18 Under 18: Rujul Zaparde

Started foundation to provide Indian villages with accessible, clean drinking water

Updated: February 29, 2012, 1:03 AM ET
By Matt Remsberg | ESPNHS Magazine

Rujul ZapardeCourtesy of Rujul ZapardeLawrenceville (N.J.) senior Rujul Zaparde and his friend Kevin Petrovic have overseen the construction of 47 wells in India that provide clean drinking water.

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Rujul Zaparde's life was changed in 2007 when he visited the Indian village of Paras and witnessed women and children walking more than a mile to reach the nearest water source -- a source that wasn't even providing reliably clean water.

When he returned home to New Jersey, Zaparde and his friend Kevin Petrovic began trying to figure out a way to help. They found out that for about $1,000 they could build a well that would provide easily accessible, clean water for the village. They began holding events like bake sales and car washes to raise the money, and even went door to door asking for donations.

A year later, Zaparde returned to Paras with enough to construct the well. The trip was a success, but Zaparde realized his mission was only beginning. So he and Petrovic founded the non-profit organization Drinking Water For India, which has since overseen the construction of 46 more wells, giving more than 80,000 people access to clean water.

Initially, Zaparde hoped to simply get his classmates involved with raising money for clean water in India. Instead, schools all over the country -- 31 to be exact -- have taken part.

Now 17, Zaparde, a former member of the Lawrenceville track team, has won numerous accolades for his work, including the 2011 Prudential Spirit of Community Award. He continues to visit India regularly to help oversee the construction of new wells.

Matt Remsberg is a senior editor for ESPNHS.
E-mail him here.