Set on delivering a precious gift – water

carter jenkins

When he was just 15, Carter Jenkins called Pepsi, told them about his non-profit organisation, Students for Safe Water, and asked for a donation of US$20,000 (about S$24,800).

“If you show them you care, it’s really hard for organisations to say no to a 15-year-old,” says Carter, now 17, who founded the organisation when he was only 13.

To clinch the deal, he spent many months e-mailing Pepsi, and finally got a friend’s mother – who works there – to support his cause. When he had the company’s attention, he said: “I’ll raise US$20,000 and you match it.”

Pepsi agreed, and he raised the money through grants and other donations.

“I knock on doors and send e-mails every single day to get people to notice us,” says Carter, whose organisation helps install latrines and wells in poor villages in Honduras and Nicaragua.  He plans to help villagers in Peru as well this year.

“Many people think of Africa or India when they think of a water crisis, but I wanted to focus on my corner of the world,” says Carter, who lives in San Juan Capistrano, California.

He first stumbled on the issue when he was looking at photo essays on the internet.  After doing more research online, he turned to his parents, both lawyers, to help him set up the organisation..

He started raising funds by visiting schools to speak about the issue and putting jars on their premises to collect donations from students.

He also collects cans and recycled them for cash.  In addition, he worked with a Panda Express outlet to organise a fund-raiser – the restaurant agreed to donate 20 per cent of its profits from diners carrying Students for Safe Water fliers.

It took him a year to raise US$10,000 and make a trip with some friends to Nicaragua, where they worked with a local non-profit organisation that Carter had called and picked himself.

Students for Safe Water has raised US$68,000 to date, and now has 200 to 300 student volunteers who help to raise funds.

Even Carter’s twin sisters, aged 12, have been inspired to speak at their own schools to raise money for the organisation.  They joined him on a later trip to Nicaragua.

Always happy to give back, Carter has mentored other children at entrepreneurship camps, helping them to develop their own organisations.  He says:”I really enjoy seeing other kids’ crazy ideas.”

He hopes to study public policy at university, in a school that will give him the opportunity to develop his organisation further.

“It’s given me a meaning that I‘m not sure I had before,” he says. “I hadn’t done anything of significance until this.”

The Straits Times, dated 20 Jul 2014

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