UT Student creates water nonprofit building wells

Alishba Javaid, Life and Arts general reporter

When public health freshman Raisa Gire visited the Jokate Mwegelo Girls School in Kisarawe, Tanzania last summer for the inauguration of the well she helped build through her nonprofit, she said she saw her work’s impact in action. The community previously boiled water from a murky pond. Now, they could use the well for their water needs.  

“On (the) ground, we got to meet the people that were impacted and see how difficult it actually is to get access to clean water,” Gire said. 

The well in Kisarawe was one of 29 built and funded by Gire and the R-Zu Water Project, a nonprofit based in Houston. With the help of two non-UT students and co-founders Zunaira Farooq and Samar Siddiqui R-Zu, R-Zu Water helps increase access to clean water in developing countries like Pakistan, India, Mexico and Tanzania by prompting and funding local contractors to build the wells and filtration systems. 

“It’s our organization’s desire to alleviate the struggles of all children — especially school girls who sacrifice their education to walk miles to collect a single bucket of contaminated water that is going to be used for your family’s needs on a daily basis,” Gire said. 

Gire initially tackled water access along with Farooq in middle school by selling Eid cards outside their mosque in Houston in 2016 and donating the proceeds to water charity.

Long-time donator Faiza Patrawala said she first heard of R-Zu when they were selling Eid cards outside her mosque.

“A lot of us hear these stories and feel bad, but then we don’t really put thought into how we can make a change to the situation,” Patrawala said. “They cared enough to find such an amazing way to take action, and that makes me want to help in whatever way I can.”

Most of their money comes from open donations through community fundraising, which they ramp up during the month of Ramadan by fundraising on social media. They raised $55,639 from 2017-2020.

After gathering funds, R-Zu connects with reliable contractors in the targeted area to fund their water projects. According to board member Samad Gire, the price to build a well varies but costs anywhere from $2,000 to $30,000 and can take up to six months to a year to build. 

Siddiqui, who joined Gire on their trip to Tanzania over the summer, said they were able to physically see the well they funded for the first time. 

“Seeing how happy they were (to have} clean water was the most memorable thing,” Siddiqui said. “We have clean water constantly, but we (don’t) realize how much (some) countries don’t have access.” 

While R-Zu is a Muslim organization, Farooq said they don’t limit their work to just helping Muslims. Instead, Farooq said Islam plays a role in her motivations for being involved in R-Zu in the first place. 

“Being a Muslim, we believe in Sadaqah Jariyah, which means when you donate to something, and it continues to give after you die — you get the blessings and the good deeds for it,” Farooq said. “That’s something I really like because even after I die, it’ll still benefit people.”