Bottling Hope

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With no more than a simple turn of the tap, Americans are fortunate enough to have access to some of the safest water in the world. However, the same can’t be said for the 844 million people around the world who don’t have access to clean water, leaving them vulnerable to disease and making an education harder to attain.

Two college students are working to change that with True Thabo, a nonprofit that aims to provide clean water to children in Africa through the sale of reusable water bottles.
Founded by Jaclyn Campson of Massapequa and Marissa Frank, her dormmate from the University of Scranton, True Thabo’s mission is to provide purified water in schools so that no child’s education is hindered.

The girls were inspired to start the nonprofit after Frank took two service trips to Ghana and Zambia. During one of those trips, she taught at a school that had no access to clean water, seeing firsthand how it affected students’ ability to learn.

“We realized it was way beyond that school,” Campson said. “We wanted to help kids elsewhere. We didn’t want clean water to get in the way of education.”

The girls began doing research on the lack of clean water available in developing countries, a problem that leads to diseases including cholera and typhoid. They launched True Thabo, short for Lethabo, an African name meaning happiness and joy, in 2016.

The nonprofit sells plastic and stainless-steel water bottles to fund their water purification efforts. All of the net proceeds from the bottles, which run $20 for stainless-steel and $15 for plastic, are donated to the cause. Through the sales of the bottles, the girls have raised enough money to install six water purification systems in five schools in Africa.

True Thabo provides clean water to students through the the LifeStraw Community Filter and MadiDrop tablets. Shaped like a water cooler on three legs, the plastic LifeStraw Community Filter purifies up to 100,000 liters of water, providing clean water for 75 to 100 people per day. Since the water purifier doesn’t require electricity to work and it includes built-in storage, children can always find clean water when they depress the spout. The LifeStraw Community can last for several years and prevents water borne illnesses such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhea.

Another helpful tool are MadiDrops, clay tablets with silver ions, which when left in buckets of water overnight, can purify 10 to 20 liters of water. Campson noted that they’re currently in the process of getting a new purification powder that cleans water within minutes.

While most of True Thabo’s work has been concentrated in schools in Zambia, Campson noted she and Frank have a global vision.

“We realize this is a need beyond Zambia,” said Campson. “We’re trying to get more of a global perspective and help other countries in the developing world.”

Helping to alleviate the global water crisis is no small task, especially for full-time college students with a full course load. Not only is there a serious time commitment, but they’re often taken for granted because of their age, said Campson. And with Zambia an ocean away, it’s crucial the company maintains close relationships with their service partners in the field.

Even though their path of service isn’t an easy one, it’s not one that they’re planning to give up on anytime soon.

“It’s something we’re very passionate about continuing to keep in our lives,” said Campson, who will continue at the University of Scranton this fall to pursue a master’s degree. “Based on the relationships I’ve made, I see this continuing after college. I think it has longevity…this is a problem that’s not going to be fixed in a year or two, so hopefully we can spread awareness and continue to help get clean water over to the developing world.”

Campson’s altruism has not only helped those overseas, but here at home as well. The born and raised Massapequan began her volunteer work at St. Rose of Lima Parish where she worked with children with disabilities, in addition to helping raise money for cancer research with clubs in high school.

“We were very fortunate and given a lot,” said Campson on why she gives back. “I was instilled with the values that you should always be humble and respectful and help those in need whenever you can.”

Learn more about True Thabo at www.truethabo.com.

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