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Check Out What Durham Academy’s Magazine: “The Record” of the Summer of 2013 Wrote About Us On Page 14


Check Out What Raleigh News & Observer Wrote About Us On March 17, 2013

In this sports rivalry, everyone wins

By Stacy Chandler —

There’s nothing like a college basketball rivalry to bring out people’s competitive side, and Zachand Aidan Hunter decided to put that fact to work raising money to buy water filters for villages in India.

Over the past couple years, the brothers, from Chapel Hill, have spent many months living in India, where their parents travel for business. They’ve seen firsthand the need for filters to remove dangerous bacteria and even worms from the untreated water villagers drink. So they started a nonprofit organization, Aztech Labs, to find ways to supply clean water where it’s needed most.

The brothers work together on Aztech Labs’ projects, which include seeking funds for a competition to design a better, cheaper water filter and supplying filters to villages, but there’s one area in which they don’t see eye-to-eye: college basketball.

While Zach, 12, and his parents root for UNC, Aidan, 9, at some point went rogue, deciding to cheer for Duke. And thus a fundraising idea was born.

“All the sudden he just turned Dookie,” Zach said during an interview from Bangalore via Skype. “And that’s when we had the realization that we should have a competition between me and Aidan to see which college could raise more money.”

The brothers invited Duke fans and Tar Heel fans to make $25 donations to buy water filters. The side whose fans donated the most was promised its school colors painted on the new filters. But the stakes were even higher for the brothers themselves: they designed some special humiliation for each other depending on the outcome.

Coming out on top with $1,350 in donations was UNC; Duke was close behind with $1,250. So the new water filters will be Carolina blue – and Aidan will have to wear a UNC shirt for a week when he returns to classes at Durham Academy and eat a burrito in the Qdoba restaurant nearest UNC’s campus while wearing a Duke shirt. He also has to endure his older brother’s gloating, but he’s no sore loser.

“At least everybody won,” Aidan said with a shrug. “At least the villagers got water filters. UNC won the contest and Duke won the basketball game.”

The campaign’s total – $5,200 with the addition of matching grants – is nearly enough to supply two villages with water filters, which the boys consider a big success. But it’s just a start to what they hope to accomplish this year.

“Our New Year’s resolution for 2013,” Zach wrote in a recent guest column for the Chapel Hill News, “was to distribute 1,000 biosand filters to 1,000 different households. That’s 100 filters each in 10 different villages.”

Zach and Aidan get a lot of help from their partner, the South Asia Pure Water Initiative Inc., an organization that makes and helps distribute the filters, but they don’t get much help from their parents, at least not anymore.

“We started out where mom and dad did a lot more, and were more part of the team,” Zach said. “Now they say they’re mostly advisers, and we’re doing most of the stuff now.”

Now that the UNC-vs.-Duke contest is over, the boys are planning their next fundraising campaigns, some of which will likely return to that endless well of North Carolina sports rivalry.

“We definitely want to keep things going,” said their mother, Lenora Hunter. “The needs continue.”

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Check Out What Durham Academy Wrote About Us On March 4, 2013

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It all started two and a half years ago, as Durham Academy students Zach and Aidan Hunter dined at a nice restaurant with their parents following a trip to India.
“We were thinking that we were really lucky to be able to eat at such a nice place when a lot of people in the world don’t even have access to clean water,” said Aidan, a third-grader. While in India, the family witnessed people drinking water riddled with parasites and bacteria, and they just couldn’t shake the desire to do something to help correct the injustice.

That desire only grew as they researched water filters and learned that the biosand variety, which typically lasts for 25 to 30 years, could be purchased for as little as $25 each. Plus, they planned to return to India — this time for a four-month visit as their parents’ software business necessitated an extended stay as part of a year-long sabbatical spent traveling the world.

So the boys created a nonprofit, Aztech Labs, and set their sights high: raise enough money to purchase 1,000 filters. That’s $25,000.

“We basically told them that we thought their goal was delusional and that while we wanted to be supportive, the odds that they would be able to raise $25,000 was tiny,” said their father, Justin Hunter. He and their mother, Lenora Hunter, suggested a lower target, say $500 or $1,000, but told the boys that it was up to them.

“I loved their response,” Justin Hunter continued. “They both said: ‘We’d rather try to help 1,000 families and fail than help a much smaller number of families and succeed.’ … Their plan is to keep on plugging away with other fundraising ideas until they’ve reached their goals. They’ve got a couple creative ideas up their sleeves.”

One of those creative ideas is to harness the UNC-Duke rivalry — particularly fervent as college basketball season winds down in March — for a greater good. Zach, a sixth-grader and proud UNC fan, is rallying his fellow Tar Heels to donate, while Aidan, a Duke fan to the core, hopes his fellow Blue Devils will show what they’re made of. As part of the contest — but not donations overall — each donor can only give $25.

If Zach and his Tar Heels come out on top, Aidan will be forced to wear a UNC shirt to school for an entire week and have to eat lunch at the Chapel Hill Qdoba (precariously close to the UNC campus) wearing a Duke shirt.

If Aidan and his Blue Devils triumph, Zach will be forced to wear a Duke shirt to school for an entire week and kiss the ground in front of the James B. Duke statue on Duke’s campus while wearing a UNC shirt.

As of March 4, UNC fans were on top, having donated $1,250 to the Duke fans’ $925. The contest ends March 9, which just so happens to be the date of the second UNC-Duke men’s basketball game.

After the boys contacted several media outlets in Durham and Chapel Hill in February, a storm of media coverage ensued. Stories about Aztech Labs appeared in The Herald-Sun, The (Duke) Chronicle and The Chapel Hill News. The response of readers “blew us away,” Aidan said.

“Seeing the articles online really lets us know that we’re making a difference in the world and that we aren’t some tiny little organization of dust that no one is ever going to see,” Zach added.

Thirty-two people made donations within a couple of days of the first two articles being published, he said. “That’s $800. That is enough to buy filters for 16 different poor families that will help keep them healthy for more than 20 years.”

While being away from school has made for an unusual year for the Hunter brothers, they’re learning plenty in their new global classroom. Zach taught himself to code HTML and CSS for Aztech’s website, and both of the boys will return to DA with a deepened cultural awareness.

“In the United States, we take a lot of things for granted like being able to take warm showers, not getting sick from the food you eat or the water you drink and being able to walk down the street without falling in a huge hole in the sidewalk or seeing big piles of garbage,” Aidan said. “In a lot of places in the world, people can’t take any of these things for granted. Also, we’ve learned that people are generally good everywhere.”



Check Out What Chapel Hill News Let Us Publish in Their Guest Column On February 25, 2013

Help us bring clean water to India


Hi, I’m Zach. Two years ago, my 9-year-old brother Aidan and I left our home in Chapel Hill and went to India for a few weeks.In India, we saw poor families and children drinking very dirty and polluted water that made them sick. We’ve decided to do something about it and are now helping hundreds of poor Indian families get clean water. This is our story.

Five and a half months ago, knowing we would be living in India again, this time for four months, we created a small nonprofit organization called Aztech Labs. And now that we’re in India, I have been doing tons of stuff for Aztech Labs including making its website,

Aztech Labs has two goals. Our first goal is to make water filters available to communities in need, like the villages we are working with now in India. Our second goal is to improve the design of low-cost water filters by sponsoring a worldwide award for the most innovative design improvements to water filters.

We started getting super-serious in late December 2012, and our New Year’s resolution for 2013 was to distribute 1,000 biosand filters to 1,000 households. That’s 100 filters each in 10 different villages. My parents told me that this was probably too ambitious of a goal, but I’d rather fail at trying to help 1,000 families than to play it safe and succeed at reaching a much lower goal.

We have partnered with a really experienced organization, the South Asia Pure Water Initiative Inc. (SAPWII), to help with manufacturing and distributing the filters. This organization has manufactured and delivered thousands of filters to dozens of poor Indian villages already, and has been a great partner. It also helps with educating the villagers on how to use and take care of the filters.

We chose biosand filters because this type of filter is cheap, effective and long-lasting. For $32 (the price of about two pizzas), you can supply a household with a water filter that will help keep them healthy for about 25 to 30 years. These filters stop around 99.99 percent of parasites and 80 to 99 percent of bacteria. We also chose the biosand filters because they do not require electricity and are easy for villagers to maintain.

We’ve already collected $5,000 of corporate donations for filters, which has been more than enough to help one village. We’ve visited two villages recently. The first already had filters installed a few months ago by our partner, SAPWII. The villagers looked very happy with their filters. They were taking great care of the filters and told us the filters were keeping them from getting sick. The second village, still in need of filters, is the first village that we’ve committed to help. There was a crowd of more than 100 people waiting for us there when we arrived. I talked to them, and now I can’t wait to help them. We’re currently less than $1,000 away from providing filters to a second village, so we’re trying to get donations.

Our biggest fundraising initiative right now is a UNC vs. Duke donation competition. Please if you want to learn more. There’s a fixed donation of $25 in this UNC vs. Duke competition. We chose this limit to make it possible for anyone to participate, and to prevent a super rich alum from single-handedly determining the outcome of the competition and spoiling the fun for everyone else. We thought of this idea because I like UNC, and Aidan likes Duke, the rivalry is heating up now as the ACC basketball season is wrapping up, and we realized that the rivalry could be a fun way for people to get involved in helping poor families stay healthy.

Big things are at stake in this contest, both for UNC and Duke fans, and for my brother and me. Whichever university’s fans contribute more will see their school colors painted onto the filters going to a village. Aidan and I also have a private side bet. If Duke fans contribute more money, then Aidan wins. If UNC fans contribute more money, then I win. I sincerely hope UNC fans come through here because I’m agreeing to do some pretty humiliating things if the Duke fans prevail. In addition to wearing a Duke shirt for a week to my seventh-grade classes, I’ll have to kiss the ground in front of the James B. Duke statue on the Duke campus. Aidan would get off easy if UNC fans contribute more. All he would need to do is wear a UNC shirt to his fourth-grade classes for a week and eat a burrito at UNC’s Qdoba while wearing his Duke shirt. Complicated, high-stakes stuff, I know, but that’s what rivalries get people to do, don’t they?

Please consider joining the competition. We — and the families we’re trying to help in India — can use all the support we can get. Thank you!


Check Out What the Duke Chronicle Wrote About Us On February 13, 2013:

Siblings harness Duke-UNC rivalry to raise funds for clean water


Special to The Chronicle

By Carleigh Stiehm | February 13, 2013
Two local siblings, aged nine and 12, are using the Duke-UNC rivalry to fuel donations for water filtration in Indian villages.

Aidan Hunter and his older brother Zach, students at the Durham Academy Lower School, began working on the project in India during a year-long “sabbatical” from school.

With guidance and support from their parents, the brothers started the nonprofit Aztech Labs to collect donations to provide small villages in India with biosand water filters, which remove pathogens and residue from water. They are partnering with local Indian contractors to install 1,000 filters in 1,000 households in 2013. So far, they have raised about $5,000 of their $30,000 goal, Aidan said.

Originally from Chapel Hill, the boys have added a twist to the nonprofit by turning sibling rivalry into a competition to help others: Their biggest fundraising initiative pits Duke against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“We thought of this idea because I like Duke, and Zach likes UNC,” Aidan said. “The rivalry is heating up now as the ACC basketball season is wrapping up, and we realized that the rivalry could be a fun way for people to get involved in helping poor families stay healthy.”

Donors can give up to $25 as fans of either school. If Duke fans contribute the most money, Zach agreed to bow down and kiss the ground in front of the James B. Duke statue on campus while wearing a UNC shirt. If UNC wins, however, Aidan will put on a Duke shirt and eat a burrito at a Qdoba on Franklin Street, near the UNC campus.

The filters installed with the money from the competition will be painted the winning school’s colors. Donations are limited to $25 per person, so no “Iron Duke or some other rich guy” can pay to win the contest, Zach said.

As of Tuesday, Duke and UNC fans were tied in the contest. The competition ends March 9.

“The rivalry between UNC and Duke is the biggest in the world,” Zach said. “We hope people use it as a challenge to donate money.”

The duo first began thinking about the universal need for clean water about two and a half years ago, following a family trip to India.

“We were sitting at a nice restaurant, when we realized that we get to have nice things, but other people don’t even have water,” Aidan said.

He added that, in India, he saw people drinking water with potentially deadly parasites and bacteria.

When the family decided they would be returning on a business trip to India, the children began a year long “sabbatical” from the Durham Academy Lower School. Aidan said he and Zach began making plans to help people in India as soon as he found out the plans to return.

So far, the boys have helped install filters in one small village outside of Bangalore. Part of the funding that they raise also goes toward educating owners about their filters. They are currently less than $1,000 away from providing filters to a second village.

“The villagers looked very happy with their filters. They were taking great care of the filters and told us the filters were keeping them from getting sick,” Aidan said. “[At another village] there was a crowd of over 100 people waiting for us there when we arrived. I talked to them, and now I can’t wait to help them.”

Aztech Labs receives money through donations online and works with South Asia Pure Water Initiative, Inc. to distribute the filters.

“We chose biosand filters because this type of filter is cheap, effective and long-lasting,” Aidan said. “For the price of $32—or about two pizzas—you can supply a household with a water filter that will help keep them healthy for about 25 to 30 years.”

The filters remove 99.99 percent of parasites and 80 to 99 percent of bacteria from water and make it safe to drink, he said. The biosand filters that Aztech Labs use do not require electricity, and they are easy for villagers to maintain.

The boys’ mother, Lenora, called this an “ambitious” goal. Although she and her husband are helping the boys, she said, it is their sons’ enthusiasm that drives the project.

“I’d rather fail at trying to help 1,000 families than to play it safe and succeed at reaching a much lower goal,” Aidan said.


Check Out What the Durham Herald Sun Wrote About Us On February 12, 2013:


Two Chapel Hill children launch a non-profit to bring filters to India

Feb. 12, 2013 @ 05:37 PM

By Wes Platt; 919-419-6684


In summer 2010, brothers Zach and Aiden Hunter traveled to India with their parents, Justin and Lenora.

“That was when we saw how many people did not have access to clean water, and we decided to try to do something,” said Zach Hunter, 12.

He and his 9-year-old brother, with help from their parents, formed a non-profit organization called Aztech Labs – the A is for Aidan and the Z is for Zach.

Many villages in India lack adequate sanitation and suffer from poor water quality, Zach said. The Hunters, who live in Chapel Hill, decided to spend four months of their year-long sabbatical abroad in India, starting in November 2012, so that water issue became very personal to them.

“The more we’ve researched the problem, we’ve come to realize two things,” Zach said. “First, the problem is really, really huge. Second, small amounts of money can go a long way. You don’t have to have much money to get started and make a real difference.”

The Hunter boys, who normally attend Durham Academy, opted to use biosand filters (or BSFs) “because they’re effective, cheap and last a long time,” Zach said. The filters, which cost between $25 and $32, stop many parasites and bacteria and could work for decades, he said.

Working with the South Asia Pure Water Initiative, they plan to distribute as many as 100 filters in the village of Nelavagilu by International Water Week, March 5-11. Delays can happen, however.

“This is India and things get delayed often here,” Zach said. “For example, the last train ride I was on was delayed by seven hours. We’ve tried to think about possible reasons for delays and are doing what we can to keep the project on track.”

They rely on contributions to the non-profit through a PayPal button on their website at to fund their efforts. “We don’t pay staff,” Zach said, “so 100 percent of the money people donate to Aztech Labs gets spent directly on water filters.”

They’re encouraging Duke University and University of North Carolina basketball fans to contribute to see which school can outpace the other in supporting the project.

Zach prefers UNC: “UNC is a dozen times as awesome as Duke. If Duke were to somehow win, I would have to wear a Duke shirt to my school for a week. And I’d need to go to the Duke campus, bow down and kiss the ground in front of the James B. Duke statue.”

Aidan’s a Duke fan: “Because Duke is awesome. It’s great at sports and academics. I’m confident that Duke students and alumni will want to help save people’s lives, help keep families healthy and bring shame on UNC. When they do, we’ll paint the water filters ‘Duke blue’ before we install them.”

If Duke loses the effort, Aidan must wear a UNC shirt to school for a week and filters will be painted light blue.

Their mother, Lenora Hunter, helped the boys develop the project from a partnership into a non-profit. “I’m glad that overseas travel has made them more aware of the world’s challenges,” she said.

Justin, their father, agreed: “It is different seeing lots of people in unsanitary conditions who are living in poverty with your own eyes than seeing a story on the news.”

However, these good-hearted kids are still kids at heart, he said.

“Don’t let this do-gooder initiative fool you,” he said. “It’s just one side of their personalities. They’re both still a handful.”

On the Web: Aztech Labs –

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