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Professor to walk 30 miles around campus to raise money for Burkina Faso

| Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Michael Meyer, an associate professional specialist in the Mendoza College of Business, will walk 30 miles around campus while carrying two gallons of water Sunday to raise money to build a well in Burkina Faso.

Meyer will do 20 laps of a 1.5-mile route around campus, to accomplish a total of 30 miles, which represents the distance a typical village resident of Burkina Faso walks in one week to obtain and bring back water. For half of his walk, he will carry two gallons of water.

Meyer will begin the walk at 6 a.m. in front of Keenan Hall. From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., students and others onlookers can purchase water balloons for $1 each from tables in front of Keenan and Dillon Hall, to throw at Meyer as he walks by.

“I will admit my wife is very concerned that this will turn out to be a stoning, and I will get injured as students hurl water balloons at me,” Meyer said. “I have confidence that even with the frustration of taking my Accounting 20100 and Accounting 20200 exams, they will have mercy on a 48-year-old man and enjoy the moment in the spirit of love that is at the heart of the walk.”

Meyer’s interest in poverty in Burkina Faso began four years ago, when a charity took up a collection to fund building a well in the African country.

“To be honest, I had never heard of that country, but the pictures and the challenges of the Burkina Faso villages made a strong impact on me,” Meyer said. “The thought that one in three children die before the age of 10, often as a result of diseases brought on by drinking bad water — I have three daughters under the age of 10, and I could not bear to think about losing one. Knowing that parents in Burkina Faso must deal with the death of a child as a matter of regular occurrence was something that motivated me to give and to want to do more.”

The following year, Professor Meyer and his wife donated the full cost of a well. Two years ago, his three daughters, 8-year-old twins and a 6-year-old, asked for donations for a well in Burkina Faso be given in lieu of gifts at their birthday parties.

“I mean, really, what kid gives up birthday presents to give money to people they will never know, who live in a place they barely even heard of?” Meyer said. “So my daughters’ acts of charity motivated me to come up with doing something to raise money for a well.”

Meyer said he thought about doing the walk around campus for about a year, but the death of University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh and comments of Pope Francis motivated him to action.

Meyer said Pope Francis’s 2013 Evangelii Gaudium, an apostolic exhortation on caring for the poor, was an additional source of inspiration, particularly the pope’s comment that “each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and come to their aid.”

“His words tell me that I need to do more than just think about doing something, but to get out there and do it now,” he said. “In reading all of the commentaries about the life of Fr. Ted, I was struck by the fact that Fr. Ted acted. His life was one of action to make this University, this nation, and this world a better place. His words and actions told me that I needed to do more, that I need to act.”

According to Meyer, in Burkina Faso women can often be forced to walk up to three miles each way to get water if their village does not have a well. Their resulting water sources are often stagnant pools or other unsafe supplies, which result in the high death rates in children under the age of 10. One well could provide a lifetime’s worth of clean water for 400 to 1,000 village members.

Meyer said his wife will be present for the duration of his walk, and his daughters will walk a lap with him. Additionally, some students and friends have indicated interest in walking alongside Meyer, who emphasized that anyone who wants to join in with him is welcome to do so.

Meyer hopes to raise $2,000 to cover the cost of building one well in Burkina Faso.

“I want everyone in this community to know that even a very little donation can made a significant impact because we are doing this as a community,” Meyer said, “This is not about me walking as about us all making an impact for a village in Burkina Faso.

“I realize that we cannot fix the problem for every village, but we perhaps can solve the problem for one village. One village can have clean water, healthy children and a future. One village can have parents that do not have to bury their children. They may never know what the University of Notre Dame is, but they will know that they are loved; loved by strangers and loved by God.”

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About Andrea Vale

Andrea Vale is a freshman at Notre Dame who has previously written for both the Sun Chronicle and the Huffington Post. She plans to major in English with a Creative Writing concentration and a minor in Journalism.

Contact Andrea