“I finally realized that if I give away some of my money, I’ll still have enough left for myself,” she said.
Hannah was suddenly “really inspired” to give back, and she knew what she wanted to do: donate money to a Minnesota nonprofit called Hands of Freedom that builds wells for the poor in India so they can access clean water.
Last fall, Hannah, now a sophomore at Prior Lake High School, handed over $3,000 — the cost of digging one well — to Hands of Freedom. Recently, she received confirmation, along with a photo, that the well had been completed in a state in western India.
The project taught her “how easy it is to get involved with something and make a difference in people’s lives,” she said.
Brian Numainville, director of Hands of Freedom, said that while individuals often raise money for specific projects, Hannah is probably the youngest person with whom they have worked.
About a year ago at a fundraising event, she was offered the chance to have a philanthropist match her donation so she would have to raise only half the money. Hannah chose instead to earn it all herself, he said.
“We’ve never worked with someone quite like Hannah,” Numainville said. “She’s a remarkable person, and I think she’s really going places with that kind of motivation.”
Wells have big impact
Hannah already knew about how important a well can be to a village because of the influence of family friends — the couple who started Hands of Freedom.
Jon and Swati Borde used to live in Minnesota. Now they live in India and run their nonprofit, which focuses on providing loans, education and wells primarily to the poorest people there.
Hannah said she came to realize that “wells have a really big impact on villages in India. Once a well is placed, women can get jobs and kids can go to school.”
In India, many people don’t have access to clean water, which can result in disease and, in some cases, death.
The nonprofit has dug about 25 wells since it began in 2008. Each can serve 10,000 people, Numainville said.
In the end, having clean water nearby gives women and children more time, allowing them the chance to learn new skills and possibly lift themselves out of poverty, Numainville said.
Hannah originally wanted to donate the $3,000 in her savings account to Hands of Freedom, but her parents urged her to earn the money so she could have a sense of how much it really was.
Hannah put a thermometer on the fridge to track her earnings, which went into a separate account. She began putting some of her allowance and all of her baby-sitting money toward the well, along with Christmas and confirmation money.
There aren’t many jobs a 13-year-old can do legally, but Hannah found one she didn’t mind. Over the next two summers, she worked at her extended family’s strawberry farm in Monticello, picking berries, helping customers and staffing the checkout area.
“I would always think, if I would have a tough day at the strawberry farm, I can sacrifice a little bit of my money for people who don’t even have basic necessities like water,” she said.
The project continues to affect the family’s outlook. Now, they compare the costs of certain items they want to how much it costs to build a well, said Mary Enck, her mother.
For instance, Hannah realized that three years of having a smartphone would add up to $3,000 and decided she didn’t really need one, Mary Enck said.
While Hannah will continue to support Hands of Freedom, she said she probably won’t do another big project until she’s saved more money for college.
Hannah, who also plays golf, swims and is on the leadership team at high school, said that when she received the photo of the women by the well, she knew her efforts had paid off. She “could really see their lives changing for the better,” she said.
She has some advice for others who want to do a charitable project: “Choose an organization that you really believe in and want to support, and do something you enjoy to earn the money.”