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By Andrew Larson '08

LEWISBURG, Pa. - Danielle Winter '07 and Rob Gradoville '07 have witnessed abject poverty in Latin America, but it wasn't until now that they could plan and execute projects to help alleviate it.

Both of their projects were selected by the Davis Foundation, a nonprofit that supports cultural and educational organizations, to receive $10,000 grants as part of "100 Projects for Peace." Bucknell was one of a handful of schools to receive more than one grant, in the company of Yale, Columbia, Duke, Middlebury, and Wellesley.

Winter has traveled to Guatemala six times with a church group, working at Mi Refugio, a Christian school whose students are so poor that their families have resorted to living in the Guatemala City dump.

Sewing cooperative
In June, Winter and her friend, Julie Pfromm from Bloomsburg University, will return to Mi Refugio to create a sewing cooperative that will "empower women of the community and help lift them out of poverty," Winter said. The school has for years sought such a program but lacked the funding.

"I saw the Davis Foundation opportunity and I said, 'I know exactly who can use this money,'" said Winter.

The $10,000 grant will cover the start-up costs for the equipment, raw materials, and the teacher's salary. From then on, the program is designed to be self-sustaining. The top students from each class will be invited to teach the successive classes, and the revenue generated by selling products will cover the program's costs.

Procuring sufficuent water
When Gradoville traveled to Nicaragua with the Bucknell Brigade in January, he watched the residents of El Porvenir, a tiny the mountaintop community, struggle to procure sufficient water during the six-month dry season.

The town relies on a tractor to deliver small loads of water at a time, not nearly enough for watering the crops, not to mention bathing and cooking.

Gradoville and his group will construct a four-kilometer pipeline pumping a steady supply of water to the arid region.

"This is the first thing on their agenda," Gradoville said.

Solar powered
The pipeline, designed by five engineers and an environmental studies major, will be powered by four solar panels with auxiliary power coming from an electrical grid. The other students working on the project are Laura Roberts '07, Julie Jakoboski '07, Adam Donato '07, Meghan Feller '07, and Saskia Madlener '08.

The biggest challenge may be the manual labor. The group hopes to solicit the help of locals in digging a trench for the pipeline - by hand, using pick axes.

"In the United States, we'd use a trencher. But this is Nicaragua," Gradoville said.

Labor of love
For Gradoville, who plans to be a water resources engineer in the Peace Corps after he graduates, even though the project is for course credit, it's mostly a labor of love.

"It's the reason you can spend 10 hours a week on it, and you don't realize it's been that long," he said.

Rob Gradoville '07 in Nicaragua.                                     Danielle Winter '07 in Guatemala. 

Posted May 15, 2007