In January sixteen-year-old Cole Kawana joined a school trip to visit Network for Africa’s projects in Rwanda. But before he left Los Angeles he spent months researching the everyday challenges faced by people in developing countries. One of those stumbling blocks, Cole knew, was lack of access to clean water.
Cole found a potential solution: a water filter that could serve 100 people for up to five years, removing 99.9% of harmful bacteria. It uses no chemicals, and relies on gravity to force the unclean water through the filter. Each filter costs £30/$50, which works out as 50 cents for five years’ worth of clean water for each person.
Cole asked Network for Africa if he could run a pilot project with our partner Aspire in Kigali. Cole then raised enough money to buy twelve filters, and warned us to have dirty water and five-gallon buckets
at the ready. Once Cole was in Rwanda
his school group spent time at Aspire, watching the Aspire team as they taught local women about health, hygiene, nutrition, First Aid, and about their legal rights. He also saw women being trained in hairdressing and cookery.
When Cole’s moment came, dozens of people gathered around to watch as he demonstrated how to use the filters. It took only 20 minutes to turn dirty, cloudy water into clear water suitable for drinking. Cole then trained several members of the Aspire staff to use the filters, and they have since taken them to schools in the area. The filters were so popular that when he returned to California, Cole raised money for a further twelve filters, which were taken to Kigali by representatives of Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation.
Cole is now setting up his own non-profit, Clean Water Ambassadors. He intends to produce an online demonstration, with Skype tuition sessions on the proper maintenance of the filters. His ethos is not to spend money on postage or air travel: he will rely on people traveling to parts of the world where the water filters are needed, and connecting with local non-profits they already know. Since his visit to Aspire earlier this year, Cole’s filters are now being used in Tanzania, Uganda, Belize and Fiji. Network for Africa is proud to have played a part in the birth of an smart solution to an age-old problem.