Trumbull student helps provide clean water to Kenyan schools

It may be hard to imagine in Connecticut, but access to clean drinking water is one of the biggest health challenges in the world.

Trumbull High School junior Brooke DiVasto is helping to ease that burden. She hopes to donate five filtration systems to village schools in Kenya, where an estimated 43 percent of the population relies on unimproved water sources like ponds, rivers and shallow wells, according to the World Health Organization. Many of the villagers’ drinking water sources are shared with livestock. Contaminated water leads to the deaths of an estimated 3,000 children each year in Kenya.

“Not every child in Kenya has access to clean water, nor do a majority of the schools,” Brooke said. “One water filter can help a school provide numerous kids with clean water on a daily basis.”

Brooke has started a project, Seashells for Water Wells, to raise money for the water treatment filters. Brooke is hand-making seashell necklaces which she is selling through her website for $7 each. The proceeds go directly to the nonprofit group Kenyan Health Care Initiatives, which manufactures and delivers the filters. She also has set up an online fundraising page.The filters cost about $200 each, and so far she has raised enough to buy one. She hopes to raise enough money to buy four more so five schools in Kenya will have clean water.

“Each school goes through a set of questions which prove their need for the filter and in addition their capability to sustain the filters,” she said. “One filter is expected to last at least three years.”

When qualifying schools receive a filter, the schools’ children bring in leftover plastic bottles to fill with clean water, she said.

Brooke said her interest in helping the children of Kenya stems from some volunteer projects she was involved in while a middle school student, she said.

“In middle school, we did a Helping Hands project collecting gently used items for the group American Friends of Kenya,” she said. “It was really eye-opening seeing people, children, who have to walk miles every day just to get water.”

Since starting the Seashells for Water Wells project earlier this year, Brooke said her family has been supportive, although she has done most of the work herself.

“I spent a lot of time getting the website up and running,” she said. “Now it’s time to make necklaces.”

The one-size-fits-all necklaces consist of a faux leather cord with a sliding knot holding the individual shell in place. The shell is actually the one part of the project that Brooke requires help with, she said.

“My father drills the holes in the shells for me, then I loop the cord through and tie the knot,” she said.

When not helping to improve the health of children in Kenya, Brooke volunteers in the Pediatrics Department at Yale New Haven Hospital, an experience she describes as “amazing.” She also is a member of the Trumbull High track and field team, running the 100- and 200-meter sprints, and the indoor track team, where she runs the 50- and 300-meter races.

After high school, Brooke said she plans to continue helping people stay healthy.

“I’m really considering going into nursing,” she said. “I really love to help people, and I find the medical field and health absolutely fascinating.”