Some of the world's brightest minds and kindest hearts are right here in Iowa. Students at Davenport West High School are heading halfway around the world in 2023 to help provide filtered water to thousands in the African country of Kenya. One of those students has family members living in Africa which is one of the reasons he wanted to help with the project.

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How The Water Filtration Project At West High Began

An inspiring story was written by the Quad-City Times that has been going viral throughout America. Students at Davenport West High School will be heading to Kenya in January to build and install a water filtration system that will benefit about 22,000 people in the Kenya village of Muamba.

Over the past 6 years, Davenport West High School students have been taking the engineering, design, and development capstone class to help work on this project to bring clean water to villages in Kenya, according to the Quad-City Times.

The idea came after brainstorming a few different project ideas, but students at Davenport West High School ultimately decided to design, build, and implement a water filtration system to be placed in villages throughout Kenya.

COVID Puts A Pause On The Project

While the plan was to have the project done sooner, Greg Smith who teaches the course at West told the Quad-City Times that the pandemic pushed things back,

“The plan was to implement it within a year or two, but we fell a little behind schedule in 2020. I took a student to Kenya to get data, then COVID happened and slowed the process since then.”

Smith said that the students finished the fully functioning water filtration system last year. the one built in Kenya will be roughly five times the size of the school’s model.

Smith will also go with the students to Kenya in January.

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The Fishers Of Men & Davenport West Partnership

This project isn't being done solely by the class at West High School. This project is in partnership with Fishers of Men Ministries Inc, which is headquartered in Davenport.

Fishers of Men is an international non-profit 501(c)(3) Christian missionary organization. Founded by Joshua Ngao, they work to provide water wells, churches, schools, and homes for children and families throughout Kenya.

Ngao told the Quad-City Times.

“We’re blessed to have this partnership. We have 19 water wells in Kenya, but we have had thousands of people who are dying right now because there’s no water or because of water contamination.”

Ngao grew up in Kenya and told the Quad-City Times that he use to walk almost 50 miles for drinking water.

Fishers of Men has served close to 50,000 families around Kenya to date, Ngao told the Quad-City Times. He hopes the West partnership encourages other organizations and people to get involved.

A Major Impact On & Off The Field

West High School senior Duro Johnson, who was a major part of the successful 2022 football season for the Falcons, according to the Quad-City Times, is one of the four students who will travel to Muamba in January to implement the water filtration system that they designed.

One of the reason's that Johnson became interested in the project is because he currently has family there, he told the Quad-City Times. He said that his grandparents and cousins are currently living in Nigeria.

Johnson not only helped in the construction phase but was tasked to lead the design of a building to house the system.

Mr. Smith told the Quad-City Times,

“... No. 1, to protect the system. But the biggest thing using natural materials so they don’t have to get things from outside their country. We can get rock, sand and gravel pretty much anywhere in the world, so it lends itself naturally to what we’re doing. The only thing that’s not natural are the piping and storage containers, but that stuff is readily available and we can adapt. We gave Duro some design parameters, he came up with the idea and then Joshua would come give feedback.”

Johnson clearly adapted well because the building's construction began in late September after Ngao told the people in Kenya the student's ideas.

“When we sent the plan to Kenya, I explained it to the people in Swahili so they were able to understand what the students came up with. So, it’s almost like we’re building together in everything that we’re doing.”

Johnson told the Quad-City Times that he was surprised that the group’s design was chosen, but also very excited to help people in their communities.

Building The First Water Filtration System & More

The West High School students will build their first water filtration system in the village of Muamba in Kenya, but Ngao of Fishers of Men Ministries wants to continue to build more after the first is complete.

Ngao told the Quad-City Times,

“We’re starting there because it goes a long time without raining, so that’s where we’ve done more work with deep water wells.”

Ngao added that the goal is to put the system in place in all 42 countries in Kenya. He is also looking to have this initiative government-licensed. The systems will feature a plaque showing those using them that it was built and born by the students at Davenport West High School.

To put how important these systems are going to be in Kenya, Ngao said,

“Twenty-five percent of people are dying because of water-born diseases in that county, and the students are starting something that can lower the percentage, It’s going to be life-changing for everyone.”

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Creating Global Changers In Davenport

Clearly this program is creating change for people around the world. This just shows how important it is to have classes and programs for students to show them that they can make a difference.

Smith told the Quad-City Times that the curriculum his class follows focuses on project-based learning. The is to help open doors of opportunities for students to make an impact. Smith said,

“You might do something for a class and just take it apart when you’re done. This is something that’ll change people’s lives — maybe not directly here — but around the world,” he said. “Looking at some of those things we take for granted or issues we don’t typically have to deal with, it’ll definitely open student's eyes, seeing that ‘Maybe I can do good.’

Kudos to all involved in this project. I think we can all agree that classes and programs like this really are important for our future leaders, builders, and humanity. You can find more details in the original article from the Quad-City Times.

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