Whenever it rains in Tamparuli, Sabah, student Arico John shudders to think about the aftermath. It’s ironic but heavy rains will result in dry pipes in their homes. “Debris, dried leaves and twigs clog up the main pipes of our water source from Sungai Tamparuli. It blocks the water supply to our villages, leaving us without water for days,” says Arico, a Form Four student from SMK Tamparuli.

After a heavy shower, some villagers from Tamparuli have also found slugs and baby snakes slithering through their water pipes. “It is hard to imagine the condition as almost everyone in Peninsular Malaysia has clean water supply. But in certain parts of Tamparuli, villagers still rely on gravity water feed systems for water. Our water pipes are usually clogged, especially during rainy months in November and December.”

A gravity water system is a method where no pumps are needed as water flows down naturally. To address their clogged pipes issue, Arico and 11 classmates came up with the idea of a filtration piping system. In June, the students and their biology teacher Ernest Kelly Subin, 33, came up with Easy Pipe Filter (EPF) gravity water piping system.

Group Boleh Bah Kalau Kau 2.0 from SMK Tamparuli, Sabah won the Young Changemakers Awards 2017 (group) for their efforts to solve the water filtration problem in rural villages of Tamparuli. – Photos: Low Boon Tat/The Star

The filter works in three layers to filter out wood and rocks, leaves and mud. The filters, costing between RM500 and RM700, have been placed in four villages around Tamparuli. Their initiative has ensured that 2,000 villagers have undisrupted water supply.

“The EPF filter is constructed using wire mesh netting, pvc pipes, stones and cement. It took several months to fine-tune our filter as we had a number of failed attempts. Thankfully, with our teacher’s help, we managed to come up with a prototype that could help solve the villages’ water woes,” says Arico, adding that they funded their project through donations, garage sales and busking.

Andrew (centre) sharing his proud moment with his teacher Kathryn Lye (left) and sister Emily.

Last week, Arico and his friends’ efforts to deliver clean water to their community earned them the Young Changemakers Awards 2017 (YCMA) in the group category. The YCMA group winners – who call themselves Boleh Bah Kalau Kau (2.0) – walked away with RM2,000.

“With this prize money, we intend to fine tune our project and reach out to other villages with water woes. The award has further fuelled our passion to tackle problems and issues faced by our community,” says Arico.

The YCMA, initiated in 2015 by Pertubuhan Kendiri Wanita dan Gadis, recognises children, between the ages of six and 15 (individuals) and between six and 18 (group), for their courage, resilience and inspiring contributions to make the world a better place. The awards are given in conjunction with World Children’s Day on Nov 20.

Ten finalists presented the causes they championed, including technology and innovation, environment, community development and the arts. YCMA received 60 nominations from students across the country.

In the individual category, students Andrew Kuik Jie En, 12, and Ellysha Sashvinaa Nair, 13, emerged winners. Pianist Andrew had raised RM65,300 for the National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM) and donated a piano to his alma mater, SJK(C) Shin Cheng (Ladang Harcroft), while coder Ellysha created Zoogle, an interactive educational app. They each walked away with RM2,000.

Ellysha will use her prize to kickstart another app project. Photo: Pertubuhan WOMEN:girls/Young Changemakers 2017

Andrew is a talented piano player who performs at concerts, and donates his earnings to help those with autism. “I realise I can use my passion in the arts to raise awareness and money for the causes I believe in. I’ll definitely do more concerts in the future and continue to participate in charity events whenever I can,” says Andrew who studies at the Nexus International School in Putrajaya.

He will donate his prize money to fund two Cambodian children’s studies for a year, as well as buy 80 children from several orphanages and single-parent families personalised T-shirts.

Ellysha will use her prize to kick-start the development of her second app, CityZen, as Zoogle has already been funded.

“I want to make my two apps better and, of course, create more apps in the future that mainly target sustainable development. That way, I can help the community while not forgetting about the environment and the animals,” adds the Tanarata International School student. “I believe everyone can shape the future by empowering one another to succeed.”

A special mention award and a RM1,000 prize went to the Makan Sampai Habis group, set up by members of the Interact Club of SJK (T) Kajang. They campaigned against food wastage.

SRK (T) Kajang students campaigned against food wastage.

Rikshenthiran Ganesan, 12, hopes their campaign will encourage children to finish the food on their plate.

“It is important to respect food. In poor countries, children don’t have enough to eat and sadly, some die of malnutrition and hunger. We also encourage children to share meals during recess as sharing is caring,” says Rikshenthiran, adding the group created awareness by giving speeches and selling button badges. They are donating their prize to Penang’s flood victims.

YCMA was held in partnership with Pusat Kanak Kanak Kreatif Tuanku Bainun, the Education Ministry and engineering, property and infrastructure company Gamuda Bhd. The awards ceremony was graced by Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Zara Salim; Pusat Kreatif Kanak-Kanak Tuanku Bainun chairman Raja Datuk Seri Azureen Sultan Azlan Shah; Yayasan Gamuda head Goh Khir Chaye; and Pertubuhan Kendiri Wanita dan Gadis founder and president Low Ngai Yuen.

Also present was Kehkashan Basu, founder of Green Hope foundation and recipient of the International Children’s Peace Prize 2016. For more details, go to womengirls.org.