Ten students and a faulty member from Maharashtra Institute of Technology in Pune, India, are visiting Knoxville to partner with students from the Haslam College of Business on improving drinking water quality in India. The high point of the visit will be a demonstration on October 7 where students will use packets provided by Proctor & Gamble (P&G) to cleanse Tennessee River water for safe consumption.
Ernie Cadotte, Fisher Professor of Innovative Learning at Haslam, designed the project to help rural areas of India, where 21 percent of communicable diseases are related to unsafe water. “We will form teams of students composed of UT students and Maharashtra students. The teams will be challenged to create a plan to spread this program throughout the region around the MIT business school in India,” Cadotte said. “The mixed teams will have to figure out how to work together in a social entrepreneurship context.”
The project is part of P&G’s Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program, which provides the water-cleansing packets to developing countries worldwide. Chemicals in the packets remove more than 99 percent of bacteria, viruses, parasites and solid waste by settling them to the bottom of a container where they can be easily filtered.
Cadotte learned about the initiative from Haslam freshman Michael Van Dorselaer, who has been fundraising for it since he was 10 years old. “My dad, who worked for P&G, had a friend from South Africa over for dinner who talked about the need for clean water,” Van Dorselaer said. “I thought there was something we could do. I started a service club at my school to raise money to distribute the packets.”
Over the course of eight years, Van Dorselaer’s service club raised $100,000 and spread the fundraising idea to 43 schools across Ohio. Cadotte is adapting Van Dorselaer’s model as part of a service-learning class taken by seniors at Haslam.
Van Dorselaer is pleased to see the project expand to the collegiate level and to a region. “I’ve been lucky enough to see the difference from the missionary nuns [who volunteer to distribute the packets] in Africa,” Van Dorselaer said. “It really helped out the kids many, many villages.”
Previous projects from the service-learning class have included a business model for trash collection in India, a five-kilometer run supporting the elderly and a rally promoting bicycle culture in Knoxville.
A Knoxville News Sentinel story coveringthe initiative and the water demonstration can be found here. (Subscribers only)