As teacher Tammy Belau sat with pigtails in a lone chair in the middle of the gym floor in front of 250 students, two eager middle-school boys flanked her wielding dull scissors and wide grins. Tammy quickly counted into the microphone — one, two, three — and the boys spent the next two minutes cutting off 10 inches of her hair.
This was the boys’ reward for finishing first in the Global 6K for Water last May. Tammy, a middle school math and high school finance teacher at Hosanna Christian School in Klamath Falls, Oregon, hosted the event to encourage the community to raise funds for World Vision to bring clean water to communities in the developing world. To add an extra layer of motivation, she pledged to donate an inch of hair for every 10 people registered if their school reached 100 participants.
“God gave me so much in Jesus, and I love to give. It is so rewarding to surprise people and give joy,” Tammy says. “I loved that I was able to sacrifice something as simple as my hair to motivate 100 people to make a difference.”
Her long, brown locks discovered their fate months earlier when Tammy heard about World Vision’s Global 6K for Water at a teachers’ conference. She was immediately drawn to the cause — partly because it sounded easy to do and partly because she knew the people of Klamath Falls would be keen to participate. So she signed up the school as a host site and started recruiting students, teachers, her kids, and community members.
Getting buy-in was easy, Tammy says. She announced it in daily school emails and at weekly chapel gatherings with students and posted a bright orange and white sign in the hallway. In the lead-up to the 6K, she found encouragement and camaraderie in the community cultivated on the Global 6K leaders’ Facebook page set up to share photos and ideas among World Vision staff and host site coordinators around the world.
“Where I live, we have a lot of outdoor activities,” Tammy says. “I know people like to do short races. It’s very doable.”
They can sympathize with children who have to travel far from their home to get water. “The people of our community want to give,” she says. “We face droughts too.”
A few years ago, the water supply dried up in part of their county, so those residents had to drive to Klamath Falls to get bottled water to weather the drought.
Tammy is a doer and inspires others to be one too. But the implications of the cause didn’t fully engulf her until right before race day.
“The impact of this struck me when I was walking the course with my daughter beforehand and we passed a couple of drainage canals,” Tammy says. “It hit me that this is the water that those kids have to drink. My kids don’t have to drink this water. My kids flush the toilet with clean water.”
Seeing those ditches helped Tammy and her daughter grasp the reality of what children on their race bibs are up against. Understanding that reality is huge, she says.
Altogether, Tammy and her team raised about $4,000, which will bring clean water to 80 people. Tammy and her husband were also inspired to embed this cause deeper into their family ethos, so they sponsored the three children on their race bibs.
“Hair grows back, but even bigger is the impact I know I made to my own daughters as well as the entire school. Love comes with sacrifice, but it’s always worth it,” Tammy says. “God comes to us with a gift. We come with open hands, and then we need to turn and give. We can’t keep him to ourselves.”