This past summer, Adyant Khanna, a junior at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, led a mission in India to provide clean water to more than 1,000 residents in three different villages.
“My family is from India, and I’ve visited there for as long as I can remember,” he says. “It’s impossible not to notice the poverty all around.”
Over a period of four weeks, Khanna spent about 10 hours a day installing water pumps across central India’s Bundelkhand region.
Before his trip, Khanna raised $14,000 through family and friend donations, which he used to purchase supplies, including solar panels, tanks and pipes. Khanna used the equipment to install well pumps that pushed water into storage tanks accessibly located for villagers.
“Water is a basic necessity for all humans and it is involved in so much of our everyday lives,” he says. “Women in these villages would walk for miles just to get clean water. Through installing the pumps, I was able to literally see water flow into people’s homes.”
To provide a sustainable source of clean water to hundreds of households, Khanna worked with engineers and produced project proposals that detailed his budget and sources of funding. Since, Khanna says he has gained a deeper understanding about solar panels, storage tanks, pipe laying and excavations.
“I learned so much,” he says. “I learned more about myself as a leader. I also learned about engineering and how to create a system, and how to adapt it into a community.”
To develop a sense of ownership, Khanna collected small contributions from locals, which were used to help fund the project. He also asked residents to help him build and install the pipeline.
“I wanted to make sure that this project was sustainable,” he says. “And I also wanted to make sure they felt like it was their own.”
Khanna, who led the effort largely on his own, developed partnerships with local field workers, who still keep him updated on the progress of the water pipes.
“They send me photos of the projects often,” he says. “The pumps are powered by solar energy, so it’s very sustainable. Since I left, it’s helped provide better sanitation and reduced illnesses. It also has given the women more time to spend with their families and children.”
Instead of walking nearly two hours to retrieve water, Khanna’s installations allow families to fulfill their daily needs in less than 10 minutes.
“Water gives these villages tangible results,” he says. “It’s unbelievable.”
Khanna will return to India this summer and install more pumps. He also plans to form a nonprofit organization to collect more donations and provide water for additional villages.
“India is my second home,” he says. “What I did has been a success so far, and now it’s about impacting and providing water to as many people as I possibly can.”