Ryerson student Omar El Araby and Farhan an Egyptian potterRyerson student Omar El Araby (right) with Farhan, an Egyptian potter who took part in collaborated on the Enactus team’s water filtration project (photo courtesy of Enactus Ryerson).

For a group of Ryerson University students, this school year has been anything but typical. On top of being full time students, balancing busy course loads, they are also tackling one of the globe’s most complicated problems, improving communities’ access to clean drinking water.

Nineteen million people are living without access to drinkable water in Gujarat, India. In Asyut, Egypt, two out of five households also don’t have the ability to tap into this vital resource.

With their project, Project Pura, students from Ryerson University, this year’s winners of Scotiabank EcoLiving Green Challenge, are working with local entrepreneurs in Asyut, Egypt and in a village in Gujarat, India to help them manufacture and sell ceramic water filters.

Available water filters in India can cost more than $40 CAD. Project Pura cuts this cost down to make filtered water a reality; the filters cost $2 CAD to make using local materials and are being sold for $8 CAD. Just over 50 filters have been sold so far to people in the entrepreneurs’ neighbourhoods.

Project Pura’s ceramic water filtersOne of Project Pura’s ceramic water filters on site in Egypt (photo courtesy of Enactus Ryerson).

In only four months, the students and entrepreneurs have worked together to filter 142,620 litres of water and help over 31,000 people have access to clean, drinkable water.

Enactus Ryerson team member Omar El Araby, age 21, said they have heard from families who said the filters have already changed their lives, including a family with seven children that had previously been visiting the hospital almost daily.

“We had a family that suffered from kidney stones due to the contaminated water that they were drinking. Two months after we started the project and they received a water filter, they stopped visiting the hospital because they were cured,” said Omar. “For us to be able to change people’s lives by helping them and their community is spectacular.”

Through the project, the students also provided a water sanitation education and entrepreneurship program in the communities to help them grow their local economies. In India, they partnered with three schools, teaching 1350 students about the importance of clean water using booklets translated in different local dialects.

Seeing the reaction of the people of Asyut is something Omar said he will never forget. After spending time visiting a local family in the village to better understand their water use and provide them with a new filter, he said the students were touched by the support from the community.

“When we were leaving the village, we were looking behind us and the entire village, more than 200 people, were waving goodbye and smiling. That moment gave me everything, inspiring me. That has been the real reward out of all that we are doing,” said Omar.

His team member Savreen Gosal, also 21 years old, added that seeing their impact on the families has meant a lot to the students, “For all of us to see how the people are changing their lives because of our actions, that is what keeps us going every single day.”

This winning project was recognized at the Enactus Canada National Competition in Vancouver. The Scotiabank EcoLiving Green Challenge is a national competition that empowers post-secondary students to develop and deliver projects that teach others viable solutions to relevant environmental issues.

Since 2010, 67,864 students have helped conserve 35,604,157 litres of water, diverted 174,907,630 pounds of waste and introduced 9,488 organizations to green business practices.

EcoLiving Infographic 2017
EcoLiving Infographic 2017
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“Congratulations to all the Scotiabank EcoLiving Green Challenge teams for their hard work and creative projects. You all inspire us to be more eco-friendly through your projects that make a real impact on communities in Canada and around the world,” said Terri Williams, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, Scotiabank.

Learn more about the Enactus competition at www.enactus.ca.

nactus Ryerson studentsEnactus Ryerson students celebrate their win of the Scotiabank EcoLiving Green Challenge in Vancouver