A partnership between the Eagles and Imhotep Charter High School sent 16 teens all the way from Philadelphia to Keta, Ghana, this spring to help improve access to clean water.
The students, many of them high school football players themselves, were participating in a program led by biology teacher Shirley Posey-Jackson, who caught the attention of the Eagles Go Green initiative.
“We were already inspired by Shirley and the STEM program she is leading at Imhotep,” Jen Kavanagh, Eagles senior vice president of marketing and media, told Billy Penn. “Learning about the trip they were planning to Ghana was serendipitous. As soon as we became aware of their plans, we knew we wanted to help.”
That happened when Posey-Jackson received the Eagles’ All-Pro Teacher Award in 2021. As part of her acceptance video, the educator made her plea for support.
“I told them we were now expanding the project to Ghana,” said Posey-Jackson, who holds degrees in biology, public health, and medical sciences. “We wanted to give 3,000 students access to clean water. And, of course, they immediately jumped on the project. They were super supportive of it because it aligns with their mission as far as going green and sustainability and environmental issues.”
The trip to Ghana in May was phase II of Imhotep’s Project Kuchachgilia, which takes its name from the Swahili word for “self-determination.”
Previously, Imhotep students traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, where they designed, tested, and manufactured 3D-printed water filters, and tested their success in removing loose soil and microorganisms.
In Ghana, however, the need for filtration is even higher: 76% of households in the West African nation are at risk of drinking contaminated water. Rising sea levels and severe flooding due to climate change have led freshwater sources to become salty, and filled with fecal matter and pesticides.
“I hoped to apply real life issues to what they were learning in the classroom,” Posey-Jackson said. “Statistics and the studies coming from the United Nations say that people are more likely to die from drinking unclean water than from a plane crash.”
The NFL has an ongoing effort to bring America’s most popular sport to Africa. The league launched the International Home Marketing Areas initiative in 2022, and the Eagles secured exclusive marketing rights in Ghana.
The Imhotep students’ mission there this spring was to construct a four-component water filtration system that could pull out dangerous contaminants. The process included the use of 3D-printed water filters fueled by activated carbon, and the development of “spider filters,” nets that look similar to pasta strainers.
Heavy rainfall on one day of the trip meant the Philadelphians got to experience the flooding first hand. After clay roads proved too slippery to maneuver, the students were forced to take canoes across the flooded area, with four kids and a rower squeezed into each boat.
It was a great lesson in the importance of infrastructure, Posey-Jackson said. “We talk about bad infrastructure in Philly, but this was way worse.”
The following day, the students tested out their DIY filters — which successfully cleaned water for the Ghanians.
“Imagine brown, murky water and imagine you running it through a device and it comes out looking like Dasani,” Posey-Jackson said. “Literally, the villagers were rejoicing. They were crying. It was a beautiful sight to see them rejoicing because it was clean, clear, contaminant-free water. We were just moved to tears … you have these D-1 football recruits, and they couldn’t control themselves from crying.”
Students also provided a hands-on tutorial to teachers at the Rhema Abutia School in Keta on how to manufacture the 3D-printed water filters themselves.
“Even though we’re miles apart, we still all have the same common issues,” Posey-Jackson said. She hopes to keep the Eagles partnership going in the coming year.