The Story of 33 Buckets

Implementing a social entrepreneurial project is not an easy endeavor, but it is an incredibly humbling, rewarding experience. Here is the story of how several engineering students decided they wanted to make a difference in the lives of others accross the world and ended up starting a social venture called 33 Buckets.


1. a Water Project is Born

Enamul Hoque, the founder of the Rahima Hoque Girls' College in rural Bangladesh, approaches the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) director, Richard Filley, and asks for support from the program to provide clean drinking water to his school. Five students (Pankti Shah, Paul Strong, Varendra Silva, Mark Huerta and Connor Wiegand) join the project over the first year and a half in the hopes of making a positive impact. Preliminary research shows arsenic is a prevalent contaminent in the drinking water of Bangladesh.


2. First Prototype & the Start of 33 Buckets

The team builds their first physical water filtration prototypes out of 5-gallon buckets. It featured a sand filter, oxidation tanks and carbon steel shavings with the goal of filtering out arsenic. The goal of filtering arsenic (atomic number: 33) one bucket at a time would inspire the team's name, 33 Buckets.


3.Hard Work Pays off

With the assistance of Layne Christensen Company and Dr. Westerhoff, the 33 Buckets team designs a multi-layer, gravity-fed filtration system designed to disinfect the water and filter out heavy metals including arsenic. The team wins ASU's Project Presentation Palooza Competition and receives funding.


4. Our Initial Supporters

With the support of Dean Paul Johnson (Dean of Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering) and Dean Mark Jacbos (Dean of Barrett, The Honors College), 33 Buckets receives the additonal funding to send the enitre team to Bangladesh in the summer. Special thanks to Richard Filley, Dean Johnson and Dean Jacobs for believing in us and providing the initial support we needed to travel!

4. The Assessment Trip

The 33 Buckets team travels with Enamul Hoque to Bangladesh for 10 days. The team establishes connections at the school and gathers support from the community. The team is able to identify more clearly the problem by talking to numerous community members and by taking water samples. The team ends up bonding with several members of the community and the students at the school. A number of friendships are forged and more inspiration is created.


5. The Dell Social Innovation Challenge

33 Buckets is selected as one of five finalists out of over 1800 applicants for the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, a social entrepreneurship competition. The team travels to Austin and receives additional funding and extensive mentoring while getting to meet some incredible entrepreneurs including Michael Dell himself and John Mackey, the founder of Whole Foods. The team pivots their focus from creating a technological solution to an innovative, disruptive clean water distribution platform.


6. Crowdfunding

33 Buckets continues to develop their distribution model and then in June 2013, the team launches a crowdfunding campaign through the USEED platform. The campaign was a huge success as 33 Buckets raises more than their $10,000 goal.


7. The Implementation Trip

Four team members of 33 Buckets (Mark Huerta, Paul Strong, Vid Micevic, and Shardul Golwalkar) travel to Bangladesh for 2 weeks and successfully implement a social water business. A water advisory committee is formed, a housing is built, a filtration system is installed, shelves are built and containers are delivered. Additionally, the school now generates revenue through water sales. This revenue stream will be used to maintain the system for a very long time and to improve the education at the school. The team left extremely inspired and humbled by their experience. They will never forget all of the beautiful souls they met that made the trip so special.

After teaching the students the importance of clean water, sanitation and hygiene, the team decided to join them in the classroom since the girls taught them so much about life through their kindness and generosity.

After teaching the students the importance of clean water, sanitation and hygiene, the team decided to join them in the classroom since the girls taught them so much about life through their kindness and generosity.


8. Success

Current 900 students that attend the Rahima Hoque Girls' School now have access to clean drinking water and thousands more in the community can now purchase it at a significantly cheaper price. The school is making enough profits to cover the maintenance of the filter and the salary of the worker distributing the water. The 33 Buckets team is currently fundraising to help the community purchase a microbus to use as a way for girls from outside the school district to attend the school. While school is in session, the microbus will be used to transport water to the tea shops and businesses. 


9. Expansion

Over the summer of 2015, Swaroon attend Watson University at Philadelphia representing 33 Buckets. Over the course of three weeks, Swaroon received intensive social entrepreneurship training to bring back to the team. While on his time out there, Swaroon found two more new project sites for 33 Buckets to expand to. 

One site is in the Monte Plata, Dominican Republic in partnership with Schools for Sustainability. Currently, the village depends on cave water where children most dangerously call into a small cave to retrieve water for their families. After initial water tests, the community is currently drinking water ridded with E. Coli and other bacteria that is 200x the accepted levels for clean drinking water. 


10. Peru Assesment Trip And the Big Pivot

Another site is near Cuzco, Peru in partnership with The Green Program. Our project lead, Mark Huerta went to Cuzco in he beginning of January 2016 for an assessment trip.Mark arrived in Peru and went straight to work for the week he was there. He met with project partners, established relationships with key project stakeholders, and tested the water of the community. Mark came back to the team with greater insight on the challenges faced by the village and currently 33 Buckets is devising a customized sustainable solution to fit their needs.

The water maintenance team in the village discuss how water is currently distributed to local families

The water maintenance team in the village discuss how water is currently distributed to local families


11. Pakis Social Challenge

On February 4th, 2016, 33 Buckets pitched in front of the Pakis Family Foundation, and received $10,000 to expand future initiatives in Peru and the Dominican Republic. 

12. Crowdfunding Campaign

On March 22nd, the 33 Buckets team partnered up with Schools for Sustainability to launch a crowdfunding campaign in order to pay for the water filtration system in Sabana Grande De Boya. Currently, the children of the community must skip school and crawl into a treacherous cave to provide water riddled with 200x the acceptable amount of E. Coli for their family. Please be sure to donate to the crowdfunding campaign in order for this 5,000 person community to have access to sustainable clean drinking water source. Every $10, will let 5 people have access to clean water and an opportunity to avoid water-related to disease to achieve their full potential. 

13. Huillcapata, Peru Implementation Trip

With the Green Program as partners, 33 Buckets worked closely with the Huillcapata community school located just 30 minutes outside of Cusco. Working closely with Agripino, the principal of the school, and community parents to get feedback, 33 Buckets established their second clean water franchise. Since the water source comes from the nearby mountains, 33 Buckets switched to a gravity fed ultra purification filter that is very easy to maintain. Working alongside government municipality, there was a big opening ceremony on June 8th, 2016 celebrating all the partnership, educating the local community through WASH, and looking forward to a future with clean water.

14. Dominican Republic IMplementation Trip

Right after our project in Peru, the 33 Buckets team traveled straight to the Dominican Republic to begin working on the second project of the 2016 summer. With Schools 4 Sustainability previous work in Batey Sabana Larga, the community trusted 33 Buckets from the beginning. The first week was dedicated to interviewing all the families in the community to try to understand their current needs. With insight from the interviews, the 33 Buckets team opted for a scaled down version of our solution to create the most sustainable business. With the business model created, local engineers and contractors created a "casita" to protect the water filter and community members would bring their own container to fill at the casita. Below is a picture of Mark and our newest member Juan Carlos educating the community on Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH). 

15. Peru Site Re-Revist

In January 2017, 33 Buckets co-founders Mark Huerta and Paul Strong revisited the Huillcapata community to check on the filtration system.

16. 33 Buckets commercial Featured in the 2017 Superbowl!