by Andrea JudyGrowing up in the small town of Bau Ham, Vietnam, Jimmy Tran watched his mother walk miles every day to collect water. Even though the water wasn’t clean, it was the only option the family had. Tran and his brother, Long, frequently became ill from drinking this unsafe water.
Tran, now a managerial sciences student at Robinson, still remembers his family’s struggle for safe water. He realized he could do something to improve that for other children around the world. Drawing on inspiration from superheroes and heroes from TV shows, Tran created Aquaheru to empower children and give them hope for clean water. “The children in the third world, they need a superhero to give them hope. When I was little, I would hope a superhero would come to my village,” he said. In November 2013, the AQUAHERU Foundation was established to bring safe drinking water to children across the world and share the message of the global water crisis.
Tran decided on a simple $50 filter as the most effective way to get clean water to people. “There’s no digging a well, no thousand dollar filter. These are filters you can put in your suitcase and take to where they’re needed. They make a difference right away,” he said. One filter can provide 100 people with 1 million gallons of clean water for up to 5 years.
When a typhoon struck the Philippines, Tran knew that Aquaheru was needed. He didn’t know how, but he knew that he needed to take action. “When you have faith and you have the belief, you don’t have to wait for conditions to be perfect. Take the action and things will show up along the way,” Tran said. Since clean water is one of the most important things needed after a disaster, Tran knew they needed to get help there.
He began raising the money by going door-to-door, visiting churches, putting up donation boxes in salons and restaurants, and hosting online fundraising. They raised just over $4,000 dollars and bought as many filters as they could before he and his brother headed into the heart of the Philippines. Working with local Philippine groups, they were able to reach some of the hardest hit areas and bring fresh water, and hope.
While running a non-profit has its challenges, Tran is working to ensure that they continue to serve and remain transparent about where their donations go. He is creating key chains, necklaces and plush toys that donate to a child in need when they are purchased. “A non-profit challenge is how to raise funds so we create a sustainable social enterprise. When someone purchases something we give something away.”
Tran has found support and community at Georgia State University and in his classes at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business. “GSU has given me the knowledge in business to make my plans,” he said. He looks forward to graduating in the spring and putting that knowledge to work effectively building Aquaheru.
Tran knows that he can make a lasting impact in the world. “Our goal is to help 1 million people; we’ve already helped over 25,000, and next year we’ll double that,” Tran said.