By: Marcela Hernandez, Business Management | Junior
I have two passions, business, and philanthropy. From a young age my mom always taught me the importance of giving back, and my dad, being a successful entrepreneur, taught me the importance of creating. Back in March, Peru has declared a state of emergency due to the lack of water in the country. El niño hit Peru with full force and created landslides that destroyed 811 districts, and more importantly, it contaminated Peru’s main source of clean water, the Rímac river. The news was filled with horrible images of what was happening in Peru and I felt that I had to do something, I needed to help in any way possible. I put both of my passions together and I began to do some research about ways to create water in harsh environments and I came upon a technology called Atmospheric Water Generators. The way these technology works is by capturing the humidity in the air and then filtering it, eventually becoming drinkable water. The minute I read about these I knew it was the perfect way to help, especially because Peru is one of the most humid places in the world with over 80% humidity every day.
I knew this was a very ambitious project to take on by myself so I turned to my brothers at Alpha Kappa Psi and put together a team. Benjamin, Jacob, Jennica, and Karla are all ambitious people with different backgrounds, majors, and experiences that I thought could help me make the project possible. As a team, we all had a unified goal, and this was to make this project a reality in order to provide water to those in need. Our biggest obstacle was funding, the technology was very expensive and as college students, we could not afford it on our own. We got together and contacted Continental Towers, a Peruvian telecommunication infrastructure company, to ask if they were willing to partner with us and fund part of our project. They were amazed by the project and agreed to help us fund the construction portion of the project. We then reached out to Continental Towers’ main clients for funding to pay for the actual technology. It took some time but finally, Entel, a cellphone service provider in Peru said they loved the project and would be willing to pay for not only the technology but also the energy it consumed.
Once we were in Peru, we realized that if we wanted to make this project a success with just one month to work we would have to get started right away. We started by visiting areas that were affected by El niño and got to know different people and the struggle it is for them to get clean water every day. This was a very impacting experience; I believe it made the whole team realize the importance of our project and how many people needed our help. After talking to mayors of different districts we decided that the best place for our pilot project would be the district of Magdalena del Mar. Once we had a location and funding, we proceeded to make a final presentation for the mayor, Entel and Continental Towers of what the project was going to look like, all the costs and next steps.
We called our project, “Hace Agua,” which means, “Make Water”. Throughout the process of completing the project, we ran into many obstacles. Sometimes we even thought that we were not going to be able to finish it in time. It was truly a rollercoaster. Once the project was complete, word started getting around in Peru about University of Arizona students helping people in Peru and from one day to the next we had news channels, newspapers and all types of media sources contacting us wanting to interview us. It was an amazing feeling for all of us to know that our project was actually making a big impact on people and they wanted to know more. Of course, after it hit the media we got calls from district mayors asking us to do the project in their districts. Our project is currently being implemented in three other districts in Peru, with the help of Continental Towers and Entel. We hope that in the future this can be a project that can be implemented everywhere in the world where there is a need for water.