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Bringing Fresh Water to San Lucas Toliman: Students Help Build a Guatemalan Town’s Infrastructure Read the Student Blog!

Posted May 23, 2008

guatemala08.gifWater supply is crucial for the survival of San Lucas Toliman, a town of 17,000 in rural Guatemala. On May 21, a group of 13 students, headed by Bruce Clemens, an assistant professor of management, and Steven Northrup, an associate professor of electrical engineering, arrived in the country’s western highlands to enhance the town’s sustainability by improving its water distribution system. Thanks to their efforts, fewer residents will need to embark on the hour-long march to reach the only other water source in the vicinity.

Clemens has over three decades of experience in this area: in 1972 he founded Agua del Pueblo, a nonprofit technical assistance organization that has provided more than 700 water systems to rural Guatemala. The students were involved in a variety of undertakings through June 3, including digging ditches, installing pipeline, and working on such other infrastructure projects as building kitchens and reconstructing a roof at a local clinic. Throughout the trip, student George Stewart shared his experiences on a class weblog that can be viewed here.

The students, who previously met as a class six times in the spring semester course “Management, Engineering, and Cultural Development in Guatemala,” will write a reflective paper on their experience.

Stewart’s blog describes not only the students’ work, but also the joys of playing with the local children and learning about an agrarian society. He also writes about the negatives: numerous thunderstorms, not to mention painful sunburns.

Stewart is amazed at the residents’ durability and persistence in making better lives for themselves. He plodded through strenuous eight-to-five workdays, however, “these people wake up at sunrise and start building their houses, and they don’t stop until sunset,” he writes. “Although they have to break their backs every day for work, they all have positive attitudes.”

Clemens’ goal is to build a new generation of volunteers, and to teach the students about management, culture, and engineering in a developing country. The students earned credits for Learning Beyond the Classroom (LBC), a program that helps undergraduates link theoretical learning with real-world experiences. After working with people whose homes have no floors and no running water, they also learned lessons that will stay with them for the rest of their lives .

To read about last year's Guatemala blog by Western New England College students, click here.


Western New England University is a private, independent, coeducational institution founded in 1919. Located on an attractive 215-acre suburban campus in Springfield, Massachusetts, Western New England University serves 3,955 students, including 2,575 full-time undergraduate students. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs are offered through Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, and Pharmacy, and School of Law.


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