Sana Shahul remembers the thrill of hiking up a mountain in Haiti’s Artibonite at sunrise. She was 13 at the time, traveling with her mother, Dr. Sarosh Rana, a perinatologist who was conducting research at HAS. Reaching the top, she stood in awe of the spectacular view of the valley – but her eyes soon fell to another scene that stunned her. Down below, several small children drank from the brown, silty river she and her mother had crossed moments before.
“That experience really stuck with me,” she says. “While I drank from my Hydroflask water bottle, these children had no choice but to drink dirty water.”
Sana had learned cholera rates were high in the Artibonite. She wanted to do something to help. That was the beginning of Mission Blue Aqua, a fundraising effort aimed to give everyone a chance at clean water.
Back home in Chicago, she rounded up a group of friends at school and together they decided to organize a fundraiser to raise money for biosand filters. HAS installs biosand filters, constructed with layers of sand and gravel, to treat water in homes in the Artibonite.
Sana and her friends held bake sales and chocolate sales. They also organized a large fundraising event that her school’s faculty and staff attended, as well as her mother’s colleagues from the University of Chicago.
Through online donations and events, they have raised over $5,000 dollars and provided 50 biosand filters to homes in the Artibonite Valley. Sana was able to visit HAS one year after her initial trip to see the biosand filters in use.
Now, a junior in high school, she talks about what this fundraising experience has meant to her and her friends:
“We feel that we’re part of something bigger. In a world of 7 billion people, people can get lost in themselves and their goals. We’re using our privilege to benefit others.”
Sana’s advice to anyone who is thinking of starting a fundraiser is simple: “Don’t be afraid to start. It seems really daunting. You have the ability to make a difference.”