by Genny Boots, News Writer
“Viva Agua!” was both the motivation and war cry of the 2015 Pacific Lutheran University NicarAGUA Well Project.
During spring break, 10 PLU students and two faculty members traveled to Medico Internacional, a small village outside of Leon, Nicaragua. The team was ready to serve, build a well and lead hygiene classes for the community.
“We are going to be in a community that may or may not have a toilet and if that sounds exciting that might be an idea that you want to continue,” School of Business professor Mark Mulder said. However, Mulder said students who are not sure if they’d be comfortable should not go.
This was just one piece of information for the hopeful applicants of the alternative spring break trip.
This is the second year Mulder and colleague Becki Torgerson led a group of students to Nicaragua. The trip has partnered with the nonprofit Living Water International for the past two years.
“We know that water is one of the fundamental pieces as far as economic progression,” Mulder said.“Whether you look at it from the standpoint of [Abraham] Maslow and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and these basic needs, or if you look at it from a true economic development perspective, water really is a foundational piece.”
During the eight-day trip, Lutes spent four days building a well and giving hygiene and sanitation classes to the women and children of Medico Internacional.
“Everyone on the team got to circulate through all the jobs,” senior Carly Perez said. “There were two major teams: the hygiene team and the drilling team.”
Assembling the well required a lot of manual labor.
“It actually takes a lot of water to find water” Mulder said. The team drilled down 160 feet using a 4-inch drill bit, which makes space for a pipe to pump out sediment for the hole. Once water was discovered at 140 feet, a 7-inch drill bit was used.
“Once we get the 7-inch drill bit done we put a casing in with a screen that allows water in and allows the well to maintain itself” Mulder said.
Then comes the pumping device and the pump head.
“We start on a Monday and if all goes well by Thursday around 1 p.m. we have a fully functioning well,” Mulder said
The hygiene and sanitation team led morning sessions for the women and afternoon sessions for the children. Educating the community on how to maintain the well and stay healthy.
“The first day I did drilling, but then you get to interact with the women from the community and the kids and it’s so cool,” senior Alex Tuman said. “It was two totally different things and they were both amazing.”
Last spring break, Mulder led a team to a El Limonal, a larger refugee camp turned village that was located outside a garbage dump. This year, Lutes went back to the village to check in and celebrate a year of clean water.
“We had a chance to reconnect with that community and with that project and see the finished well,” Mulder said. “At that point we basically threw a birthday party for the well, it turned one and we had a year of clean water.”
Moments like this were Mulder’s favorite parts of the trip.
“What people don’t always understand is the collaboration that happens, and so our team did a lot of drilling, but there was a lot of collaboration with the community,” Mulder said. “It was shared work and this was a shared goal. We come in not as providers of the water, but as partners to help the community achieve their goal and we work collaboratively for that to happen.”
Upon returning to the U.S., the team is settling back into a normal life again with indoor plumbing and some fresh perspectives.
“Coming back, its been so weird. I’ve lived this life for 21 years and now I’m seeing it with new eyes. It just feels like I am a totally different person now,” Perez said. “Love is the universal language and you really understand when you go out and help other people.”
Photos and information about the work accomplished in Nicaragua can be found online at https://www.facebook.com/NicarAGUAPLU 🅼