From left, superintendent Annette Freiheit, junior Issara Schmidt, Vietnam War veteran Lee Carlson, junior Jack Liedel and WSHS social studies teacher Dwayne Voegeli.
by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Inspired by the story of students in Dwayne Voegeli’s class who helped raise funds for a school to be built in Vietnam more than a decade ago, two students stepped forward to lead efforts of their own for clean water.
Winona Senior High School (WSHS) juniors Issara Schmidt and Jack Liedel organized a fundraising project to support access to clean water in Vietnam through well building and donated the funds to a nonprofit organization connected with veterans of the Vietnam War.
“We believe our most quintessential human necessity is water,” said Schmidt and Liedel. “Therefore, our goal became to provide water for those in need.”
Liedel and Schmidt said over $800 was raised. The funds were donated to the D.O.V.E. Fund, a Toledo, Ohio-based nonprofit organization founded in 2000 that offers humanitarian and development help in Vietnam. Most of the members of the organization’s Board of Trustees are veterans, and veterans may go to Vietnam with other veterans during one of the trips that the organization takes at least once every year.
“Since its founding The D.O.V.E. Fund has built over 44 schools, including 11 daycare centers, three medical clinics, five major water projects, conducted medical missions, implemented an Emergency Medicine Residency Program and provided micro-finance programs for the poorest women in Quang Tri Province,” according to the organization’s website. “The D.O.V.E. Fund has also provided tuition assistance to more than 500 children, conducted workshops for English teachers, purchased computers, industrial sewing machines and other equipment for the various schools they have built.”
Liedel and Schmidt organized a benefit concert which took place at Island City Brewery. Jefferson Pub and Grill donated food, and all proceeds went to the fund. Six local bands played, and Liedel performed with two of them, the two explained. “The focus of this event was to bring together diverse members of this community to get involved in our beneficial cause, which we were able to successfully achieve,” they stated.
Liedel and Schmidt said they are hoping to raise $2,000. They are aiming to plan more events that would take place at the high school or in the community, they explained. “A few ideas that we have been considering include hosting another benefit concert, a silent auction with donated goods from local businesses and holding a hat day at our high school,” they said.
Schmidt found out about the organization in WSHS social studies teacher Dwayne Voegeli’s global studies class. The fund had been discussed in this class in past years, and students had done work with the fund before. In 2007, John Borman, a Vietnam War veteran, lawyer and member of the Winona Human Rights Commission who was posthumously awarded the 2019 John Latsch Human Rights Award, told students in the class about the D.O.V.E. Fund and the work they had done in Vietnam, Voegeli noted.
“In short, Vietnam veterans were returning to Vietnam to help build schools, water wells and help out in other ways,” Voegeli shared. Some of his students expressed an interest in assisting with building a school following Borman’s visit to their class, and asked their friends who were not in the global studies class to support the efforts.
“It took over a year, but enough funds were raised to help build an elementary school in Vietnam,” Voegeli explained.
Today, a plaque which lists the global studies class is hung in an elementary school in Vietnam, Voegeli said. Four of those students inspired by Borman’s story in 2007 raised more funds so they could go to Vietnam to support the dedication of the school.
Voegeli shared that no other work had been done in relation to the D.O.V.E. Fund until last spring, when he told his global studies class about the school in Vietnam. At that time, Schmidt and another student came forward and said they would like to do what they could for the fund, Voegeli said. “What is extra impressive about what Issara did was that she received no credit for her actions,” Voegeli stated. “She simply wanted to help. She then spoke with Jack and asked him for help. They then made it happen.”
Voegeli noted that there is a world hunger and poverty unit in his global studies class, which is an elective. To conclude the unit, students complete an action plan project. Students are not required to complete particular activities when they do action plans and service projects, he said; instead, classes brainstorm opportunities and ultimately have more than 20 from which to pick.
“They learn about hunger and poverty, and then we discuss different ways to help improve these problems at both the global and local levels,” Voegeli said.
To learn more about the D.O.V.E. Fund, visit dovefund.org.