Steinhardt sophomore works toward sanitation, water supply in Nicaragua

Rachel Liquindoli for WSN
Rachel Liquindoli for WSN

 

Karahola is a 400-person village in southern Nicaragua, reachable by car or horse. It may not seem noteworthy, but for Steinhardt sophomore Sophie Hollingsworth, it is a place with great potential for growth and improvement.

In 2012, Hollingsworth founded AquaAid International, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide clean water to rural Nicaragua, a region where water quality is poor.

The NYU sophomore chose to start her clean water mission after spending the summer of 2010 working as a deckhand on a boat.

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While working, Hollingsworth met Simon Espinoza, a native of Nicaragua. His stories about growing up in a country with a shortage of clean water inspired Hollingsworth to take action. When she could not find an existing organization that tackled the issue, she created her own.

“I knew clean water was an issue, but it was never really on my radar,” Hollingsworth said. “But once I started developing this organization I just started reading everything I could on it.”

Over the years, Hollingsworth has stayed in touch with Espinoza, who has been working with his family to lay the groundwork for AquaAid efforts in Karahola.

For its first mission, the organization will send a team of humanitarian-minded individuals to Karahola in January 2014, to distribute water filters to every family there. These filters will give the people of Karahola access to 150 to 360 gallons of clean water a day and reduce waterborne illnesses by 99.9 percent.

In addition to filter distribution, AquaAid International plans to implement a primary school curriculum to teach children basic concepts of sanitation, such as the importance of handwashing and clean water. Hollingsworth has designed a Spanish coloring book and created several songs and games to engage children.

“The adult population, they are not going to change their ways,” Hollingsworth said. “But if you can get the children to get involved in this, they become agents of change for their community.”

Philanthropist Doug Baker, from Sarasota, Florida, was so inspired by Hollingsworth’s dedication to sustainability and education that he not only supported AquaAid International financially, but also joined the board of directors.

“When you have young people like Sophie that get so passionate about something that’s going to make an improvement, it’s contagious,” Baker said. “It gives us all the hope that there is the possibility to change things and make things better.”

To Hollingsworth, her deeds are not out of the ordinary.

“Everyone can help volunteering in the world,” Hollingsworth said. “You don’t have to have a huge amount of time or a huge amount of money. Little things make huge differences.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 16 print edition. Deborah Lubanga is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]

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