hawkeye, Bates secured a grant from the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa that is helping to fund "Clean Water," an exhibit on display at the Waterloo Center for the Arts September 13 through December 23. In fact, installation of the project will occur Sept. 7-8, and the public is welcome to watch or participate. In addition, Bates will present this project at the Cedar Valley Art Summit on September 13, and there will be a reception and fundraiser from 6:00 to 7:30pm on September 20. The reception is free to the public and all are welcome to attend.

The exhibit will consist of more than 2,000 bottles – all positioned horizontally with their bases fixed to a wall. The bottles will be arranged to look like a river. Depending on the color of the bottles, some parts of the “river” will appear clean and others dirty.

Bates plans to collect donations from people at the Summit and reception – as well as from a fundraising webpage. The Water Project, a nonprofit organization, will help Bates sponsor a reliable water project for a village or school in sub-Saharan Africa. Bates' goal is $2,003, which shares the cost of a community water project such as a new well, well rehab, rain catchment, spring protection, or a sand dam. In addition, 2003 is also the number of recycled water bottles used in the art installation.

The clean water project evolved from a discussion with a former student named Mlungisi Ncube, who told Bates about the epidemics and sickness that result from the lack of clean water in his homeland of Zimbabwe.

“I thought, ‘Gosh, it would be nice if we could actually do something to help,’” Bates said. “So, this felt like a concrete way to make a real impact on the issue.”

Bates enlisted the help of Ncube and Sarah Mangrich, a Hawkeye Fine Arts honors student, to conduct several workshops with children in the Waterloo Community School District. At each workshop, students heard about Zimbabwe’s plight and then helped paint recycled water bottles.

Bates also received help from Hawkeye honors students Kyla Leleifeld and Amanda Miller, both from the Graphic Communications program, and Lindsey Taylor, a graduate of the Professional Photography program. Together, they captured images and video of the school visits and created promotional materials.

As a result, local children gained awareness of the world around them – and saw how people can use art to change things for the better.

Bates believes the clean water project aligns with Hawkeye’s values of education, diversity, community involvement, and global thinking.

“Hawkeye has been supportive of me in many ways,” Bates said, “and it’s provided our students with a great hands-on experience. It makes academic life more interesting when you get to do projects out in the community.”

To learn more about this project, visit The Water Project.


  1. Arts and Culture
  2. Community
  3. Community Events
  4. Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa
  5. Fine Arts
  6. Waterloo Community School District
Back to top