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Oklahoma State University alumna Dr. Tererai Trent (center right) and Oklahoma State University student Lily Chavez talk in a classroom during a President's Leadership Council visit to Zimbabwe.

OSU student begins a nonprofit to supply water across the globe

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Media Contact: Elizabeth Gosney | CAS Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-7497 |

Lily Chavez, a global studies major within the Department of Geography, is just a junior in college but already has the title of “founder” on her resume.

In 2023, Chavez created Wishes for Water, a nonprofit that aims to build wells in rural Zimbabwe.

During a trip with the President’s Leadership Council to Zimbabwe, Chavez connected with Oklahoma State University alumna Dr. Tererai Trent, who introduced her to a need that was causing a domino effect in their community: a lack of water.

“I went on the trip and saw the conditions and experiences people were living,” Chavez said. “I decided we needed to find some way to give back rather than visiting annually and leaving without bringing anything to the table.”

Chavez came back to campus and took the first steps to establish her nonprofit organization with the help of her classmates. They then partnered with Trent’s organization, Tererai Trent International (also known as Tinogona Foundation).

Lily Chavez
Lily Chavez

Trent founded Tererai Trent International to lead in improving and growing the education system in Zimbabwe. With a focus on increasing access to education, Tererai Trent International aims to empower communities, boost their growth and promote their development through education.

“As a foundation, we realize that the elimination of poverty and waterborne diseases, and increasing rural girls’ school attendance, can only be achieved by partnering with likeminded organizations like Wishes for Water,” Trent said. “That way, we are not only bringing clean and safe water to rural communities, but also creating sustainable income for rural women and girls.” 

Wishes for Water became official in January 2023 and continues to attract supporters. With the goal of building two wells every year — the cost of each well sitting at $15,000 — Chavez and her classmates hit the ground running to promote their mission and connect with donors any way they could.

“Each member reached out to their personal connections to crowdfund,” Chavez said. “We really relied on social media to spread the word, so when news outlets reach out, I get so excited for the opportunity to share our message.”

At the end of the spring 2023 semester, Wishes for Water celebrated meeting their goal of raising $15,000 to build their first well in the Hurungwe school district located in rural Zimbabwe.

Learn more about Wishes for Water here.

Story By: Erin Weaver | CONNECT magazine

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