Student funds water purification system for Liberian school, clinic

George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science alumna Destinee Whitaker hands a check to the chairmen of the Liberia Medical Mission Joseph Sackor for a water purification system for a Liberian school and clinic.-submitted photo.

During her senior year at George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science, Destinee Whitaker became aware of the need for clean water in other countries.

“Early in my senior year at Engineering and Science, I became aware of the urgent need for clean water in many countries in Africa and Asia,” Whitaker said. “ Clean water, which we take for granted in the United States, is not available in many countries around the world. For example, in Liberia, diarrhea as a result of dirty water is a major cause of death in young children. I became dedicated to finding an affordable, yet effective water purification system.”

After sharing her concern with a faculty adviser at the school, Whitaker started to brainstorm on different ways that she as well as her fellow students could help.

“Destinee shared her concern with Ms. Zeng, the faculty advisor to our National Honor Society and made a presentation to members of the Honor Society,” said Ted Domers, principal of George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science. “The students made the decision to raise money for the purchase of one or more portable water purification systems that would provide clean water for a school or medical clinic. Throughout the school year, they held bake sales at the school to raise the money.”

Whitaker, who graduated from Engineering and Science in June, recently presented a check to the Liberian Medical Mission to fund two water purification systems.

“We knew that any water purification systems we purchased would have to be light weight, portable and operate without the need for electricity,” Whitaker said. “Fortunately, such a system is manufactured by a company headquartered in Switzerland. We presented the system specifications to a microbiologist to verify that the system would provide profitable water.”

The company that manufactures the water purification system known as LifeStraw Community is Vestergaard. Founded in 1957, Vestergaard is headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland and it manufactures public health tools for people in developing countries.

The LifeStraw Community system removes viruses, bacterial parasites and microplastics and virtually all pathogens found in drinking water. The system processes water at a rate of 12 liters per hour. The system will process 26,000 gallons of water before the filter needs replacing. This is enough water to provide 100 people with water for between three and five years, according to the company’s website.

“When I started this effort, I was concerned about two things,” Whitaker said. “First, I was concerned that my fellow National Honor Society members won’t have the same passion for the idea that I have. Second, I was concerned that I would not be able to raise enough money to purchase one or more of the water purification systems.

“Neither of these concerns turned out to be valid. I had no concern that we would be able to find a “home” for the water purification system. Yet, this turned out to be a major stumbling block. We contacted church groups doing mission work in Africa, Central America and South America with no luck.

“We contacted college professors and graduate students with contacts to projects in Africa,” she added. “Finally, a friend of a friend who works at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggested we get in touch with Mr. Joseph Sackor. He has been most helpful and will take delivery of the check to buy two LifeStraw Community water purification system for use in a medical clinic and a school in Liberia.”

Chairman of the Liberia Medical Mission Joseph Sackor said he was both speechless and grateful that both Whitaker and the other students at Engineering and Science were willing to help bring purified water to those in need in Liberia.

“I was speechless when I received the word that a high school student in Philadelphia had identified the world’s need for potable water and was raising money for the children of Liberia,” Sackor said. “Destinee and the members of the National Honor Society of George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science ‘Dreamt Big’ and put their plan in action. The medical clinic and the school in Liberia will be better and safer places for children as a result of their efforts.”

chill@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5716

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