Water in refugee camps is an incredibly precious and scarce resource. Access to clean water sources is unpredictable and refugees often have to stand in line for hours to get water for their families. This week’s startup has a sustainable and effective way to help solve the complex issue of clean water access.
SDG: #6: Clean Water & Sanitation
Traction: Winner of Penn’s President’s Engagement Prize
In refugee camps, every milliliter of water has to be rationed, delivered sporadically by UN trucks, or dug out of the ground. Maji addresses the challenge by installing solar-powered water tanks in refugee camps in Uganda.
Martin Leet and Leah Voytovich met in their junior year at a friend’s house and connected through their shared refugee experiences. Leah’s parents were Jewish refugees from Russia, eventually settling in Connecticut. Martin grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya.
Their diverse academic backgrounds made them a dynamic pair of co-founders for their venture, Maji. Having seen solar-powered water tanks be installed in his community, Martin was familiar with the ins and outs of installation and the impact that the tanks would make, while Leah could lend her medical expertise to first aid training for the community.
Since winning the Penn President's Engagement Prize, Maji has installed its first water tank in the Olua I refugee camp, providing water for over three thousand refugees.
Maji’s founders have experience living and working in refugee camps. They have expertise in installing and operating water tanks, and employ a team of six employees and a dozen volunteers working on the ground.
Refugee camps are severely impacted by lack of reliable access to water. Children may miss school to stand in long lines for water. The community can suffer lead poisoning from water dug from wells. Maji makes a huge difference in helping communities live more securely through providing a consistent source of clean water. The solar-powered nature of the water tank means that there are minimal maintenance costs compared to alternatives, ensuring that refugees will continue to have a source of clean water.
Maji draws on its co-founders’ expertise in first aid and agriculture. Not only does it provide drinking water, it also teaches refugees skills like crop rotation and land tilling to be able to sustainably grow their own food. This training will help refugees build a reliable food supply that is less dependent on the financially-strained UN food delivery systems.