Service Learning Spotlight: Making Change and Gaining Perspective

I consider myself pretty cognizant of my privileges. I often think about how grateful I am to have a home, to be in good health, that I’m literate; educated.

But water?

I literally never give water a second thought.

In fact, I complain that I have to go outside about four feet to access the laundry room in my home (thanks 1960’s architecture). I hate doing the dishes, and the dishes hate me. And Arizona’s water is just the worst. I mean, you really have to try it yourself before you judge that last statement. It really is gross.

But when we’re caught up in our own world, we lose sight of perspective. When I’m worked up about these mild annoyances, it’s difficult to imagine another person’s world where the same annoyances would be blessings.

The reality is, it’s 2016 and there remains a basic human right that is not being met globally:Access to clean water. Not just water, though, but also the necessary education in personal hygiene and sanitization that go hand-in-hand with that clean water.

With this injustice in clear view, a team of students and faculty members over at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington are taking action.

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This summer, this team will rally with Living Water International and community leaders to install a well to produce clean water and provide meaningful education for a community that currently doesn’t have access to either.

The location: Leon, Nicaragua.

Project name: NicarAGUA

Our feelings about the name: Very good

Of course, as with any service learning trip – especially ones in which you plan to build something so substantial internationally – the experience isn’t cheap – far from it.

The well itself costs $5,500. You might argue that the well is priceless as it “provides 200+ people with clean drinking water for decades,” but money is money and it has to come from somewhere. Furthermore, team members must pay their way for the weeklong experience – an additional $2,500 each.

So in seeking out funding options a couple years ago, the NicarAGUA team found us. And we’re so glad they did! Because between two crowdfunding campaigns, they have raised over $30,000 to help make this an affordable service learning trip for every team member.

Because they removed this funding roadblock, things like this are happening:

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And communities who have suffered for so long are now reclaiming their right to clean water.

Meanwhile, humbled students and faculty members come home with a new perspective and a story that changed their lives.

Imagine if there were more opportunities for higher education to spearhead initiatives like this. Wouldn’t we become more educated – more empathetic? Because experiential learning has that effect.

What is funding keeping higher education from experiencing? And what could be accomplished if we removed that barricade for our students?

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