Hundreds walk, raise money for water

Michelle Farabaugh

The fifth annual Walk for Water, held throughout the main campus of Villanova on April 19, had about 400 participants and raised over $16,000.

Water for Waslala is an organization that provides clean water to impoverished areas of Nicaragua by constructing fresh water systems.

The event is Water for Waslala’s largest fundraiser of the year. All proceeds go toward improving the condition of life for residents of the region of Wasala, Nicaragua, who otherwise would not have access to clean drinking water.

Participants were encouraged to raise as much as they could, with prizes such as iTunes gift cards for the top individual and team fundraisers.

Other events during the day included music provided by CAT and an outdoor barbeque, which was included in registrants’ $25 fee along with a T-shirt.

Nora Pillard, a graduate of Villanova University, serves as the vice president and director of communication for Water for Waslala.

During a post-graduation trip to Nicaragua in the summer of 2002, the community of Waslala approached the group of students to raise a few thousand dollars that would enable them to construct a fresh water system. Inspired to do more than simply fundraise, the organization was founded by Matthew Nespoli, a fellow Villanova alumnus who also traveled to Nicaragua, along with Pillard.

The group has raised over $300,000 since its inception, enabling nearly 2,500 Waslalans to access clean water.

Freshmen Ellen Salmi and Chelsea Mackie served as co-coordinators of on-campus promotions for the event.

“Once I heard about the mission and work in Waslala, I felt a responsibility to work toward something that will make the world a more just society, or at least one that meets the basic needs of its citizens,” Salmi said.

The organization is run entirely by young Villanova graduates and is supported by both the College of Nursing and the College of Engineering. Annual trips to Nicaragua allow students from both colleges to see the effects of their labor first-hand.

Over the past four years, more than 80 students and faculty have traveled to Waslala, where engineers focus on building the water systems and nurses teach hygiene practices to the local people. Several engineers have even used the trip as an opportunity to complete their senior project.

The partnership between the two colleges provides a unique interdisciplinary perspective. It allows the people of Waslala to benefit from the physical construction of water systems as well as knowledge of sanitation, and provides an example of the advantages of collaboration between different fields.

Mackie became acquainted with the organization through Engineers Without Borders.

“It’s been fulfilling for me to raise awareness for a cause that’s so worthy,” she said. “Everyone should have access to fresh water.”

Even though Pillard has traveled to Waslala 12 times, her initial experience is renewed each time she accompanies students on their first trip to the region .

“We were 22 when we started [the organization],” she said. “You can’t wait until later in your life if you see a need for something. Instead of criticizing it, do something about it.”

According to Pillard, a unique relationship has formed between the communities of Villanova and Waslala. After Hurricane Katrina, the parish in Waslala took up a collection for the storm’s victims.

“These people have mass twice a year in a dirt-floor building, and they still wanted to help,” she said. “Their connection to America simply through their connection to Villanova shows that our relationship has gone beyond the technical.”

Starting next year, the organization is looking to become more active through a year-round student group.