The Junior World Affairs Council (JWAC) chapter at North Hills Prep hosted the 4th annual Agua Unida Festival on Saturday, March 23. As a fundraiser the festival helps Isla Urbana, a local non-profit build rain water harvesting systems in Mexico City.
The festival included a basketball and soccer tournament as well as booths auctioning art pieces created by the students and providing students the opportunity to pie faculty members.
“Mexico City is not a desert,” Sohan Gade, a senior and president of the JWAC at North Hills Prep, said. “It rains a lot, but these people aren’t able to get clean water, and that’s very concerning.”
Over a hundred volunteers participated in the event. Sophomore Sahas Chinni credits the high volunteer turnout to the way the North Hills Prep community cares about others.
“I feel like every single person should have water,” Chinni said. “It’s an unalienable right. When we asked for volunteers, a lot of people rushed to volunteer. It’s because they were interested in this.”
“We plan on doing this every year,” Mirza Rafay Hasan, a junior, said. “This is the largest student run event at this school; something a lot of people remember when they leave the school.”
In addition to providing the systems, Isla Urbana takes students to Mexico City to help install the water harvesting systems. Chinni and his classmate Krishna Chandrasekhara were selected to go based on the dedication they showed while working with JWAC.
Mateo Young, a former student at North Hills Prep, traveled twice to Mexico City to help install the water systems.
“We visited a community on the outskirts of Mexico City that doesn’t have access to clean water and the government isn’t doing much to help them,” Young said. “They must find ways to carry water to their homes. We don’t think where the water comes from or if there is even going to be water, it’s just expected to be there. It reminded me water is a necessity and a basic building block of life, and there are good people around the world rationing off water portions for their families.”
Water shortages can be so bad that schools are shut down due to the absence of water, Young said.
The installation of the water systems is quick, and volunteers can install about ten systems per day.
“We install gutters in the roof,” Young said. “We can channel the rain through a specific filter, so it cleans the water. It makes the water safe to use for cooking, brushing teeth, taking showers. Once it passes through the system, there’s an underground cistern that stores water. They get about 6-8 months’ worth of water.”
There are three different size systems.
“There’s a bigger one for communities,” Young said. “If they cannot afford to build one for each house, they’ll have a localized system, and everyone can get water from that. Then there’s a larger one for big schools or bigger communities that are very rural.
“In Mexico City, it rains more than in London, so there’s plenty of rain. They are just not utilizing it.”