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Seattle Pacific University
Autumn 2007 | Volume 30, Number 2 | Features

Aleya Mullett Hanson

Outpouring of Love

Aleya Mullett Hanson
“In northern Kenya, women walk 15 miles a day just to fetch water,” says Aleya Mullett Hanson, a Seattle Pacific University senior from Bellingham, Washington. “And often the water is contaminated.”

A nursing and sociology major, Hanson knows firsthand what clean water means to Africans. In 2003, after graduating from high school, Hanson made a five-month mission trip to Sierra Leone, in West Africa. There she worked with people devastated by diarrhea-related diseases caused by unclean water. “I saw how powerful clean water is to African communities,” she says. “I left motivated to make a difference, but I wasn’t sure how.”

Hanson was researching the impact of unclean water on the drought-stricken nation of Kenya for her University Scholars project when she met Zach Ward, a Seattle Pacific junior from Nairobi, Kenya. She mentioned her research to Ward, who told her something remarkable: His father was a regional director in Kenya for Christian Blind Mission (CBM), an organization fighting disabilities, some of which are caused by unclean water. “If we can raise some funds,” Ward said, “I can work with CBM to make sure the money gets used on a clean-water project.”

It was the opportunity Hanson had been waiting for. She mobilized 100 students under the banner “Maji Mazuri,” which in Swahili means “good water,” and they began to set their goals.

“The project kept changing,” says Hanson. “Eventually, CBM helped us realize that the best investment for the northern drought-stricken Samburu region of Kenya involved a gravity-fed water system, which will bring fresh water from the mountains to villagers around Arsim. But the system costs around $48,000.”

Members of Maji Mazuri created fundraising events based on their individual passions. Runners formed a 5K run. Musicians organized a benefit concert. A painter held an art auction. And throughout, Maji Mazuri educated an estimated 700 campus community members about clean-water issues.

At the same time, Hanson and others met with church leaders and philanthropic organizations, such as the Stewardship Foundation, to secure additional donations. “They were strategic by finding sources of matching funds to multiply their efforts,” says Professor of Sociology Kevin Neuhouser, Hanson’s academic advisor. “Aleya translated what she was learning into a practical application to make the world a better place.”

In June 2007, Hanson learned the group had met its goal. “The Stewardship Foundation matched our donations for a final total of $51,000,” she says. “People in Kenya are going to have some serious maji mazuri to drink!”

—By Reece Carson []

—Photo by Mike Siegel

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