Water for Waslala aims to supply clean water

Michelle Farabaugh

Students can support one of Villanova’s most well-known campus organizations on Sunday when Water for Waslala’s sixth annual Walk for Water will be held at noon.

Over 200 walkers have registered for the 5K walk/run so far, raising over $9,000 to provide residents of Waslala, Nicaragua with clean drinking water.

The Walk for Water is the organization’s main fundraiser of the year. 

For every four walkers, or $100 raised, a family of four in Waslala is provided with access to clean water for a lifetime, according to sophomore Ellen Salmi, co-chair of the student organization.

Students who pay the $25 registration fee can sign up as an individual or as part of a team. 

The fee includes a free T-shirt and lunch, and those who register before April 11 can enter a raffle to win a $100 iTunes gift certificate.

Registration will open at 11:30 a.m. for anyone who chooses to register the day of the event. 

Just before noon there will be an introduction and a blessing by University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A.

Besides the walk/run around the University’s main campus, lunch and live music make the day “an awesome place for community and conversation,” according to Salmi.

Since the inaugural Walk in 2005, the organization has seen increases in participation and fundraising.  The most successful event to date took place in 2007, when 600 walkers raised nearly $33,000.

“The Walk is very important to us,” said Matt Nespoli, one of the founders of Water for Waslala. “It usually generates two-thirds of our annual operating budget.”

The organization’s Board of Directors is comprised of five Villanova graduates: Jordan Ermilio ’97 mechanical engineering, Justin Knabb ’05 VSB accounting, Megan Leitch ’04 VSB marketing, Matt Nespoli ’04 A&S economics and Nora Pillard Reynolds ’02 A&S communication. Each has traveled to Waslala several times and volunteers for the organization in addition to holding a full-time job.

 Salmi and sophomore Chelsea Mackie act as co-chairs of the student organization. Both served as members of the on-campus promotions team last year.

According to Nespoli, the student group is “the most organized of any year in the past,” and members are eager to see the results of their efforts on Sunday.

“Our goal for this year’s Walk is 400 people, and with the weather looking to be beautiful, we are anticipating a great turnout,” Salmi said. “As walkers go about the course, they will see signs with new photographs and facts from Waslala, giving everyone the chance to learn more about the cause they are supporting.”

Mackie’s connection with Water for Waslala allowed her to journey to Nicaragua over spring break to visit the town of Waslala and meet the people who live there.

“Going to Waslala has given me a clearer vision of how all the work we put into the Walk affects the people in Waslala,” she said. “I’m not sure that I believe that anyone actually likes sitting at a table to register people or sending 100 different e-mails trying to get everyone on the same page for the event. But, now that I’ve actually seen the situation there, I can keep my focus on the bigger picture, not just the little tasks that can seem annoying at times. The people in Waslala are some of the kindest, most giving people I’ve ever met, even though they have very little. They taught me a lot, and I only hope I can give a fraction of that back to them, hopefully through this Walk and many Walks in the future.”

There are many opportunities for students to become involved in Water for Waslala. 

“Even though the semester is coming to a close, students can come out to our meetings next year and become more educated about our cause and the world water crisis,” Mackie said. “Even just spreading the word about our cause and the Walk can help us out a lot.”

Students can also volunteer their time in the form of an internship, with possible opportunities to gain credit at Villanova. 

Areas in need of assistance include Web site maintenance, social networking, video editing, Nicaraguan photography and videography, high school outreach and copy editing.