Fourth annual Walk for Water raises $27,000

Amanda Hanley

The fourth annual Walk for Water, benefiting the community of Waslala, Nicaragua, raised $27,000 and recruited 425 walkers on Sunday.

The event is a fundraiser for Water for Waslala, an on-campus project that works to provide water systems for the poor in Waslala.

Its other primary goal is to foster greater awareness of global poverty and the water crisis affecting 1.2 billion people worldwide.

The event was co-sponsored by Engineers Without Borders.

Water for Waslala was founded by Villanova alumni Nora Pillard, Class of ’02, and Matt Nespoli, Class of ’04.

Nespoli is now president and executive director of WFW. Nespoli said he was deeply touched by a two-week trip to Waslala after his sophomore year and wanted to find a way to help the poor in this area.

“I felt like I was called to something greater than myself, but I didn’t know what it meant or what it was,” Nespoli said.

He said he spent that summer thinking about changing his computer science major to something that was better suited for him to find solutions to real-world problems. After speaking with many faculty members and friends, he decided to switch to an economics major the next fall.

“I wanted to learn the system, to find out the reasons behind the extraordinary wealth of the United States and extreme poverty of countries like Nicaragua,” Nespoli said.

After graduating, he became a full-time volunteer for WFW as an Augustinian volunteer.

WFW has been incorporated under the Augustinian Volunteers, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for recent college graduates to serve the poor around the world.

Nespoli went to high schools and colleges in the Philadelphia area talking about his experience and asking for donations.

He and his colleagues decided that a walk-a-thon would be a good way for students to get involved, so he planned the first annual Walk for Water on Villanova’s campus in 2005.

The 2005 Walk raised $3,500 with 120 walkers. The 2006 Walk raised $20,000 with 330 walkers, and the 2007 Walk raised $32,000 with 600 walkers. Last year the organization held a concert the evening before featuring Braddigan, the lead singer of Dispatch, who is also passionate about helping the poor of Nicaragua.

Noel Terranova, associate director of Campus Ministry, was the top recruiter for WFW walkers by heading the Liturgical Ministry team.

“In my position, I want to get people to understand the connection between prayer and doing justice in the world,” Terranova said. “With Villanova being a Catholic university, this is the concrete work of service to the poor that we talk about at Mass.”

Tricia Elms is head of Villanova’s Water for Waslala student group. She has traveled to Waslala twice and has been working on designing water systems for Water for Waslala as part of her senior design project.

“Regarding Water for Waslala, I think it shows students that our experience at Villanova can make a difference,” Elms said. “In 2002, students went to Waslala, saw a problem, and they have been working to build water systems since then. Waslala is a community of 45,000, and 30,000 don’t have access to clean drinking water.”

Water for Waslala has partnered with the mechanical engineering department to provide regular oversight of the design and installation process for each water system.

The department has integrated this organization into its curriculum through the capstone senior design course.

Students travel to Waslala to conduct technical surveys in communities that request a system and then return to campus and work on the designs.

“Water for Waslala is a great project rooted in the Villanova tradition, and Engineers Without Borders is working on taking our mission further in the world,” Elms said.

Engineers Without Borders, a student-run organization, works on humanitarian projects with engineering solutions, much like Water for Waslala.

It is currently working on a project in Thailand, delivering clean water to two towns and an orphanage. Ten students will travel to Thailand in May to implement the project’s final stage.

In the future, Nespoli said he would like to see WFW join with Villanova’s other colleges. The organization would like to continue focusing on water but expand into other areas of need, such as electricity, which is also scarce in Nicaragua.

Nespoli said he would like WFW to be involved with other universities as well, in order to expand student representation in the organization.

“We want to keep WFW student-centered, rather than partnering with a corporation,” Nespoli said. “That union is invaluable, and we would hate to lose that.”