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Service-Learning Partnership Brings Light, Hope

Village Empowerment Program Named Finalist for Carter Award

An Inca man learns to install and maintain photovoltaic roof panels to power a light, vaccine refrigerator and radio telephone to connect his remote village to the hospital.

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Volunteering to bring power and water to remote villages in Peru has been life changing for the student participantsߞ;and life saving for the villagers. Now the project is gaining well-deserved attention and has been named as a finalist for the state’s 2007 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Award for Campus-Community Collaboration.

The Village Empowerment Partnership, headed by Prof. John Duffy of the Mechanical Engineering Department, is a collaboration of UMass Lowell and the Peruvian Ministry of Health. Started nine years ago with an exploratory visit, the project is responsible for grass-roots development in 33 remote villages of the Peruvian Andes, where student volunteers and local Inca residents have installed solar-powered radio communications and vaccine refrigerators, sustainable power sources for lights and laptops in schools, and easily maintained water supply and purification systems.

As Duffy, director of UMass Lowell’s energy engineering program, wrote, “The results of the project have been truly life altering for the community partners and for the students. The communication system alone for the clinics has saved many lives, according to health-care professionals in Peru. Entire villages now have running water where before people had to walk up to a half mile with buckets from the nearest irrigation canal, shared with cattle and pesticides. Some student participants have changed their career paths and now do this type of work.” 

The volunteers travel every six months to the same villages to ensure sustainability and learn from the people. 

UMass Lowell will join the other finalists, Harvard and Northeastern, at the April 9 award ceremony and dinner, which will include video presentations to highlight the work being done.

The Carter Partnership Award was created to recognize and encourage efforts to build safe, healthy and caring communities across the United States and throughout the world, in honor of the Carters’ commitment to collaboration and cultural change.