Posted by: waterforwaslala | January 12, 2013

Volunteer reflection: Your task – change their lives

By Kevin Woods, Villanova Univ. Mechanical Engineering PhD ’12

It is amazing how numb we have become to the fact that we have fresh, clean water at our fingertips.  I’ll never forget being at a conference in Colorado and having a foreigner ask, “Is the water safe to drink in this hotel?”  The question seemed, frankly, absurd and so far from my mind that I didn’t have a response at first.  But then I remember my time in Nicaragua.

There, we’d take full day trips by foot and horseback through tropical hills and jungles to villages where the water served to us was as brown as iced tea.  No 9-1-1 for help.  No social services.  Just the supplies on your back, companions by your side, and a canteen of clean, fresh water worth more than gold strapped to your belt.  It’s a humbling experience like no other.

Kevin Woods and friends during their trip to Waslala with Villanova University

Kevin Woods and friends during their trip to Waslala with Villanova University

It’s not that the people of Waslala don’t have water.  Quite the opposite actually- there is plenty of fresh water.  It’s simply non-potable.  Something a simple sand filtration, and chlorination system will remedy.  In most of the communities there is little technical know-how,  no electricity, no hardware store (within a days walk), and not much economic activity.  The supplies available are limited to the basics and you must design a cost effective, serviceable, continuously working water supply system.  That is your engineering task while in Nicaragua.

I will carry my experience in Nicaragua with me forever and would encourage any person to volunteer down there.  However, this isn’t a one day trip to paint a wall or feed the homeless.  This is a multi-semester investment of time and effort to provide living conditions to people that are significantly better than their current situation.

If you’re up for the task, I encourage you to join me and the Water for Waslala team to make a difference!

Kevin Woods earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Villanova University in 2012.  Kevin currently works as a Research Engineer for the United States Office of Naval Research.

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