Posted by: iainjhunt | May 25, 2012

Three for three: Reflecting on Villanova’s recent visit

Villanova University group in Waslala

By Iain Hunt, Waslala Project Manager

In Waslala we have two seasons: the “winter,” with the kinds of cats and dogs that fall from the sky; and “summer”, with the high-noon sun and dusty trails giving Waslala a Wild West feeling.

In the first week of this past March– during that instant when the rains abruptly cease and winter passes to summer–spring break actually came to Waslala. That is– continuing a tradition going strong for nearly a decade now– a group of Villanova University students and faculty spent their spring break accompanying our work in Waslala.

A highlight of these visits for me, as Waslala’s resident chele, is to see old friends from the North and South reunite. Some students return for 2nd or even 3rd visits. Professor James O’Brien returned for his 8th straight year. And it’s hard to express the joy in seeing our own Jordan Ermilio visiting with his godson and seeing how much he’s grown since his last visit.

During our first day of outings, we visited the community of Boca de Piedra, where I was surprised to learn that the Villanova crew had visited some 7 or so years prior. Jordan, along with community members reminisced about trekking the verdant mountainsides above the village with then-Waslala parish priest, Father Nelson, a person who provided much of the inspiration that gave birth to Water for Waslala (the project in Boca de Piedra didn’t go through initially how-ever-many years ago because its large scale was beyond the capacity of the fledgling organization at the time).

One of my fellow travelers in Nicaragua, Billy, works with the Volunteer Missionary Movement (or VMM) and accompanied us for much of the week, including that first day in Boca de Piedra. In recent post to the blog that Billy maintains with his wife, Kristin, he alludes to another one of the highlights of these visits for me: to see our bright and enthusiastic young visitors get “ruined” a bit.  That’s what we call the life-long impression that Waslala tends to have on visitors… the kind of impression that keeps people coming back for second and third visits.

In the three visits we’ve received from Villanova water groups in the one-year-plus that I’ve been here, we’ve managed to start a tradition of starting a new project or initiative with each new visit. A year ago, we broke ground in El Guabo Jicaral, building the intake works for the now completed system there. Last October, coinciding with the recent delivery of ceramic and bio-sand filters to families for our initial household filters pilot project, the Villanova team came with the equipment and knowledge to begin a water quality testing campaign. They taught members of our on-the-ground team how to conduct the tests necessary to periodically monitor water quality both in our gravity-fed systems, and coming out of the filters we deploy.

Villanova students testing water samples

Villanova students testing water samples

This time around, we got our latest construction effort off to a strong start, building the 1st of 2 intake works in the community of Yaro Central, a compact concrete structure to cover and capture water from a natural spring, so that it may enter the pipeline leading to the community. The following photos take us through the construction process:

Thanks so much to the Villanova crew for such a great week in Waslala!

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