Destinee Whitaker was in fourth grade when she first became aware that millions of people in some parts of the world lacked clean water.
“It was a problem that just stuck with me, that not everyone had what I had, that not everyone lived the way that I live,” said Whitaker, who grew up in West Philadelphia. “Water is a necessity.”
Whitaker researched the issue carefully in high school. In her senior year, she approached fellow members of her school’s National Honor Society with a proposal: They should raise money to buy water purification systems for people in need.
Whitaker and her classmates raised $800, a significant amount in a school where 70% of students’ families are considered economically disadvantaged.
Raising the money turned out to be the easy part, said Whitaker, now a freshman environmental sciences major at Atlanta’s Spelman College. Finding an organization that could deliver the water purification systems was harder.
Whitaker eventually connected with Joseph Sackor, who runs the Liberia Medical Mission, a nonprofit that provides medical services to Liberians.
“When I heard Destinee’s story, I cried,” Sackor said. “I was really surprised, and I was touched that a girl of her age would think about other people’s lives that way.”
Sackor said the purification systems will make an immediate difference in the lives of “thousands and thousands” of people in a country where diarrhea from dirty water is a major cause of death in young children.
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