Clean Water Matters
According to the United Nations, over 700 million people in the world lack access to something many people take for granted. For many in the United States, a simple turn of the faucet produces virtually unlimited quantities of clean drinking water. Certainly, this is not a shared reality around the world, as water access may be limited, or the available water supply may be contaminated. Dr. Mulder, who has led two other trips to Honduras and Nicaragua, shares the conditions he has seen. In one community in Honduras, the river supplied water to the community, though it was near banana and pineapple plantations, and chemicals and pesticides from the plantations would work their way into the river. The community was understandably concerned about the water quality, and were so excited to collaborate and to generate consistent, clean water for the community members.
In a student-driven project, we invite our community to collaborate with us to help fund and install a well in a village without access to clean water. We will be digging and installing the well in a village community near Leon, Nicaragua. There will be 10 PLU students and 2 faculty/staff on the trip, which takes place March 22-29. While the trip participants are from PLU, we truly see this as a collaborative effort, and certainly one where "it takes a village to bring clean water to a village."
Business Impacts the World
This project is being facilitated through the nationally recognized PLU School of Business. Professor Mulder, who teaches marketing at PLU and has conducted research regarding charitable giving and nonprofits, is excited that students can learn from leading nonprofits as they work in Nicaragua. In addition to learning by working alongside a nonprofit focused on water projects, the team is also investing in a business in the Leon area supported by microcredit. The PLU team will be able to visit the business and meet with the workers to understand their successes and struggles as they build their business with their microcredit nonprofit partner. "One of the great things about PLU is that you can find ways to impact the world through many different disciplines. Certainly via business, students can learn skills and gain experiences that will help make a positive impact in the world," says Professor Mulder. Many of the students are also participants in PLU's innovative new minor in Nonprofit Leadership, which seeks to provide an interdisciplinary option for PLU students who don't just want to make a living, but to make a difference through their work.
Before (and After) the Work Continues
One of the things that is unique about this is that while the team will be in Nicaragua for 7 days, there is a process that proceeds the team and continues after the team leaves. The nonprofit partner, Living Water International, has a permanent site for operations in Nicaragua and the Leon area. They work directly with the communities, and utilizes existing leadership in the process as the village requests a well. Before a community can request a well, they work within their leadership structure to decide to request a well, and then apply. Our partner then works with that team to assess needs, collaboratively determines a timeline, and then works with the village to set up a group for ongoing maintenance. It is the village leadership which determines where the well can be placed, and how to make sure it is accessible to everyone. After the well is completed, our partner trains the village team on how to maintain the well, how to fix common items, and how to test the water quality. They also provide a consistent presence in the area, so the nonprofit can assist if there are ever major issues in the future. Thus, important work precedes the PLU team, and continues after they leave.
More than Water --> Education
While clean water is important, we will also focus on education, because it's how people use clean water that provides permanent change and benefit. The PLU team will utilize a hygiene team which will help train village community members, and use simple - yet effective - techniques. One is the use of glitter on the hands of the team as we arrive. As we shake hands, we transfer some of the glitter (without anyone knowing). At a subsequent meeting, we ask the community to look at their hands, and we start to talk about the transmission of germs. While this is glitter, like germs we don't always know when we come into contact with a germ, nor if they are the harmless kind or if they could present potentially serious health challenges. Other simple training techniques include a tippy-tap, a recycled milk jug (or other bottle) that can hold clean water, and help prevent cross contamination when washing hands. Further, we have the diarrhea doll... we'll save you the details, other than to say it's enlightening and offers insights on how to make an important liquid mixture of water, salt and sugar to help with recovery.
Building from Water --> Community Growth
One of our opportunities is to get to know members of the community and to help facilitate community building. We will be trained in this through faculty at PLU who will meet with the team prior to our departure for Nicaragua. We will consider approaches which blend theory and past practice as we employ community building techniques. We are really excited about this opportunity to get to know and support the members of the community in which we will work.
We welcome your participation and collaboration as we travel to work with an amazing community in Nicaragua. If you'd like to dig deep and support this project, you can do so with the link/button provided below. Thank you for considering an investment in clean water, and for supporting an educational and service opportunity through PLU!