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2015 Fundraiser for Arsenic Water Filters

posted Jul 1, 2015, 10:12 PM by Thabit Pulak   [ updated Jul 1, 2015, 10:34 PM ]
The first custom-designed arsenic water filter built from my manufacturing shop in Bangladesh.
Ever since I was in high school, I've been actively working in the effort to help being forth an affordable solution to those millions of people in Bangladesh, and the world affected by arsenic water poisoning. 
The single biggest problem that has hindered progress with fighting arsenic water contamination was not the lack of appropriate water filters, but rather, the expense associated with such filters. For about 3 years, ever since my freshman year, I was involved in the research phase. My filter prototype eventually became more and more mature, after presenting to various science fairs and meeting various scientific mentors, including the administrator of the EPA. I was urged by many to work towards not only testing these filters out in the world, but to also keep a goal to eventually implement these filters in areas of need. 

I had founded iKormi, a non-profit organization to help underprivileged people, such as those that lack safe access to drinking water.  Last summer, I went to Bangladesh with a small amount of funds, and started up my first water filter manufacturing facility. It was difficult to start - with the help of countless people, we had to find out the appropriate places to get local labor and local materials to come together in one area for manufacturing the filters. By the end of the month, I had a functional facility, which by the time I had left for the United States that month, built 5 arsenic water filters. Throughout the year, while beginning studies at Duke for my freshman year, I periodically checked in those working in the organization in Bangladesh - progress was slow, but steady. The facility in Bangladesh was building about 10 filters a month in the beginning months that I had left. These filters were then distributed to local villages in Bangladesh, such as in Alampur, and Rajapur. A few of the filters were also distributed to hospitals and schools in underserved areas that had identified need. You can see more about my experiences in Bangladesh here: http://www.thabitpulak.com/in-the-news/mytriptobangladeshsummerof2014

As the second semester came around the corner, I got some really good news - a larger non-profit organization, called the Sabrina Memorial Foundation (SMF) - wanted to partner with us to help with it's aims. The organization was also targeted around serving underprivileged people, but in more areas, such as in ed
ucation and vocational training. I was asked to lead the Clean Water department of their organization. I came to realize just how great this relationship was-  with the help of the more experienced people working in the SMF, the production and distribution of filters could be more
widely scaled up. 
As this summer came up and school just finished, we hit the ground running. The Sabrina Memorial Foundation and I hosted a series of fundraisers in various mosques and community centers. We ran a total of 4 fundraisers, located in Allen, Plano, Richardson, and Irving, Texas. I've never had much experience with fundraisers, especially on a larger scale, so this was a great learning 
experience.(LEFT IMAGE: Fundraiser at Plano) I was incredibly surprised by the turnout we got - hundreds of people donated to our cause. I had brought a prototype model 
of my filter to the fundraising booth, and many curious people asked me about it. In a span of 4 fundraisers, we raised over $10,000 for the water project, and even more for the rest of the projects that the SMF was conducting. After my experience with working with these fundraisers, I realized that if you are working for a well-intentioned cause, people will always give you support. With the money raised, I have intentions to work to significantly scale up the production of water filters. And it is had already begun to happen - the manufacturing facility for the last two months, has increased capacity to built up to 50-60 filters a month on average.  (RIGHT IMAGE: Assembly of outlet pipes for 26 arsenic water filters)

Fundraising to work to implement these filters isn't the final goal, however. Since my freshman year at Duke, I had started research work underneath the supervision of Dr. Schaad and Dr. Deshusses of the Civil Engineering department. I wanted to continue the research behind the water filters to work on enhancing various aspects of them, such as the possibility to being able to reduce the size and weight, which would cut costs even further. I have high hopes that I will be able to learn a lot from the professors' expertise, and be able to bring further improvements and innovations from within the lab, to ultimately affecting and benefiting lives of people.