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Think Global, Act Local: The Ultimate Pitch

Photo By Hillary Ehlen

Habari Gani!

When someone first meets Sawyer Anderson, she seems like a regular fifth grader.

However, when I saw her interview on WDAY on how she was thinking globally and acting locally, I immediately wanted to help to share her story with the world!

The fall semester has started in our vibrant tri-college community and that means the 50,000+ college students are back in our area. Therefore, we hope that Sawyer’s story will inspire all of us to tackle local and global societal issues, one meaningful act a time.

Asante Sana!

Alexandre Cyusa

Can you tell us more about yourself, Sawyer?

S: I’m Sawyer and I’m going into fifth grade at Oak Grove. I’ve gone to Hope Kids at my church, Hope Lutheran, since I was a baby and sat on a mat with older kids in class. I love theatre, dancing at BAS Studios, drawing, playing basketball and I’m trying volleyball. I play drums at Elevate with Bryce and his friends. Most important of all, I LOVE doing things with my three-year-old sister, Sloane.

At first glance, you seem like a normal busy fifth-grader, except there is something special about you…

S: Well, I have this book I wrote and illustrated called “Water Works” that tells the story of a character I named Sloane, after my sister because I love her so much. My protagonist learns from her dad, who just returned from a water mission trip to Zambia in Africa, there are people who don’t have clean, safe water and have to walk miles a day to get dirty water from a shallow well or stream and fill a big bucket for the family to drink.

I read “Water Works” and really enjoyed it. There are so many messages and the story starts with a small goal.

S: In “Water Works,” Sloane wants to raise $50 selling cookies and water at her grandma’s garage sale.

Why $50?

S: Her dad told her that $50 will provide water for one person for life! But she doesn’t raise $50. Oh no! She raised a lot more!

How much more?

S: Well, people need to buy and read “Water Works” to find out. We have this deal, my dad says it’s called a co-venture agreement, with Wellspring for the World and World Vision.  He does the math. ALL of the money from sales of “Water Works” goes to Wellspring and gets doubled. Then, World Vision triples it. So, every book sold generates at least $50 and will provide water for one person for life! One book one life!

I read your bio too. It says you started raising money for water when you were eight selling cookies and then chitenge bags and raised $26,000. Quite a bit more than your $50 goal. So “Water Works” is based on something that moved you to raise $50?

S: My dad told me stories of people he met in Zambia named Maria and Michael and the bad things that happened because they didn’t have water. The story of Brian was the last straw for me. He’s my age and had to go to a shallow well with his sister to get water for the family for the day. She fell in and drowned. A year later he went to the same well and a puff adder, it’s like a cobra snake, bit his arm. It hurt and by the time he got home, he passed out and they had to amputate his arm. That just did it for me. I thought to myself, it’s just not fair. I had to do something!

Who helped you along this ambitious project?

S: My grandma made cookies until her arm got tired and then we found some friends to help because I sold 80 dozen and raised almost $5,000. At my church, Hope Lutheran, the kids in Children’s Ministry designed and sold chitenge bags that A LOT of volunteers, like 100, helped Pastor Paul cut and sew 1,400 chitenge bags.

What is a Chitenge?

S: Chitenge is a skirt made from African wax fabric, but they use it for many things – head wraps, baby carriers, clothes, bags, etc.

And you sold more than 300?

S: Yes. And a chitenge bag that I designed, cut, sewed and named after Wilfred, who came from Zambia for the Wellspring Wine to Water event, sold for $6,000.

How did you raise more than $15,000 from selling chitenge bags?

S: First, so many people at Hope Lutheran helped cut and sew. Well, one of the first buyers was this guy, Alex, a friend of my dad. My dad said I should text him a video of my elevator pitch. I was like, I’m eight, what’s an elevator pitch? So, I developed an elevator pitch and it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

A book? How does a nine going on 10-year-old decide to write a book?

S: That’s a really cool part of the story. A lot of people who bought bags bought more than they needed because they wanted to save lives. Some of them donated the bags back and asked me to find the right home for them. When I learned about the young women and kids in the Jeremiah Program, I knew that’s where the bags would go. So, they asked me to make a presentation at their graduation and I got to meet some of these ladies who have had a really tough time. There, this nice lady named Coiya, said ‘Hey, how would you like to work with me and write a book?’

I was like..huh? Can I illustrate it too? So, it took about four months and we have “Water Works”— and I developed a new elevator pitch for “Water Works:”

“1 book, 1 life. Save a life with every book. That’s an offer you can’t refuse, so buy a book and save a life. $9.99!”

Find more on Sawyer Anderson’s book, “Water Works,” online at, and at Zandbroz Variety, Melberg’s Christian Book and Gift and at a number of area businesses who are supporting this amazing mission.

Written by Alexandre Cyusa

Alexandre Cyusa came to the FM area in the fall of 2010 to attend Concordia College. Originally from Kigali, Rwanda, Cyusa has lived in Switzerland, Ethiopia, Guinea and France. His traveling experiences have helped him in making this world a smaller and simpler place to live in. He currently works for Folkways and is interested in community development and nurturing global citizenship.

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