Posted by: stephengerard123 | September 26, 2013

Clean Water Is More Than A Mission

Water for Waslala is pleased to welcome Steve Gerard to our blog! Steve is a generous donor and volunteer who recently traveled to Nicaragua. While the main purpose of his trip was surfing, he asked us if he could share his experiences as they relate to water in general, and our mission. Thank you Steve!

If you’re passionate enough about something, you will make sure that every day of your life somehow reflects that passion. From a young age I was fortunate enough to travel the world and see places far beyond my wildest imaginations. I met people that changed my perspective on life, but more importantly saw sides of the world that I never knew existed. Removing yourself from the fast-paced environment that we so steadily thrive in is essential.  Our culture associates happiness with material possessions when in reality none of these things will ever play into the individual footprint we leave on the world. Whether it’s jumping on a plane, hoping a train, or taking a bike ride to the less developed side of town; it is crucial to see parts of the world that open your eyes to the reality of life for others.

Upon booking my second trip to Nicaragua, I had plenty of memories of my previous trip. These visions consisted of perfect waves, desolate beaches, vibrantly green jungles, smiling faces, and a culture that appreciated the little things in life, because these little things were about all they had.

As we booked our tickets, checked the wave forecast, and set our sights on the Northern part of Nicaragua, my wanderlust veins were pumping.  I was eager to see a new part of the world but more so eager to immerse myself within a culture that was substantially different than my own. No street corner, neighborhood, or city block was comparable to the sights I would see; most of them beautiful, leaking colors of paradise. But others, dark, dim, and dangerous exposing sides of this country that many thought didn’t exist.

One thing to note about most Central American countries and Nicaragua in particular is that the heat is almost paralyzing.  The moment you step off of the airplane you are awoken with a hot sweat, something similar to entering a desert.  The people of Nicaragua pride themselves off the land and the sea, and these two places are what provide a basis of the employment for this country. The heat will overpower you within minutes, forcing you to seek two things: shade and water. What many travelers neglect to realize is that the first remedy is far easier to receive than the second.

We jumped in the taxi and set our sights on Hotel Chancletas, about an hour east of Leon. My eyes surveyed every single smile, frown, and situation through those dusty, humid windows. I was eager to understand life here and took in every fleeting moment that passed me by.

Bamboo structures disguised as huts lined the smoggy streets as street vendors hollered and families commenced.  The urban clutter went on for miles, finally creating a passageway to the lush fields of the countryside. Life was different here, and to begin comparing it to city streets or suburban neighborhoods would have you realize that you are far removed from the norm.

No clean water, no air conditioning, no cell phone, no internet, no paved highways, no glorified anything; and as you pan across that list, you realize that just one of those items is really a necessity, something we as humans all need. Clean water is hard to come by in Nicaragua, and by surveying the country on our ride to the hotel, it is clear that this is only one of the many issues this country is battling with.

As you drive the roads of Nicaragua, dodging potholes, stray dogs, and oversized cattle you realize the necessity for clean water, and even more so when you understand how uncomfortable the living situation is for many families.  As a tourist and traveling American it can take a bit to realize that your leisurely vacation is everyday life for most, and that the struggle for clean water and sustainable living conditions is what keeps these locals working day in and day out. Their smiling faces tell stories, stories of struggle but also stories of triumph. The people of Nicaragua have a deeper appreciation for the land, the ocean, and the little things in life.  Their dreams and visions are far removed from any fancy car, shiny necklace, or house on the hills, but more so incorporate everyday necessities that we so easily overlook.

Clean water plays the most vital role in the way we live our everyday lives. It took one person to realize this struggle and that one person has taken that struggle and turned it into a mission that has created a plan.

The plan has now grown into an organization of people dedicated to making a substantial difference in a very small part of the world. Though it starts in Waslala, there is a far bigger mission in mind; a mission to change the world, one village, one household, and one family at a time.  Next time you go to brush your teeth, boil water, quench your thirst, or take a shower, take a minute to think just how important this resource actually is and how many people around the world are without what is so easily attained by you.  To gain a deeper appreciation for the little things is to realize just how lucky you are in every instance of life. I believe it takes traveling and removing yourself from your normal situations to realize that you can make a difference and that people out there need your knowledge, your support, and your helping hand. You have the capacity to instill hope within a child, a family, a village and a country, and nobody is waiting for you but yourself.

 

Beautiful stretches of Nicaraguan coastline

Beautiful stretches of Nicaraguan coastline

 

Clean water, a precious amenity in Waslala

Clean water, a precious amenity in Waslala

 

Team work among locals and volunteers

Team work among locals and volunteers

 

Posted by: waterforwaslala | July 17, 2013

Our Blog Has Moved!

The Water for Waslala Blog is on the move! 

waslala-20090524-008

Come check out the blog at its new location – right on the Water for Waslala website!

Visit www.waterforwaslala.org/blog for the latest news and posts.

Posted by: waterforwaslala | June 26, 2013

Hiring for Growth

Our Team in Waslala

Iain Hunt with two of our other full-time staff members in Waslala: Virginia Leiba and Denis Taleno


One of the most exciting aspects of our big push to 2030 and our ambitious plans for 2013 is the hiring of new staff to execute our bold vision. We have been busting at our seams to grow and now is the time to make that happen!

Iain Hunt

Iain Hunt – Outgoing Project Manager

As you have heard, Iain Hunt’s role with WfW is changing. After two and a half years of working with our partners in the Villanova School of Engineering, he has decided to return to the U.S. and pursue a Master’s in Sustainable Engineering at Villanova. This next step will allow him to grow professionally, and push his thinking around our work in Waslala. He will continue to stay involved with Water for Waslala through the Board of Directors and visits to Waslala through ourpartnership with Villanova. Iain has been an invaluable resource to WfW so far and we look forward to his continued involvement with our work!

Because of our rapid growth — and a testament to just how many hats he was wearing — we are replacing Iain in Waslala with three people! Our Board of Directors and staff have been very busy interviewing and evaluating some really amazing candidates and the future is looking bright.

Water System Technician – Junior Martinez

13.06.25 Blog - Picture- Junior Martinez

Junior Martinez – Water System Technician

The first step was to hire a new Water System Technician, which we announced in March. Junior Martinez is a native Nicaraguan who graduated from the Agua Para la Vida technical school and worked for Agua Para la Vida building water systems in the Siuna and Rio Blanco regions of Nicaragua. He has also worked on a United Nations project in Rio Coco, Nicaragua.

Junior has been working on the ground with our team since April and already making great contributions designing water systems and overseeing construction within the communities.

Program Development and Strategic Communications Manager – Joshua Dulle

Joshua Dulle

Joshua Dulle – Program Development and Strategic Communications Manager

Next, we hired Joshua Dulle to fill the newly created roll of Program Development and Strategic Communications Manager (PDSC). In this role Joshua will focus on:

  • Facilitating regular communication between our work in Nicaragua and our team in the U.S.
  • Communicating the human impacts of our work with our donors and supporters.
  • Staying up-to-date on best practices, new ideas, and innovations coming out of the WASH sector and our peer organizations

That is not a small feat and we are confident that Joshua will hit the ground running. Since graduating from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service in 2012, Josh has been working in Tegucigalpa, Honduras with Global Brigades as the Community Research and Evaluation Program Lead. He gained valuable experience working in the field with local communities, collecting and analyzing data, evaluating project effectiveness, and reporting on progress to organization leaders and donors. We are very excited to have Joshua join our team full-time at the end of the summer.

Coordinator – Junior Gasparini

Junior

Junior Gasparini – Coordinator

Finally, we hired a Coordinator to keep everything running smoothly. The Coordinator’s job will be a busy one—and one that is critical to successfully meeting our goal. We are excited to welcome (back) Junior Gasparini to our team as our new Coordinator. Junior will be responsible for developing and implementing the WfW strategic plan. He will be defining goals, as well as creating and monitoring our health, hygiene, fund management, and water system maintenance programs…among many, many other things!

Originally from Brazil, Junior moved to Waslala in 2005 as part of a two-year volunteer program through the Parish in Waslala (our former local partner). He ended up staying in Waslala and supported WfW in a volunteer capacity from 2005- 2008. Even after we hired our first full time project manager, Junior continued to accompany our projects and team when we needed support or advice. We are thrilled that he is now available to join us in a full time capacity and feel confident that his presence on the team will ensure a smooth transition and bring new ideas to the table to push us forward.

Overall, this is such an exciting time for Water for Waslala! We set an ambitious goal to fulfill our mission by 2030 and have taken the necessary first steps over the last few months to make sure we get there. We hope you join us in celebrating Iain, Junior, Joshua, and Junior! The future is looking bright for the people of Waslala!

Posted by: dawnmepstein | May 20, 2013

Why we focus on schools

Girls fetching dirty waterChildren in the San Vincente Dipina community of Waslala are tasked with carrying buckets of dirty water from the local stream to their homes. This water will probably make them sick but they have no other options.

Once they get to school they have to leave class to walk to the stream for something to drink. Instead many kids go the whole day without any water.

They are often sick. They are always thirsty.

Together, we can change this reality for these children.

Why We Focus on Schools

Every water project Water for Waslala builds includes a faucet at the local school. We know children need clean water to thrive. Water is essential for a child to grow properly. By providing access to clean water we are reducing illnesses like diarrhea, lowering child mortality, and reversing the chronic dehydration that keeps these children tired, run down and unable to realize their potential.

Waslalan school children

When they have access to clean water, kids can spend their time at school learning. They are better able to focus and participate. They grow as they are supposed to.  They have time and energy to play. As we’ve seen in other communities with access to safe water at schools—once they have clean water, children thrive! You can help us make this happen in San Vincente Dipina too.

 

Clean Water is on the Way

Girl uses faucet at schoolWhen the people of San Vincente Dipina county came to Water for Waslala and applied for a water system we realized it made the most sense to add them to a system that was already planned for three other counties in the area. When the full Dipina system is complete it will supply clean water to 4 schools, 58 houses, and a total of 370 people, including the children in San Vincente Dipina.

Because the majority of the work has already been done we only need to raise $7,000 to include San Vincente Dipina. If you would like to hep us reach this goal, please click here to make a donation.

Posted by: norapillard | May 14, 2013

Walk for Water 2013 Photos – Tag Yourself

One month ago today, hundreds of walkers united to walk in solidarity with the people of Waslala.

Thank you once again to ALL of our walkers, sponsors, volunteers, Villanova University and all of our supporters for making our 9th annual Walk for Water a wonderful event! And if you could not attend, it is not too late to donate and help bring water to another person’s table in Waslala. Simply click HERE.

View the slideshow below, or head over to our facebook page to view and tag yourself in the photos from the walk.

Posted by: norapillard | April 23, 2013

9th Annual Walk for Water – 287 people and $23,000 raised

Walk pic 2

Well, our 9th Annual Walk for Water is in the books! We welcomed 287 people to Villanova University for the Walk for Water last Sunday and, together, we raised $23,000 for Waslala. Thank you all so much for your support!!

In addition to sharing the results of our event and some pictures, I wanted to pass along some excerpts of Matt Nespoli’s welcome talk. Matt welcomed everyone to the event with a short intro talk that described how Water for Waslala got started, what we’ve accomplished, and why we continue to focus our energy and resources on this cause.

Walk pic 5

How we got started…

So, starting from the beginning, Water for Waslala began out of what could be called a two-week backpacking trip to Nicaragua in 2002. I was a sophomore at Villanova, and joined a group of 9 other Villanova students, including Nora Reynolds, our VP who is sitting right here, on a trip to Waslala that summer.

So for me, as a 19 year old kid, all of this way very eye opening, but nothing affected me as much as seeing this: we saw women and children everywhere taking contaminated water from local streams and using it as their drinking water. This is what nearly all Waslalans do to get their water for the day. Now, I don’t know what you think or feel when you [hear this], but for me I can’t look at this photo and not get upset or feel uncomfortable. Seeing this image for me was life-changing, and was the spark that set Water for Waslala into motion.

Walk pic 5

What we’ve accomplished…

Now, what I want to stress is that Water for Waslala is not about me or about Nora or Justin [Knabb], or any one person. It’s about all of us in this room. It is all of you and the time and money you’ve donated over the years, including today, that have made Water for Waslala successful. All Nora and I had when we started was an idea, as aspiration, a vision. But without all of you stepping up and helping us, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish anything. So the success of Water for Waslala is your success – you are the reason 2,500 people in a place 3,000 miles away are drinking clean water outside their homes and schools right now.

So together, we have profoundly improved the lives of a lot of people! Think about 2,500 people – that’s ten times more people than those in this room that are now drinking clean water.

Walk pic 3Why?

I wanted to finish by answering the question: why? why should you continue to help the people of Waslala, and this cause as opposed to any other?

To me, it comes down to the following simple values that define Water for Waslala – our core beliefs:

  • Responsibility: We believe that we have a responsibility to help the Waslalan people to live with dignity, for one simple reason: the only reason we have clean water to drink and the Waslalan people don’t is because we were born in the US, and they were born in Nicaragua… We believe that this is just unacceptable, and we have a responsibility to give of our resources so they can gain access to the most basic services – like having clean water to drink. This feeling of responsibility is the biggest driver of why Water for Waslala continues today.
  • Purpose: we believe that helping others is one of the most fulfilling ways we can use our limited time in life, and we each derive a deep sense of satisfaction and joy serving the people of Waslala.
  • Community: we believe that small organizations that are laser focused on understanding and helping with a specific need in a specific area of the world are more effective than organizations that try and solve every problem or help many different groups of needy communities around the world. We also believe that a small group of committed individuals: all of us in this room, is all it takes to create profound change in our world.
  • Global triage: We believe that when thinking about who to help in this world, it’s important to focus on the people most in need of help, and on the causes where we can make the biggest difference. Which is why we’ve focused in rural areas of Waslala, some of the poorest places on the planet, and truly a forgotten part of the world. There are very few organizations helping this part of the world, so it is not an exaggeration to say that if we don’t help the people of Waslala with their water crisis, no one likely ever will. Also, we believe it makes sense to focus our limited charitable resources on areas where we can have the biggest bang for our buck, and water is clearly that issue: for $100, the cost of a nice dinner out for two, we can help a Waslalan man, woman or child gain access to clean drinking water for a lifetime – which means that person will no longer have to spend hours every day fetching water, or have to suffer from waterborne illness that negatively affects his efforts in school or on the farm. We believe that this is an investment well worth the cost, and the best issue to focus on for that reason.

Walk pic 1

I want to thank you again for coming and for supporting us, and I hope to continue to see you at future walk for waters and working with you in other ways to make our dream of ending the water crisis in Waslala a reality.

Posted by: justinknabb | April 12, 2013

Volunteer reflection: Making our dreams come true

By Christine McQuade, Villanova Univ. Chemical Engineering ’13

Villanova students in Waslala

Lesson #1 when traveling to Waslala: When you search for directions from Managua to Waslala on Google Maps, the result says it will take around 3 hours driving to get there.

Clearly Google has never sent anyone to confirm this!

The other students and I have a good laugh about the ridiculousness of the Google-calculated ETA as we completed our 8 hour bus ride on mostly unpaved roads that took us to Waslala. As I was sitting on the bus heading to Waslala for what would be my 3rd visit, I reflected on how I got to this point in my life.

It all started my sophomore year when my roommate asked me if I was applying for an engineering service trip. I had not given a break trip any consideration prior to that moment, but since I had nothing better to do over break, I decided to submit an application.

I had no idea what to expect on my first trip to Waslala, and I certainly did not expect to fall in love with the community after being there for only one week.

I could tell you all about the engineering work we do, but all of that great information is located in the Water for Waslala Annual Report.  If you have not seen it already, I highly encourage you to check it out. For this post, I would rather tell you about the experiences I have had and the people I have met in Waslala.

There is something magical about Waslala, Nicaragua.

I could spend hours gazing at the night sky. I have never seen that many stars before; it is absolutely breathtaking. (By the way, did you know the stars in Orion’s Belt are known as the three little goats in Nicaragua?)  Waslala itself is a breathtaking region.

The beauty of Waslala endures, but unfortunately, so does the lack of basic needs and plight of its people.

Villanova students in WaslalaWater for Waslala is a wonderful organization and if you are reading this blog post, odds are you want to help bring water to rural communities because you understand the importance of this cause. My goal is to help transform your thinking from becoming attached to the cause to becoming attached to the individuals of Waslala.

I will never forget on my first trip when we were helping to construct the intake to a water system and one of the community members said to us, “Thank you for making my dream true.” It hit me in that moment how much our presence for just one week meant to these people and the impact it had on their daily lives.

When I arrived on my second trip, I was greeted by Virginia Leiba, someone I spent some time working with the year before. I did not expect her to remember me as we only spent a few days together, but she gave me a huge hug and kiss when she saw me. In that moment it was clear that Virginia remembered me and that meant a lot to me.  Even though we had only spent such limited time together a year before, it was touching to know that time was meaningful to both of us.

Villanova University has a beautiful relationship with Waslala. It is always amusing to ride around the center of town and see Waslalan after Waslalan wearing Villanova t-shirts and Walk for Water shirts — evidence of the close relationship between the two communities. I had learned too that after Hurricane Katrina hit the United States in 2005, the community in Waslala wanted to send money to the US to help because of the close relationship they have with the Americans at Villanova. To me it is a true testament of the amazing character of this community. These people do not have running water and electricity, yet they donated whatever amount of money they could to help others in need.

I have so much respect and admiration for the people we work with in Waslala. The 40 yr civil war in Nicaragua was very active in Waslala and after spending time there, you learn how it had a huge impact on the lives of its people. Most of the people we work with on water projects were involved in the war in some way and each has his/her stories they carry with them. One person in particular is a true inspiration to me: Denis Taleno.  He worked construction starting at 12 years old and when he was 14 his father enlisted him in the war. Now, Taleno has dedicated his life to providing water to his community. It is amazing to see his passion for improving quality of life.

Going to Waslala has helped me define who I am as a person and what I want to become. It has given my life direction and my education at school a purpose and meaning.

My professors are amazing, but there are things I have learned from Waslala that I could never have learned in a classroom. Villanova students collecting lab samplesCommunity is a critical part of Waslala and they have taught me a lot about the importance of community in my life and being there for others. These water projects mean everything to the people in Waslala and they trust in the relationship between our two communities.

The profound words of the community member I had met on my first trip still ring true today: “We are helping each other make our dreams come true.”

Posted by: justinknabb | March 22, 2013

Top 10 Ways You Can Celebrate World Water Day

By Justin Knabb, Water for Waslala Board Member

Today is World Water Day– a day to celebrate the gift of water in our lives and, most importantly, to draw attention to the importance of clean water for public health.

Water for Waslala clean waterYou should circle this special day on your calendar each year. This international day of recognition has been held on this day since 1992, when it was launched at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. Each year since, the UN has chosen different themes that highlight the wide range of ways that water impacts our lives.

Take this one day out of your year to reflect for a moment on how important water is in your daily life. Encourage your friends on Facebook to think about water today too. Let’s stop to think about how water refreshes us, how water keeps us healthy, and how water truly is a foundation for life on this earth. Water is a foundation of our lives… it is a foundation of your life.

Yet nearly 800 million people on earth live without access to clean water. Tens of thousands in Waslala, Nicaragua— the specific region that Water for Waslala supports– live without access to clean water.

Let’s reflect and focus on water TODAY… and consider helping us help others to have the gift of water EVERY DAY.

Here are 10 specific ways that you can learn about water, better save water, and ACT to help others gain access to clean water today.

1. Check out the United Nations website about World Water Day. I linked to some of the UN pages above, but it’s definitely worth mentioning again. The UN site is very well-done–it’s informative, filled with excellent and reputable facts, and the UN deserves tremendous praise for drawing focus to the important issues relating to water.

2. Know your facts about the World Water Crisis. The infographics at Water.org are sobering and straight-forward, but really put the crisis into perspective.

3. Understand the relationship between sanitation and water. As easy as it can be to take clean drinking water for granted in the United States, it’s also easy to take for granted the bathrooms and sanitary water that we utilize several times each and every day.  It’s not as simple for people living in impoverished, underdeveloped regions. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focuses heavily on this issue. Sanitation affects close to a billion people spanning from Waslala to Nairobi to New Delhi.

4. Watch a water documentary. Do a search for “water” on your Netflix or Amazon Instant Video this weekend. Here are some excellent and highly-acclaimed films worth watching:

  • FLOW– this documentary dives into the hot-topic political and environmental issues intertwined with the World Water Crisis. 
  • Tapped– impossible to walk away without forming opinions on the role and impact of bottled water in our world and in our own lives.
  • Blue Gold: World Water Wars– as with the other films, you’ll get a heavy dose of politics here.  But certainly the water crisis is real… very real. Watch and form your own opinion(s)!
  • Or do you have just 6-7 minutes instead of 2 hours? Then learn all about our Water for Waslala charity HERE.

5. Read our Annual Report. Take a few minutes and learn about the great strides that Water for Waslala has made this past year and the past 9 years. We continue to improve upon our traditional gravity-fed water systems that have provided clean drinking water to 2,500 people strong (to-date). Last year we first implemented ferrocement technology to better fortify and control the cost of our systems. And this year we’ll be distributing ceramic filters to individual homes for the first time.

Boy in Waslala6. Check out some other technologies that are helping people around the globe. Water for Waslala implements technology that meet Waslala community goal and budget, but it’s interesting and encouraging to look at other inventions that are being utilized in different regions around the world. Lifestraw, SteriPEN, MidomoLifesaver Bottle, and Lifesaver Jerrycan are a handful of amazing innovations that are all helping to improve public health.

7. Take steps to save water in your home. WholeLiving.com offers 50 potential ways to be a better water consumer.

8. Pledge to limit your access to water for a day. You’ll quickly realize how water is such a key part of each and every day. Follow the lead of Villanova University students, who pick a day each year to host “Water Awareness Day” on the college campus.  
Participating students commit to servicing all their water needs from just ONE source… much like the people living in Waslala and millions more around the world. Limit your own water needs for a day and internalize just how precious and valuable a clean water access point really is!

9. Like us on Facebook and help promote us. The easiest step yet to make a difference. Just a 2 step process… click HERE, and then hit the LIKE button. Join our community and help us raise the awareness and funds to truly help people live healthier lives.

10. Now that you’re a member of our community (welcome aboard), help Water for Waslala any way you can. One simple, concrete and FUN way is to participate in our upcoming Walk for Water at Villanova University on April 14. Sign up here, recruit a team, or if you can’t make it, donate or sponsor our event. Walk to help change the world, one faucet at a time.

Happy World Water Day!

 

 

Posted by: dawnmepstein | March 7, 2013

2012 Annual Report!

Annual Report

The 2012 Water for Waslala Annual Report is here!  Click here to view and download the full report.

Since I’m new to Water for Waslala this was my first experience working on the Annual Report and I was so amazed at all the wonderful information we have to share!

Of course, none of the great work we talk about would be possible without the support of our donors and volunteers.  This report really is for you.  It’s our opportunity to bring Waslala to you!

We invite you to read it thoroughly to get a deeper understanding of what Water for Waslala is all about, who we serve, and how your involvement is making an impact.  Of course, feel free to jump around to different sections to access the information that matters most to you!

When you read the report you will be able to:

  • Relive our major accomplishments from 2012 (pg 27) and share our BIG vision for 2013 (pg 46)
  • Answer the questions Why Water? and Why Waslala? (pg 7)
  • Read personal stories about the people whose lives are changing every day (pg 4 and 34)
  • Learn about our new strategic nonprofit partnership in Waslala (pg 16)
  • Fully understand our sustainable, community-driven approach (pg 19)
  • See the impact your donation can have (pg 51)
  • Check out our financials (pg 36)

The report is full of beautiful pictures and helpful diagrams that allow us to connect you to the people of Waslala.  They are people who are very grateful for your support and willingness to help them achieve the dream of clean, safe water.

Thank you again for all that you do to help us change the world…one faucet at a time!

-Dawn Epstein, Executive Director

Posted by: justinknabb | March 6, 2013

Volunteer reflection: Ryan’s spiritual breakthrough

By Ryan Anderson, Villanova Univ. Mechanical Engineering ’07

Waslala Nicaragua hike

Early morning hike in Waslala, Nicaragua

I remember first hearing about Water for Waslala and becoming instantly fascinated with the mission of this organization.  Their work seemed like a mix of Indiana Jones and what I was learning in the classroom at Villanova.

I’ve been fortunate to have had some Indiana Jones-like moments in my career thus far — I’ve served as a human test dummy for NASA Space Suits and have helped build subsea oil well control structures.  Right along with those experiences, however, I can honestly say that my role in helping to design a water system for the Zinica #1 community in Waslala with my senior design team is among the single greatest technical achievements I have ever been a part of.

Seeing photos of children, their mothers, and grandmothers getting water from the tap stand reminds me how fortunate we are in the United States, and how different life is for those living in the developing world.

I went to Waslala in the Spring of 2006 anticipating just how much this experience might transform my life. It turned out to be more enlightening than I had even imagined.

I became close friends with the guys on the trip, especially after spending a week together removed from conveniences of the regular American world of which we were so familiar. I was also surprised that I managed to  figure out what I was supposed to be learning in Fluid Dynamics without the use of a computer or a calculator.  Beyond the friendship, learning, and high adventure, I’m convinced a greater force was at work the entire time.

Padre Nelson, the parish priest, did not speak any English — and while I did not speak any Spanish, I felt a deep connection with him and the people of Waslala as the week progressed. He opened us to the challenges that the people felt every day.  For example, at one point we had turned up no viable water sources for one of the communities.  The families were traveling for miles and children would often spend an entire day carrying containers of water back and forth, missing school in the process.  We passed a farmer on the way back to town who had initially refused to share his spring water.  After all, “It was barely enough for his farm.”

But then Nelson delivered a sermon that I’ll never forget.  We all listened on the side of the mountain as Nelson explained how Jesus gave to the poor, welcomed the children into his arms, and how God provided and Jesus fed the 5,000 when the apostles thought it could never be done.  For a moment I felt as if I were transported back to the dawn of Christianity, when the apostles heard the Sermon on the Mount, and there was a great stirring in my heart.

The farmer no doubt felt this as well, as he agreed to share his water.  I realized at that moment the Holy Spirit was speaking to me on my own Mount, calling me to help in a greater way than I had been called before.  I felt ashamed that I had not heard it before.  I wrote a letter to Padre Nelson about the spiritual transformation I underwent, and I was told he read my letter in his radio address that Sunday after we left.

I left Managua to return to Villanova convinced to continue– more than anything else — my spiritual journey in the Catholic Church in a much more involved way.  After hearing so many Biblical stories of God speaking to man, the doctors of the church, and the saints, I knew he was speaking to me.

And, I finally heard him.

I may never have my name enscribed on any foundation for the work I have done for Waslala, but what Waslala gave me was far greater than what I did for her.

It is with much hope that I ask: “St. Augustine, Pray for her!

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