Having chosen a University that values social consciousness, altruism, and international awareness, many students arrive on campus with a strong passion for activism. However, few have followed and developed this commitment to social change as thoroughly as incoming freshman Carina Kurban ‘14. In a journey that has taken her from the suburb of Winchester, MA to some of the most remote and destitute nations on the planet, Kurban, at the age of 16, co-founded the non-profit “1 For 3” with her family, driven by her experiences abroad and her passion for social change. The non-profit sells stainless steel water bottles in order to fund the development of wells and filtration systems to provide clean drinking water in third world countries. Less than two years since its inception, 1 for 3 provides clean water to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who lack access to clean drinking water.
Although she traveled to South Africa with medical missionary trips since the age of 12, Kurban’s impetus for the foundation of 1 for 3 came from working at a hospital nursery and orphanage in Antigua, Guatemala during January 2009, the winter of her junior year.
“The one thing that struck me … in Antigua was the communal fountain, which was the one place where people could get water for washing clothes and sanitation, and also the source of their drinking water,” Kurban said, “I had asked the hospital’s Padre what the patients needed most and he said, ‘if we had clean drinking water, it would empty half of the hospital’”
Kurban returned to Guatemala alongside her father, who has worked with medical non-profits in impov- erished nations for over 20 years, and began investigating ways to get clean water to those who needed it most. Finding the structure of the mission trips limiting, Kurban sought other means of providing relief for the people of those without clean water.
“Since I didn’t have a medical degree, there was a limit to what I could do on the medical missions trips and the group would only be in these countries for four months out of the year,” Kurban said. “I wanted to do something that would have an effect even after we were gone.”
After brainstorming solutions with her family, Kurban and her fa- ther started 1 for 3, selling stainless steel water bottles to help fund clean water overseas, but also to offer an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic water bottles at home. For every bottle sold, they speculated, the non-profit could save three lives, supplying three people with access to clean drinking water, giving rise to the simple ratio that has become the group’s title. The two continued work with their fledgling project and began discussing the engineer- ing process as friends, associates, and others began to get involved. With the aid of volunteer engineers in the planning of wells and other water systems, the Kurbans began looking to get the message out.
“I remember when the project was started, we were just trying to make it known around Winchester,” Kurban said. “It didn’t really catch on locally, but more so nationally. The company that did marketing for corporations like Comcast volun-
teered to market for us– it was really huge. It was entirely different than what we expected.”
Recently, 1 for 3 and Kurban have focused their efforts on Rwanda and begun to expand its aid from merely building wells and other rudimentary systems to providing destitute areas with running water. Kurban visited the war-torn nation over the summer to document water sources, interview residents, and begin the engineering and construction process for provid- ing the impoverished village of Gitwe and the surrounding area, home to abut 250,000 people, with clean, run- ning water.
“1 for 3 has changed so much from what we expected,” Kurban said. “It went from building wells in a handful of villages to providing water for thousands of Rwandans. It didn’t hit me until we got to Gitwe and I saw kids who had to wake up at five in the morning and walk 10 km to get water five times a day. Seeing them actually get the clean water made it so much more real.”
Now on campus, Kurban is com- mitted to continuing her work with 1 for 3 and sees a bright future for the startup, both at the University and as a growing non-profit.
“I definitely will continue to be involved with 1 for 3 with my family, but I’d like to spread it on campus,” Kurban said. “I’m excited to see if we can get some student involvement– we have people helping out at places like U-Mass Amherst, both selling water bottles and working with 1 for 3.”
As 1 for 3 continues to grow, Kurban and her family hope to spread their aid to more areas in desperate need of clean water, looking to focus their efforts in the near future on refu- gee camps throughout the devastated Middle East. Even as the school year starts and schedules begin to fill up, Kurban remains committed to 1 for 3 as long as people worldwide are in need of clean water.