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Calvin College students help with clean water project in Liberia

Students are using what they learn in class for a research project to help bring safe, clean water to people in Liberia.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A Texas minister is living on a raft at a lake in Dallas, as part of a fundraiser to support efforts to bring clean drinking water to African communities.

Pastor Todd Phillips will stay on the raft until he has raised nearly $2.3 million for his non-profit, called The Last Well, to go toward its work in Liberia.

Calvin College partnered with Phillips' organization, and students are using what they learn in class for a research project to help bring safe, clean water to people in Liberia.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our students to engage in research that has global implications,” said Jason VanHorn, an associate professor of geography.

The goal of the project is to provide access to safe drinking water for the entire country of Liberia by 2020.

“The data collection process started in late 2016,” VanHorn said. “Our team at Calvin works to organize, collect and analyze the data, and map it so that we can track over time what happens with clean water in Liberia.”

Due to the work at its Clean Water Institute, Calvin College is the perfect partner for the other two groups involved.

“Sawyer is an international company that provides water filters," VanHorn said. "They have connected with an on the ground group, The Last Well, who works in Liberia to distribute these water filters.”

Since the effort began in 2009, a third of the counties in Liberia now have access to clean water.

“The data is showing tremendous results, we are seeing dramatic decreases in poor health across all categories of adults, teens and young children,” VanHorn said.

As for the six students involved, this was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.

“I really learned a lot about how I can use the mapping skills that I learned in my courses, and actually apply it to something that's really going to help some people,” said Calvin College senior Megumu Jansen.

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