Program, students bring charity to Nicaragua

Katie DiPerna

So far this year, senior Matt Nespoli has raised $10,000 dollars for his “Water for Waslala” campaign, a fundraising effort to install proper clean water systems in the communities in and around Waslalam – a desperately poor region of Nicaragua.

Money for the campaign has come from the Oxfam Click Drive, Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and donation drives at Nespoli’s former high school, Cardinal O’Hara in Springfield, Pa. After Nespoli graduates, he will spend the year traveling to schools in the Philadelphia area as an Augustinian volunteer, raising funds as well as awareness about the realities of what it is like to be poor and to live in Waslala, Nicaragua.

“My goal is to raise $100,000 by the end of the year, which would be enough to install systems in the 50 communities that still do not have them,” Nespoli said. “I also hope to encourage people to use their lives and their education to make a difference.”

According to Nespoli, the water systems being installed are very simple. First developed by a farmer named Don Jesus, the water system program got off the ground with support from the local Catholic Church. The system quarantines the water at the top of the mountains, where it is kept free of bathers, animals and other sources of contamination. From here, the water travels by gravity through pipes into the center of a community – no electricity is required. Inhabitants can go to the center of the town and find a well of safe, sanitary water to use for drinking and cooking. The installation of each system costs $2,000.

But Nespoli has learned that a little bit can go a long way. “Mostly I just ask for small donations when I am speaking to students,” he said. “I’ll ask them not to buy fries today and give the money to this cause.”

Waslala, Nicaragua is about three times the size of Philadelphia, with approximately 10,000 people living in the central city and about 35,000 living in the 85 surrounding rural communities. In the 1980s, Waslala was center stage for a civil war. Armed conflict raged in the area from about 1979-1997, destroying infrastructure, homes, schools and hospitals.

Nespoli saw the desperation firsthand. In the summer of 2002, he traveled to Nicaragua with a group of Villanova students. Once returning to Villanova, the students began fundraising to reach the goal of $2,000 for one water system. After this initial success, Nespoli began thinking of how he could keep the project alive.

The project now involves several facets of the University. During spring break, the engineering department sent two professors to Waslala to evaluate the water systems. According to Nespoli, the professors found both positive and negative aspects of the project, and are currently working on ways to improve it. This spring break, four senior nursing students traveled to Nicaragua to make presentations to several different communities.

“I am hoping the nursing department will continue to be involved in the future to promote health and hygiene education,” Nespoli added.