By Brian Indre
High school student Haseeb Khan is not your typical teen. When he’s not in class, he’s running a charitable non-profit organization as its founder and CEO where he supplies clean drinking water to parts of the world that have little or no access.
It was a trip to Pakistan, his parents’ native country, where he witnessed people in a village drinking contaminated water, and decided to do something about it. Khan has a reputation amongst his teachers and peers for getting things done, so when he shared his idea of bringing clean water to a village in Pakistan, there was little doubt that he would be successful. He drew up a plan, and with a $1000 dollar gift from his father he started his own organization called Aqua Effort as a 15-year-old sophomore in August 2016.
Khan’s first project involved a group of volunteers researching the best location to install a well. That location ended up being in Ta, Pakistan, a village of about 200 people, not too far from where he has family.
“The drinking water is murky, and an oily film can be seen floating on top, along with other things floating in it that you wouldn’t want to drink, like sand and hair,” Khan said.
Bottled water is hard to come by and if you do find it in a shop, it’s often too expensive for locals to afford. It is villages like this with poor infrastructure, open sewers and limited access to clean water where people get sick and even die from water-related diseases that he wants to help.
Khan knows that he is fortunate to have grown up in the U.S. where clean water is something that simply comes out of the tap, but with family ties to a place that doesn’t have that luxury, he’s aware of its value and doesn’t take it for granted. So when the devastating hurricane hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, Aqua Effort expanded its reach and provided 300 gallons of water to families that had no access.
“Clean water is a human right for everybody,” Khan said, and his organization hopes to make that a reality for more people around the world. Khan went on to say that “simply supplying a water source is not enough. The people have to be educated on how to maintain their water source. That is very important.”
That is what makes Aqua Effort different from some of the other organizations that perhaps just provide a well, but don’t take the additional step to educate the users.
“What we focus on is teaching them on how everything works — from how the water comes out of the ground, to everything they should know about maintenance and hygiene to preserve their water,” Khan added.
Water preservation education is part of Aqua Effort’s mission along with regular follow-ups to make sure its water sources are working and being maintained properly. Khan states that in third-world countries that depend on livestock but lack basic hygienic practices, the non-profit makes sure to add separate facilities for farm animals so that a farmer can provide clean water for their animals, and not risk contaminating the water source for humans.
Now a senior at Justice High School in Falls Church, Khan helps run Aqua Effort along with his board members and currently 24 volunteers. They oversee future projects by raising money from contributions, fundraisers and other community events. Khan explains that the average project costs approximately $5,000, which includes installing a water well and the travel costs for one volunteer.
“Now that we just gained a 501(c)(3) status, making donations tax deductible, it gives us a little more authenticity as an official charity,” says Khan.
With the new 501(c)(3) status, Aqua Effort plans to up its current project goals and is considering offers from bigger companies such as Amazon’s Smile program.
Aqua Effort is still scouting locations where it can repair and maintain existing wells, which is a lot less expensive than building new ones. Plus it’s currently trying to raise enough money by the beginning of June to afford another project.
“Sticking to our current goal of two wells every six years; ideally another well this year will complete our minimum requirements as an organization that we set for ourselves,” says Khan.
One location it’s looking into is in Bangladesh. The country is experiencing an influx of refugees, making the supply and demand for all of the people who are moving into the area so quickly, more difficult.
With plans to attend George Mason University in the fall, Khan will continue to run his organization and accept volunteers that are chosen carefully by board members and him. Volunteers can fill out an application that includes three important questions: the value of water, the value of volunteer service, and why water is important to you. Khan welcomes visitors to aquaeffort.com, which also accepts donations.