UMassD students help build sustainable water filtration solutions in Guatemala

Eleven students spent their spring break improving the health and hygiene of Guatemalan women and children

UMassD students pose with local Guatemalans during their alternative spring break
UMassD students pose with local Guatemalans during their alternative spring break

During their spring recess, 11 UMass Dartmouth students from a variety of majors spent their week helping to build portable and sustainable water filtration systems in Panajachel, Guatemala and surrounding towns, educating local women and children about proper health and hygiene techniques.

Much of the water in Guatemala isn’t drinkable for a variety of reasons, and many Guatemalans turn to bottled sodas for hydration, as that’s cheaper than purified drinking water. This leads to high sugar intake and puts many children at an elevated risk for type 2 diabetes and other health problems. Junior political science major, communication minor, and lead coordinator of the trip, Nicole Kach, says these sustainable filtration systems will allow Guatemalans to make fresh water for the next 10 years.

"The trip was extremely rewarding," Kach said. "It gave me such an appreciation for the privilege of having clean drinking water without having to think much about it. I loved getting to know these women and gain an understanding of their local culture."

Students volunteered through Worthy Village, a 501-C3 nonprofit organization, co-founded by UMassD alumnae Julia Rayberg ‘16 and Mayra Perez ‘08, that aims to build pathways out of poverty for women and children in Guatemala by providing economic opportunity, healthcare, and education.

In the past, individual UMassD students have participated on service trips to Guatemala, but this was the first time a coordinated effort was sponsored and partly funded by various university departments, minimizing costs for student volunteers and allowing them to earn credit to go.

"I’m really grateful for everyone in the university that made this possible: the College of Arts & Sciences, Campus Sustainability, Leduc Center for Civic Engagement, International Programs Office, Student Affairs, and more!" said Kach. "This took multiple fundraising rounds and a lot of effort, but I believe it was important that students weren’t worried about costs attending this opportunity and could instead focus on helping others."

Along with writing reflections on their opportunity, students created a presentation and discussed their experiences with various campus stakeholders to earn elective academic credit.

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