Two local siblings, aged nine and 12, are using the Duke-UNC rivalry to fuel donations for water filtration in Indian villages.
Aidan Hunter and his older brother Zach, students at the Durham Academy Lower School, began working on the project in India during a year-long “sabbatical” from school.
With guidance and support from their parents, the brothers started the nonprofit Aztech Labs to collect donations to provide small villages in India with biosand water filters, which remove pathogens and residue from water. They are partnering with local Indian contractors to install 1,000 filters in 1,000 households in 2013. So far, they have raised about $5,000 of their $30,000 goal, Aidan said.
Originally from Chapel Hill, the boys have added a twist to the nonprofit by turning sibling rivalry into a competition to help others: Their biggest fundraising initiative pits Duke against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“We thought of this idea because I like Duke, and Zach likes UNC,” Aidan said. “The rivalry is heating up now as the ACC basketball season is wrapping up, and we realized that the rivalry could be a fun way for people to get involved in helping poor families stay healthy.”
Donors can give up to $25 as fans of either school. If Duke fans contribute the most money, Zach agreed to bow down and kiss the ground in front of the James B. Duke statue on campus while wearing a UNC shirt. If UNC wins, however, Aidan will put on a Duke shirt and eat a burrito at a Qdoba on Franklin Street, near the UNC campus.
The filters installed with the money from the competition will be painted the winning school’s colors. Donations are limited to $25 per person, so no “Iron Duke or some other rich guy” can pay to win the contest, Zach said.
As of Tuesday, Duke and UNC fans were tied in the contest. The competition ends March 9.
“The rivalry between UNC and Duke is the biggest in the world,” Zach said. “We hope people use it as a challenge to donate money.”
The duo first began thinking about the universal need for clean water about two and a half years ago, following a family trip to India.
“We were sitting at a nice restaurant, when we realized that we get to have nice things, but other people don’t even have water,” Aidan said.
He added that, in India, he saw people drinking water with potentially deadly parasites and bacteria.
When the family decided they would be returning on a business trip to India, the children began a year long “sabbatical” from the Durham Academy Lower School. Aidan said he and Zach began making plans to help people in India as soon as he found out the plans to return.
So far, the boys have helped install filters in one small village outside of Bangalore. Part of the funding that they raise also goes toward educating owners about their filters. They are currently less than $1,000 away from providing filters to a second village.
“The villagers looked very happy with their filters. They were taking great care of the filters and told us the filters were keeping them from getting sick,” Aidan said. “[At another village] there was a crowd of over 100 people waiting for us there when we arrived. I talked to them, and now I can’t wait to help them.”
Aztech Labs receives money through donations online and works with South Asia Pure Water Initiative, Inc. to distribute the filters.
“We chose biosand filters because this type of filter is cheap, effective and long-lasting,” Aidan said. “For the price of $32—or about two pizzas—you can supply a household with a water filter that will help keep them healthy for about 25 to 30 years.”
The filters remove 99.99 percent of parasites and 80 to 99 percent of bacteria from water and make it safe to drink, he said. The biosand filters that Aztech Labs use do not require electricity, and they are easy for villagers to maintain.
The boys’ mother, Lenora, called this an “ambitious” goal. Although she and her husband are helping the boys, she said, it is their sons’ enthusiasm that drives the project.
“I’d rather fail at trying to help 1,000 families than to play it safe and succeed at reaching a much lower goal,” Aidan said.