In summer 2010, brothers Zach and Aiden Hunter traveled to India with their parents, Justin and Lenora.
“That was when we saw how many people did not have access to clean water, and we decided to try to do something,” said Zach Hunter, 12.
He and his 9-year-old brother, with help from their parents, formed a non-profit organization called Aztech Labs – the A is for Aidan and the Z is for Zach.
Many villages in India lack adequate sanitation and suffer from poor water quality, Zach said. The Hunters, who live in Chapel Hill, decided to spend four months of their year-long sabbatical abroad in India, starting in November 2012, so that water issue became very personal to them.
“The more we’ve researched the problem, we’ve come to realize two things,” Zach said. “First, the problem is really, really huge. Second, small amounts of money can go a long way. You don’t have to have much money to get started and make a real difference.”
The Hunter boys, who normally attend Durham Academy, opted to use biosand filters (or BSFs) “because they’re effective, cheap and last a long time,” Zach said. The filters, which cost between $25 and $32, stop many parasites and bacteria and could work for decades, he said.
Working with the South Asia Pure Water Initiative, they plan to distribute as many as 100 filters in the village of Nelavagilu by International Water Week, March 5-11. Delays can happen, however.
“This is India and things get delayed often here,” Zach said. “For example, the last train ride I was on was delayed by seven hours. We’ve tried to think about possible reasons for delays and are doing what we can to keep the project on track.”
They rely on contributions to the non-profit through a PayPal button on their website at aztechlabs.org to fund their efforts. “We don’t pay staff,” Zach said, “so 100 percent of the money people donate to Aztech Labs gets spent directly on water filters.”
They’re encouraging Duke University and University of North Carolina basketball fans to contribute to see which school can outpace the other in supporting the project.
Zach prefers UNC: “UNC is a dozen times as awesome as Duke. If Duke were to somehow win, I would have to wear a Duke shirt to my school for a week. And I’d need to go to the Duke campus, bow down and kiss the ground in front of the James B. Duke statue.”
Aidan’s a Duke fan: “Because Duke is awesome. It’s great at sports and academics. I’m confident that Duke students and alumni will want to help save people’s lives, help keep families healthy and bring shame on UNC. When they do, we’ll paint the water filters ‘Duke blue’ before we install them.”
If Duke loses the effort, Aidan must wear a UNC shirt to school for a week and filters will be painted light blue.
Their mother, Lenora Hunter, helped the boys develop the project from a partnership into a non-profit. “I’m glad that overseas travel has made them more aware of the world’s challenges,” she said.
Justin, their father, agreed: “It is different seeing lots of people in unsanitary conditions who are living in poverty with your own eyes than seeing a story on the news.”
However, these good-hearted kids are still kids at heart, he said.
“Don’t let this do-gooder initiative fool you,” he said. “It’s just one side of their personalities. They’re both still a handful.”
On the Web: Aztech Labs - aztechlabs.org
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