Student Nonprofit Aids Hurricane Victims

Courtesy of Baron HahnBaron Hahn hasn’t been able to visit hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico, but has gone to help bring clean water to Haitians.

Not many people would pass up the opportunity to play a Division I sport, but Loyola junior Baron Hahn walked away from his collegiate volleyball career at Loyola in order to become more involved in his own nonprofit organization.

The advertising and public relations major, 20, and his sister, Tessa Hahn, 28, founded a nonprofit called 3 to 5 Days in 2014 while Baron was a senior in high school and Tessa was out of college and working in finance. Based in Miami, the siblings’ hometown, the organization provides clean water solutions to areas in need such as Haiti, Ecuador and the Bahamas.

Most recently, the organization has sponsored emergency day trips to Puerto Rico, as Hurricane Maria left 55 percent of residents without water as of Oct. 3, according to the 3 to 5 Days website.

Since becoming an officially recognized and registered nonprofit, or 501(c)(3), three years ago, 3 to 5 Days has provided clean water to 150,000 people, according to Tessa.

Tessa, a 2010 graduate from Rollins College with a bachelor’s degree in international business, said she became passionate about clean water projects after having a discussion with members from her parish, St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Winter Park, Florida.

Tessa took her first trip to Haiti in 2013 after an invitation from some Catholic sisters from St. Margaret Mary and became inspired by the people and the culture enough to begin her own nonprofit.

“After [my first trip to Haiti], I completely fell in love with the country and the culture and the beauty of Haiti,” Tessa said. “The culture is just so rich and the people are incredible. I just fell in love with the country and I saw a need for water.”

Tessa used her experience in finance and business to jumpstart the nonprofit with help from Baron and their parents, who both have extensive business experience.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, members of 3 to 5 Days have been taking day trips to Puerto Rico despite the difficulty of gaining clearance to the island. As of Oct. 30, 3 to 5 Days has delivered 2,228 Sawyer water filters, each of which can purify 1 million gallons of water, according to the 3 to 5 Days website.

While Baron hasn’t been able to go to Puerto Rico because of schoolwork, Tessa has been taking day trips to deliver water filters. Baron’s involvement is usually limited to social media and engagement due to the distance between Chicago and Miami, but he has been active on trips to Haiti and the Bahamas in the past.

Since founding the organization, Baron said he’s struggled with balancing his priorities. With schoolwork, 3 to 5 Days, Division I volleyball and pressure to further his career, Baron chose to quit volleyball in 2016 after a year and a half on Loyola’s team.

“I really saw, doing all this stuff with the nonprofit, that there’s more to life and there is more to do,” Baron said.
Both Tessa and Baron said that each country is different and requires different solutions. The three most common problems are lack of transportation, broken water pumps and contaminated water. The organization uses donkeys to transport water, trains locals to repair their own wells and supplies filters when needed.

A donkey for transportation costs $300, water pump restoration costs $2,000 and one Sawyer water filter costs $65.

Initially, most donations came from people Baron and Tessa knew personally, but now anyone can donate on the 3 to 5 Days website.

Baron attributes a portion of the organization’s success to financial support from his neighborhood in Miami, as well as the organization’s wholesome image of siblings collaborating toward a greater cause.

“[Donors] saw a girl and her little brother doing something together,” Baron said. “As bad as it sounds, it worked in the image.”

Along with improving water quality, 3 to 5 Days seeks to provide job opportunities for residents of various locations. Baron said his organization’s projects are designed to last years in order to provide locals with skills and a source of income.

Tessa said a current water kiosk project in Haiti would provide not only inexpensive water, but also five full-time jobs and 50 construction jobs for Haitians in the area.

“We’re not the typical nonprofit where we come in and impose our views or impose our tools on them,” Tessa said. “We work with the people to see how we can help them solve their problems. We’re invested in it, they’re invested in it and that’s what makes it a great collaboration between the two parties.”

Baron said being active in relief work requires specific strengths.

“When I go to these areas, I turn into a whole different person,” he said. “You have to. You literally have to put all what you have in the past and be in the present and be there. I remember my first time in Haiti, you would see people passed out on the side of the road because they barely had food or water. It’s literally like seeing hell in real life.”

Along with the clean water initiative, Baron also advocates for LGBT rights through his internship with the app Chappy, which aims to destigmatize gay dating.

Pierce Barry, Baron’s mentor — who heads Chappy’s projects in North America — said Baron’s experience with 3 to 5 Days displays his personal values as well as transfers to his work with Chappy.

“He is just so proactive and [he] takes the initiative on things, I can only imagine he does the exact same thing [with 3 to 5 Days],” Barry said. “He sees the bigger picture and he sees the greater good with everything he comes in contact with.”

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