MILLER PLACE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Long Island teen went from sponsoring a child through a charity to changing the lives in his impoverished village thousands of miles away.

Kara Petrovic remembers watching one of those heart-wrenching ChildFund TV ads as a young girl and deciding to sponsor a child in South America.

“I had birthday money, I had gifts and I knew that I could share that,” she told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

Every month for nine years, Kara sent Mijael $24. She watched him grow in photographs and the two exchanged letters and pictures. But, 17-year-old Kara said she didn’t feel that was enough.

Last year, she and her father visited Mijael’s tiny village in Bolivia and found shocking conditions: including one water spigot for 750 people that only turned on one hour a day.

“They couldn’t shower, they can’t bathe, they don’t have bathrooms,” she said.

A villager told her they needed water.

“She said ‘agua es vida,’ or ‘water is life.’ I realized this is something I have to act on,” Kara said.

Kara began fundraising, organizing car washes, recycling drives and garage sales, collecting $30,000—enough to build the village a clean water well system.

Welcomed as a hero at its recent dedication, Kara’s name adorns the new well which will provide fresh water at any time.

She’s learned 800 million people worldwide have no access to clean water.

“Water is the most basic necessity and before water, you are just trying to survive. Once you get water, there is almost hope that you can pull yourself out of this situation of poverty that you are in,” she said.

Her parents said they’ve taught that wherever you are, you can make a difference.

“See beyond the nose on your face, that there is a wide world out there that needs us,” Mary Petrovic said.

Kara is already collecting items for another garage sale in order to raise money to bring clean water to a village in Indian next.

ChildFund International told CBS2, “it is not often you find sponsors at her age, or at any age, willing to step up to make such a huge impact on a community.”