How service-oriented students help hundreds of people in Nepal gain access to critical healthcare and clean drinking water
Having grown up in Nepal and witnessed the substandard living conditions there, Raghabendra KC understood the importance of reaching out and helping those less fortunate. The 19-year-old also knew that although Nepal is naturally blessed with ample water sources, only 82 percent of the population has access to safe, clean drinking water; the other 18 percent must depend on sources such as unsafe wells, lakes, rivers and springs, which can easily become contaminated.
"With the poorest drinking water and sanitation coverage in South Asia, Nepal and its people are in dire need of assistance," explained KC. "I'm fortunate to be in the position to make a difference and help people in need."
The water problem in Nepal has resulted in far more fatalities than one might expect. In fact, a 2006 UNICEF report estimated that each year, water-borne diseases kill approximately 13,000 Nepalese children under age 5. These statistics didn't sit well with KC, who wanted to do something to change this trend.
Through the student-run organization "Making Lives Better" (which he helped found in 2009), KC was awarded a $550 grant to purchase water filtration systems. Naming the humanitarian effort "Mission Aqua," KC traveled to Nepal last spring and installed the systems in rural-area schools. As a result, more than 575 people, mainly children, now have access to clean drinking water.
"Everyone in Nepal is affected by water issues," said KC. "We took a small step to do something about it, but much more needs to be done because people can't afford filtration systems in their homes, and the government isn't equipped to help."
Due to the high level of interest among other Rollins students who heard about the first Mission Aqua trip, "Making Lives Better" partnered with the Sagarmatha Health Foundation — a non-profit organization established by a group of medical professionals and experts — to provide education and healthcare to the poverty-stricken Nepalese living in rural areas of the country.
Last summer, eight Rollins students and two faculty members traveled to the impoverished district of Doti, where they served hundreds of people at a medical clinic, renovated an elementary school's crumbling walls, and installed additional water filtration systems and computers in schools.
"Doti is one of the furthest, most remote parts of Nepal. The people there have been adversely affected by HIV/AIDS and are in serious need of health and educational assistance," said Aditya Mahara, co-founder of Making Lives Better and Rollins student who helped organize the trip. "I hope our work provided a helping hand to the poor, as well as a source of motivation and inspiration to other students."
Thanks to the success of these philanthropic efforts, KC, Mahara and others involved in "Making Lives Better" now have even bigger plans. Another Mission Aqua trip is planned for 2011, during which time students and faculty plan to install many more water purifiers to provide clean drinking water to an entire Nepalese district.
"Our goal is to continue to create awareness of this critical issue. Imagine that every child can drink clean water and be healthy," said KC. "It seems simple, but it's a basic necessity that isn't readily available. This is our goal and we intend to achieve it."