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Monday, January 30, 2023

Sixth grade Alachua County student provides clean water sources for hundreds in Uganda

Inspired by his teacher, the student wasn’t afraid to pursue his passion

<p>Ekisinga Ministries, pictured here in Buwenda, Uganda on Aug. 25, 2021, works with local churches to gauge the needs of the community and provide sustainable safe water solutions. Courtesy of Steve Nutzmann. </p>

Ekisinga Ministries, pictured here in Buwenda, Uganda on Aug. 25, 2021, works with local churches to gauge the needs of the community and provide sustainable safe water solutions. Courtesy of Steve Nutzmann.

Craig “Tre’” Smith III, a sixth-grader at Oak View Middle School, shot his hand up as he sat in his English class. His idea would serve and inspire hundreds of families thousands of miles away.

His goal of raising $2,500 to provide clean water sources to people in Uganda almost doubled within two months. 

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Craig “Tre” Smith raised money for safe water solutions in Uganda. Courtesy of Deanna Smith.

Tre’ was inspired by his reading teacher, Lori Barber, who introduced him to “A Long Walk to Water,” a novel that educated him about the lack of access to clean water in remote villages in Sudan. 

When he realized there were children his age who don’t have easy access to clean water, he set a firm goal to raise funds for those children and began Aug. 16. 

“It started with a teacher who sparked an idea, a kid that's super passionate and then it was a dinner conversation at home with parents that helped him get started,” his mother Deanna Smith said.

Smith then contacted an organization called Ekisinga Ministries, which partners with local churches in Uganda to provide business training, safe water solutions and community outreach. She has since worked with Steve and Debbie Nutzmann, the director of the ministry and his wife, to assess the needs of Ugandans and distribute funds and resources where they would make the most impact.

Tre’ first put the money he had raised into water-purifying devices called MadiDrops. The devices are ceramic tablets embedded with silver that can be placed into 10 to 20 liters of water daily and left to purify for 8 to 24 hours. MadiDrops can provide an entire family with purified water for up to 12 months.

“His desire was to help 100 people,” Debbie Nutzmann said. “We were able to do that instantaneously through the use of these MadiDrops, but it's snowballed in a way that I think was bigger than anything he could imagine.”

Tre’ sent the first $1,000 to provide 40 MadiDrops that were distributed by local churches.

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A water kiosk is seen in Buwenda, Uganda on Aug. 25, 2021. The kiosk provides clean and safe water, eliminating the need to constantly boil water to sustain villages in Uganda. Courtesy of Steve Nutzmann.

As the fundraiser gained traction, Tre’s next goal was to raise enough funds to install a water kiosk that would help 300 to 350 people, Smith said. The kiosks, which are set up with direct power or with solar and filter out 99.99% of bacteria and 99.1% of viruses, would provide clean drinking water in a matter of seconds. 

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“He's also really kickstarted something that's not just going to last 12 months, but it's going to last years in a sustainable manner, which is one of our key things,” Debbie Nutzmann said. “I think that's kind of a cool legacy that he has been able to give people in Uganda.”

Hoping to inspire Ugandans, the Nutzmanns shared pictures of Tre’ with locals, Debbie Nutzmann said. 

Barber, his English teacher, planted the seed of his inspiration that continues to impact hundreds of people. But she said she doesn’t want to take credit for his work. 

“He thought of it himself,” Barber said. “Of course as a teacher, to inspire any child is great, so I was very proud of him.” 

Tre’ plans to continue raising money for Ekisinga Ministries and pursue more hands-on projects in the future. He has a heart for children and desires to put together care packages for orphanages and kids in Africa, Smith said. Tre’ looks forward to working on future service projects and plans to continue making his ideas into realities. 

Desiree Anello is a contributing writer for The Alligator. Follow her on Twitter at @desiree_anello.

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