Skip to Main Content

Not Your Average Carry-On

Professors, Students Pack for Peru

UMass Lowell volunteers in the mountains of Peru
University volunteers are working in the mountains of Peru as part of the Village Empowerment Program.

By Sheila Eppolito

Forget the latest Grisham paperback – these volunteers had other, more important items on their packing list.

Mechanical Engineering Prof. John Duffy, History Prof. Chad Montrie and 10 students recently lugged 50-pound duffel bags filled with donated microscopes, tools and – most importantly – a prosthetic leg.

The leg – created for a young Peruvian mother named Javeht – was the capstone project of mechanical engineering students Sarah Lawless, Joanna Langworthy and Luc Messier, who created its design and calculated careful measurements. The students coordinated the leg’s manufacture through Hanger Orthotics of Woburn free of charge. Delivering the prosthetic was emotional – Javeht has been having difficulty with her first prosthetic leg, which had been given to her by University students in 2004.

“In a crowded rehabilitation room full of sublime light coming through the windows, the thing was done, and Javeht was in tears, beyond happy,” says Montrie.

The volunteers are in the remote village of Huarmey for two weeks to help with a variety of additional projects, ranging from installation of solar panels, performing maintenance on a drip irrigation system, installation and repair of radio systems in tiny remote villages and capturing the work – and the people – on film.

The group is actively blogging – check out their real-time reactions at