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September 06, 2011
A village in Guatemala now has safe drinking water thanks to a class gift from May graduates in the East Carolina University College of Nursing.
Kaitlyn Whitlock of Charlotte, president of the spring 2011 class, said the well, which was expected to take up to one year to build, was completed in three months. ECU is recognized with a plaque at the well site. Whitlock hopes to commemorate the class gift in the College of Nursing too.
Students raised $5,000 to pay for the well through Living Water International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing clean drinking water to those in need.
According to a report from the organization, the community had been dependent on an unprotected hand dug well, and some of its 150 residents suffered from cholera and dysentery. The new 35-meter well will provide safe drinking water for residents who make a living by farming, ranching or teaching at a nearby school. During the well's construction, community members helped by donating materials, making lunch or providing overnight security.
Each year, ECU seniors get to decide where to focus their class gift. This year, the students chose an international effort for the first time. The gift was presented during convocation.
The effort extended beyond class members, as staff, faculty and family members gave too. Students raised money in a variety of ways including selling Valentine's care packages for parents to send to their nursing student.
For several years, Dr. Kim Larson, assistant professor of nursing, has led summer study abroad classes to Guatemala where students have seen needs up close by working in health clinics, schools and nutrition centers in the Mayan community. This year, Larson and nine undergraduate nursing students, two psychology, two biology and four public health graduate students worked in Guatemala from May 22 until June 10.
"Students always say 'I wish I could do more.' Now I can say, 'you have,' " Larson said. "The well will bring safe drinking water to hundreds of families, especially young children who are the most vulnerable to adverse consequences of unsafe water and inadequate hygiene related to an insufficient water source. The students know that the well will do more for the health of the community than dozens of nursing students helping out at the nutrition center. They see that as a real community service."
Since 2001, Living Water International reports it has completed approximately 150 water projects in Guatemala.