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Local 4th grader changes the world, one cookie and handbag at a time

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FARGO — A local 4th grader has spent the last several months changing and saving the lives of those living in an African village, one cookie and one handmade bag at a time.

9-year-old Sawyer Anderson learned how to sew in an effort to make bags to sell.

Along with friends and church members at Hope Lutheran, Sawyer got new wells built for villagers in Zambia by raising thousands of dollars.

It all started with a story and a garage sale, where she sold cookies to raise money. 

Sawyer Anderson had just heard some moving and inspiring stories from her father, Mark Anderson, following his trip to Africa with World Vision and Wellspring for the World, a water well project.

"These stories were really sad, and it made me tear up," Sawyer said.

It all sparked an idea, "After the cookies, I thought, hey, we can sell Chitenge bags," she said.

She got a pattern to make handbags using material from Africa.

"My great-grandma gave me a sewing machine," Sawyer said.

She and other kids at Hope Lutheran, along with sewers there made more than a thousand bags.

"We got the sewing machine and scissors and we were just snipping and sewing every morning," she said.

Sawyer made 218 herself.

They raised thousands of dollars and got wells built in the village her father visited.

All of this just because Sawyer's father, Mark, shared the story from his trip of a young boy named Brian.

Brian's little sister drowned in an old deep well, and he lost his arm after a snake bite, all because the family walked a great distance daily for water.

"He (Brian) is the same age as me, so it just got me," said an emotional Sawyer.

"This is very, very real. You put yourself in that environment and think, I am glad where I am, but that could be any one of us. This could be us,"  said Sawyer's dad, Mark. 

One day Sawyer hopes to go to Africa with her father to see the wells, the people of the village. Especially Brian, whose story got this young girl in Fargo to be a life changer.

"I think any age can do this," she said.

And if you are still looking to buy one of these colorful bags, contact Hope Lutheran in South Fargo. The donation will help go to another well.

Kevin Wallevand

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia and the Middle East. He is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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