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Maia Benavente’s Excellent Adventure

Father/Daughter Team Improves Life for Peruvian Villagers

Students who participate in the Village Empowerment Project travel to the remote village of Huarmey, high in the mountains of Peru. All materials must be trekked in ߝ with the aid of burros ߝ making careful planning especially important.

By Sheila Eppolito

In the years since its inception, the Village Empowerment Project has brought direct, lasting improvements to villagers in a tiny Peruvian village called Huarmey. Maia Benavente, a graduate student in the Energy Engineering program, recently traveled with her father to deliver and install a high-efficiency stove for villagers.  The stove cuts down on emissions, which will reduce respiratory illness among villagers. We caught up with Maia and asked her a few questions.

Tell us about your project.

I worked on a few projects, including a rocket stove. The stove burns wood in an extremely efficient way, and reduces carbon emissions and harmful flue gases which can become a major contributing factor to the development of respiratory illnesses.

I also led a solar workshop for a group of children in Huarmey to help introduce them to the fundamental physical concepts behind passive solar systems. We built simple solar box cookers to demonstrate the power of solar irradiation.

I also got to help out with the translation between a young lady named Javeth and a group of UMass Lowell students. The group ߝ working under Professor (John) Duffy in the Mechanical Engineering department ߝ is building a new prosthetic leg for Javeth.

Why did you get involved?

My family on my father’s side is from Peru, and I feel part of the small village community even though I am far away. It is very important to me to give back to the community that made it possible for my family to be where they are today.

What was the best part?

I really enjoyed getting to work alongside my dad on an engineering project.

Biggest challenge?

It was sometimes hard to balance everyone’s ideas. When you’re building a system you’ve designed and realize you don’t have the exact materials or time you thought you’d have, plans have to be altered. Everyone sees different benefits, so they advocate for different adjustments. It was difficult, but rewarding, to find a balance between our group members.