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Margaret Hanscom brings her love of running and passion for humanitarian causes to the Lake Oswego nonprofit's board



REVIEW FILE PHOTO - To simulate the experience of villagers in Zambia, Walk4Water participants in Lake Oswego walk to a water source, fill their buckets with water and return to the starting point.When Judi Mittelstaedt found out about Margaret Hanscom’s love of running and her lifelong passion for helping the world’s poor, she knew she had to have the local school teacher on the board of WaterAfrica.

“She’s young, vibrant, energetic, passionate and smart,” says Mittelstaedt, a co-director with her husband, Gary, of the local nonprofit that works to provide clean drinking water for villages in Zambia. “We need her perspective and input as a young woman of faith as we move forward with the next chapter of WaterAfrica.”

HANSCOMThat next chapter includes Walk4Water9, a fundraising event planned for April 23 in Lake Oswego. During the two-mile trek from Foothills Park to Millennium Plaza Park and back, participants will carry water in buckets to symbolize the effort many Zambians must make every day in order to simply exist. Last year, more than 300 walkers raised more than $70,000.

Over the past nine years, WaterAfrica has raised more than $1.4 million in donations, not only to provide fresh water but also to implement sustainable sanitation and hygiene programs. From 2010 to 2014, World Vision — with WaterAfrica’s help — has provided safe drinking water to 462,207 people in Zambia and expects to provide clean water to 700,000 through 2016.

“What’s so great about World Vision,” Hanscom says, “is that it has a holistic view of ending world poverty. One of the ways of doing this is to provide clean water.”

The Mittelstaedts hope to keep up that good work, despite the controversy that erupted earlier this month when Councilor Jon Gustafson asked the City to end its support for WaterAfrica because the funds it raises flow to World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization that bans employees who are in same-sex marriages. City officials responded to Gustafson’s request by removing information about Walk4Water from official publications such as Hello L.O. or the City’s website.

But an official City proclamation declaring April 23 as WaterAfrica Day remains in place, and Gary Mittelstaedt says “our WaterAfrica hope and prayer is that topics which might divide people will not be greater than the compassion we share for the thousands of innocent children being denied the gift of life.”

He said the group’s goal is to raise $1 million more by 2020, or enough to dig 70 additional wells. And the Mittelstaedts believe Hanscom, 24, can help them do that.

“Margaret has an amazing personal story,” Judi Mittelstaedt says, having grown up in a family that instilled in her a love for helping people in need.

Hanscom’s parents, Mark and Leslie, have been making missionary trips for most of her life. Working out of Lake Grove Presbyterian Church, they played a key role in a mission program to Senegal. Their work inspired Hanscom to do missionary work herself, and as a teenager she went on a summer trip to Thailand.

She got an eyeful of the poverty and sex trafficking in that country, Hanscom says, but she also had such a meaningful experience that she was actually quite distraught when it was time to return home — and she had to do something to ease the transition.

“We had to take bucket showers in Thailand,” Hanscom says, “and I kept taking them after I came home.”

Over the years, Hanscom has also developed a love of running, and in August 2015 she was able to combine both passions in the Hood to Coast relay; as a member of Team World Vision, she helped to raise funds for the people of South Sudan.

“It was the most wonderful experience,” says Hanscom, who grew up in Lake Oswego. “To combine my love of running with my passion for serving the world’s poor, and to do it with such wonderful people, was incredibly meaningful.”

Hanscom is also sharing those passions with her students at Horizon Christian School in Tualatin, where she is an elementary school teacher. In fact, she is planning assemblies at both Horizon and at Bridgeport Elementary School about the water crisis in Africa and is having a special guest from Zambia speak to the students.

“It has been fun with Oregon Battle of the Books going on at the same time,” Hanscom says. “My students are reading ‘Long Walk to Water,’ which is about an African girl walking hours to get dirty water. All the kids from grades three, four and five at Horizon are reading the book.”

At the assemblies on April 20 and April 22, Hanscom’s students will display dioramas they have constructed that illustrate the need for clean water in Africa, and they’ll bring their dioramas to Lake Oswego for Walk4Water9, too.

“Some of my students act like little experts with their dioramas,” Hanscom says. “It’s fun to see their passion for this. My principal at Horizon (Judi Smith) is really excited about broadening the perspective of my students to the world around them.”

Hanscom says she hopes her enthusiasm for WaterAfrica and its mission will spread to others, especially in her hometown.

“We really hope a lot of families will come to Walk4Water,” she says. “We hope they show a heart for people suffering around the world. Walk4Water will be such a perfect family activity.”

For more about WaterAfrica and Walk4Water9, go to waterafrica.org.

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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