Windsor

'It broke my heart': Windsor research student helps kids in India go to school

While in India researching ways to improve the country's "awful" water conditions, University of Windsor student Dylan Verburg also ended up sending some impoverished children to school who wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity.

Dylan Verburg started a social enterprise re-selling handmade Indian products

Dylan Verburg became close with three siblings while doing research on water quality in India for five months. (Dylan Verburg)

While in India researching ways to improve the country's "awful" water conditions, University of Windsor student Dylan Verburg also ended up sending some impoverished children to school who wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity.

I really started to fall in love with these guys.- Dylan  Verburg

During his five months working on the main river that runs through New Delhi, the 25-year-old environmental engineering graduate student ran into three young siblings.

"I was pretty surprised," said Verburg, who said the kids were very interested in what he was doing. "I started to befriend them. They would like to follow me around."

Watch as Verburg describes how much of an impact the three siblings had on his life:

Dylan Verburg recently went to India for a research project on water quality and left with fond memories of three siblings who followed him around every day. Now, he's started a social enterprise to help impoverished children in India go to school. 2:27

Water conditions like a sewage plant

Water conditions were "significantly worse" than what Verburg had expected before he arrived. He described it as raw, human sewage — similar to what you'd see at a treatment plant in North America.

University of Windsor environmental engineering student Dylan Verburg compares India's water quality to what we know in Canada as a sewage treatment plant. (Dylan Verburg)

This is home for Guddu, Kishan, Maya. He quickly learned they lived in poverty, were malnourished and never attended school.

"I really started to fall in love with these guys," said Verburg. "It broke my heart seeing them in the condition that they were."

Seeing the three siblings was the highlight for Verburg. At one point he referred to Guddu as captain Guddu, because the youngster offered to take him around on the lake.

After returning to Canada, he learned the childrens' mother died, making them orphans over night.

Three siblings followed Dylan Verburg around almost every day while he did research on water quality in India. (Dylan Verburg)

Verburg estimates it costs $200 to sponsor a child for an entire year, allowing them to go to school.

He began brainstorming how he could help the three siblings who had such a big impact on his life while in India and that's when INpact was born.

It's a social enterprise where Verburg purchases handmade products in India — things like socks, shawls and toques — and re-sells them here in Canada. Then, he takes the proceeds to help send children to school in India.

Dylan Verburg sells a variety of handmade Indian products, such as socks and shawls, and uses the proceeds to help children attend school in India. (Dylan Verburg)

So far Verburg has been able to help five children attend school. He also provided funding to a school of about 200 kids, which allows them to grow their programs.

"Although there are these three that were at my lake that I had this personal connection with, I drove by thousands of children every day on the way to work and they were in the same situation," said Verburg. "Living in poverty without an education and that just wasn't right to me."

Verburg sells his products on campus, at local markets and on his website: www.inpact.ca.

Agencies help social enterprise

The EPICentre at the University of Windsor as well as WEtech Alliance played a role in helping Verburg get his business up-and-running.

"I was so touched and inspired by what he wanted to do," said  Wen Teoh, EPICentre Venture Start Director. "It's always good to support a social enterprise because while they are making money for the business, they're also thinking about how they can contribute and create a social benefit."

Verburg said both agencies helped get his idea off the ground.

"Anyone who's as passionate as Dylan is, we want to help them to make sure that their ideas and their passion comes to fruition," said Adam Castle, WEtech Alliance Director of Venture Services. "Anything we can do to make that happen is really important to us."

About the Author

Jason Viau is a video journalist, TV host and radio newsreader at CBC Windsor. He was born in North Bay, but has lived in Windsor for most of his life. Since graduating from St. Clair College, he's worked in print, TV and radio. Email him at jason.viau@cbc.ca

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