This Christmas, some people living in Puerto Rico's hill country will have the gift of clean drinking water thanks to one South Walton high school student.
When 15-year-old Evelyn Harrison heard that there were still people in Puerto Rico who are sick because they are living without clean drinking water, she decided she would help change that.
Harrison has been on two mission trips to the Dominican Republic where she helped distribute water purifiers and thought, why not in Puerto Rico?
Harrison began a drive in November to collect money to purchase as many water filters as possible and send them to Puerto Rico.
She started Nov. 8 with a goal of buying 1,000 filters, which can filter 150 gallons of water a day for 10 years. So far, she has purchased 700.
The first shipments of 400 filters were sent to Puerto Rico last week.
"Evelyn is a very special child," said her mother, Mara. "She has a very kind heart."
The founder of the school that Harrison attends is from Puerto Rico and a relative of hers will take the shipments and make deliveries in the remote areas where help is needed.
"The people most affected by the disaster can't get to what they need, making conditions there like (what is) found in a developing country," said Mara.
A filter can be purchased for $40 and it works using gravity, similar to a kidney dialysis machine.
Evelyn asked her school to help her and started talking about the filters and asking people if they would buy one or more to ship to Puerto Rico. She also made a video talking about the project, asking for people to donate.
She set a goal of raising $40,000 to purchase filters.
"People have been sharing and she's up to $30,000," said Mara. "Some of the children began asking for this instead of a toy as a gift. It has grown and grown," said Mara.
With every filter that went out, Evelyn wrote a personal note to send with each one that were translated into Spanish by her teacher. Some of the messages simply said, "You matter to me."
"It's terrible that the people there who have the least were affected the most by the hurricanes," said Mara. "The winds left no trees standing and resulted in mudslides. We will continue to send filters out as long as we have money to buy them."
This is the Harrison family's sixth year living in South Walton.
"Ohana School is amazing. They have been able to convince the kids to see need and fix it," she said.
While she has never organized and carried out something like this before, Evelyn said she is very involved with her church.
"My whole community helped," she said. "After this, we may try to partner with a school in Puerto Rico to help them through this bad time, and maybe exchange student for a few weeks."
The sophomore said she has not decided what she wants to be when she grows up, but is thinking of going into business, marketing, teaching, or becoming an entrepreneur to help people abroad.
"I just know I want to help people," she said. "I have plenty of time to decide."