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Peru Project Honored by Celtics, Carter Awards

Service-Learning Touches Many Lives

Prof. John Duffy is flanked by, from left, Sean Martin of the Massachusetts State Lottery, Gerald Wallace, captain of the Charlotte Bobcats, and Paul Pierce, captain of the Boston Celtics, as he is named a Hero Among Us for the project that brings sustainable energy systems to remote villages in Peru.

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Prof. John Duffy would say he’s only a small part of the effort to supply remote villages in the Peruvian Andes with renewable and sustainable infrastructure.

And that’s true. Nearly 100 students and volunteers, all told, have traveled with him twice yearly to install and maintain systems and listen respectfully as local people explain their needs and aspirations. And hundreds of college students have contributed through their engineering design work to the Peru project, now named the Village Empowerment Partnership.

It’s also true that Duffy has organized design projects, planned and led two trips each year, and has inspired everyone ߝ to stretch a little further, do a little more, dig deeper in their pockets, even change their career paths ߝ to make a difference.

So the participants, contributors and well-wishers were pleased to see John Duffy stand for all their efforts as the project was honored recently, by both the Boston Celtics and by the Carter Partnership Foundation.

The Celtics presented Duffy with the Heroes Among Us award on court during half-time of the game on March 21, citing his “dedication to the health and well-being of those in need.” The Heroes Among Us award is a program of the Boston Celtics, presented by the Mass State Lottery.

On April 9, the Village Empowerment Project was honored as a finalist at the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Award celebration. The award, sponsored by the Massachusetts Campus Compact, encourages campus-community collaboration on critical social and economic issues, and is given every three years. While the UMass Lowell ߝ Peruvian Ministry of Health program did not win the award, standing as one of three finalists from a distinguished field of applicants was a signal honor.

The project engages students and volunteers in designing and installing sustainable energy systems that can function under harsh conditions. The 35 villages involved have had no electricity, telephone service or clean drinking water. The new systems have provided radio communication, lights, vaccine refrigerators and other medical devices for the clinics; pumped water supply, water purification and aquaculture for development; and laptops and science experiments in schools.

The engineering students have benefited as well. Says Duffy, “The project enhances the students’ knowledge of their subject matter and commitment to service. It’s a unique service-learning opportunity and 15 courses have had related service-learning projects.”