Our Mission

Water for Waslala is dedicated to providing the funds and technical expertise needed to construct cost-effective, sustainable potable water projects in Waslala, Nicaragua that improve public health, increase educational attainment, and facilitate economic development.
Imagine waking up in the morning, getting out of bed, and leaving your home with a bucket to fetch the dayís drinking water from a river fifteen minutes away. When you arrive at the river, you see that the water is brown and clearly contaminated, but you have no other choice if you want something to drink.

Thankfully, most of us do not have to experience this degrading reality in our daily lives. But over 56,000 people living in the rural municipality of Waslala, Nicaragua, do.

Water for Waslala (WfW) was created pour croisieres organisees tout inclus the people of Waslala.

In todayís world, it is unacceptable that so many people still do not have access to clean water. The required technology has existed for centuries. The funds needed are minimal ñ only $100 per person. The needs are real and indisputable. WfW believes that because we can solve this problem, it is our responsibility to do so.

Join us. Help us create a future where all people enjoy clean water ñ starting with one community, in one region, in one country.

Our Approach


The mission of WfW is to provide the 56,000 residents of Waslala with clean drinking water. That is a focused, tangible goal that we know how to solve.


Waslalans, not temporary US volunteers, are in charge of designing, building, and maintaining their own water systems, which fosters community organization, empowerment, and sustainability. WfW simply assists the Waslalans achieve their goals through fundraising and knowledge transfer from our Villanova and local partners.


WfW works in partnership with Villanova Universityís Engineering and Nursing Departments. Professors and students visit Waslala twice a year to host training workshops, inspect systems, and foster critical health & hygiene education. Our access to state-of-the-art academic resources ensures that our systems are designed, built, used, and maintained according to best practices.


WfW pledges that a one-time donation provides a lifetime supply of potable water. We are able to make this assertion by investing heavily on training: training communities to establish adequate maintenance funds and to keep their systems in good condition.


We collect data for each project throughout its lifetime to ensure that our systems are improving public health, educational attainment, and economic development in Waslala. When the data show that we arenít achieving our goals in a given community, we adapt our approach until tangible benefits are realized.


Water for Waslala’s Executive Director, eight-member Board of Directors, and student volunteers from Villanova University raise the funds needed to construct potable water systems in Waslala. Most of our funds come from foundation grants, grassroots fundraisers in schools and churches, and community events like the Walk for Water 5K at Villanova University.

Despite the fact that WfWís Board and student volunteers have full-time jobs or classes, their genuine passion for reducing poverty commits them to dedicating their free time to help the Waslalan people access the clean water they deserve.


Read articles that have been written about Water for Waslala:
As always, contact us if you have any potential press opportunities to help us spread the word about our work!

Our Background


Waslala, roughly fifteen times the land area of Manhattan, is a remote region located in central Nicaragua. Traveling to Waslala from the capital of Managua involves a seven-hour journey on treacherous, muddy mountainside roads.

Waslala is home to 56,000 residents, most of whom live in the 90 rural villages outside the town center. Nearly all communities are only accessible by hiking or riding mules for hours through the humid rainforest.

Waslala was center stage during the US-funded Nicaraguan Contra war of the 1980s, which destroyed what little infrastructure was present in the region. Today, most Waslalans earn less than $2/day, have a fourth-grade education, and lack access to even the most basic human needs: clean water, electricity, telephones, sanitation, and health care.


Matt Nespoli, Nora Reynolds, and seven other Villanova University students first traveled to Waslala, Nicaragua in 2002 on a two-week service trip. The group had learned about Waslala through the work of another organization, Free the Children, which built 50 schools in Waslala in the 1990s.

Matt, Nora, and the other students on the trip were deeply affected by the poverty and lack of infrastructure in Waslala, as well as the beauty and warmth of the people they visited.

During the trip, the Waslalan people indicated that their most urgent need was to access clean drinking water. Matt and Nora returned home convicted to find a way to end the Waslalan water crisis, and in 2004 created Water for Waslala (WfW) to do so.

Since its inception, WfW has provided 2,500 Waslalans with the clean drinking water they deserve ñ water that will last for a lifetime.

Our People

Water for Waslala is comprised of a US-based Executive Director, an all-volunteer, eight-member Board of Directors based in Philadelphia, a set of local partners in Nicaragua, student volunteers across the US, and the Villanova University Colleges of Engineering and Nursing.

US Staff

Kevin Kelly – Executive Director
Our first full-time executive director joined Water for Waslala in early 2014 after becoming instantly enamored with our mission. Kevin brings two decades of diverse public service and management experience to our organization and looks forward to leading the charge to end the water crisis in Waslala.

Kevin earned his MA in Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan University and his BA in Political Science from the University of Michigan. As an award-winning educator in both the Phoenix and Detroit metropolitan areas, Kevin distinguished himself as an innovator and curriculum specialist. As an administrator and educational leader in both urban and rural settings, Kevin comprehensively redesigned and restructured three public schools with remarkable results. More recently, as an educational and fundraising consultant, Kevin has worked with schools and non-profits throughout the United States to reimagine how they do business. As our Executive Director, Kevin looks forward to driving an aggressive expansion of our operations in Nicaragua through the building of diverse strategic partnerships here at home.

WfW partners with local Nicaraguan organizations to manage the water system and filter project delivery and maintenance processes in Waslala. WfW's primary partner is the AsociaciÛn de Desarrollo Integral y Sostenible (ADIS), a Nicaraguan NGO based in Waslala dedicated primarily to community health initiatives.

ADIS employs six staff dedicated to WfW's work. ADIS staff take leading roles in designing and managing the construction of water systems, working with community volunteers. ADIS staff are also in charge of educational and promotional initiatives to help ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of WfW projects, covering topics ranging from health and hygiene to reforestation and environmental conservation to accounting and community funds management.

ADIS Staff dedicated to WfW's work consist of the following:

Junior Gasparini - Program Director
Fisherman. Philosophy teacher. Tank gunman. Seminary student. Junior has been with Water for Waslala since the beginning when Matt and Nora undertook the mission to end the water crises in Waslala. Originally from Chapeco, Brazil, Junior arrived in Waslala in 2004 at the invitation of the Brazilian priests who headed La Parroquia, the Catholic parish in Waslala. As the Administrator of funds for the parish, and with experience in community organizing and education, Junior helped Water for Waslala organize communities, purchase the materials for projects, and contract the masons who constructed each project.

Junior was a mainstay in Waslala and for the organization as he supported the work of his two predecessors from 2004 to 2011. Throughout these years he continued to administer funds, facilitate projects, and supported the Villanova student groups that volunteered each semester. After a two-year hiatus to start what is today a very successful coffee farm, Junior was ready to get back into the action. He was also the natural choice when WfW decided to expand the team and hire a more permanent in-country Program Director.

Junior officially accepted the position of Program Director in July of 2013. He oversees all projects, fund management, community relations, and is working to develop and implement a strategic plan and obtain sustainable sources of funding from aid organizations working within Nicaragua. When he is not working for WfW or on his farm, he can most likely be found coaching a local baseball team or playing soccer.

Denis Taleno - Water System Technician (Construction Manager/Full-Time Technician)
Denis Taleno is not a Waslala native, but he may as well be, as he has lived in the community for almost 20 years. Denis is, using the Spanish term, a maestro de construcción, or master constructor, and is skilled not only in plumbing and masonry, but also in carpentry, electrical work, and welding. He has a remarkable life story, having been working in the building trades since the age of 10, before spending his teenage years in the army.

Known to the entire WfW team simply as “Taleno,” Denis has been?with Water for Waslala since the beginning. At the outset in 2005, Denis worked as temporary contractor responsible for constructing dams, stream crossings, and other essential infrastructure. He was always engaged and learned all that he could from the Villanova engineering professors who would visit to review the clean water projects. As the organization grew and scaled its projects, it made sense that Denis joined the team as the full-time Water System Technician.

Over the last 8 years, Denis has been involved with every WfW project and has managed the construction of all but one of the WfW water systems constructed. He spends his weekdays living in the community, waking early, in order to construct the essential infrastructure necessary to provide clean water to communities. He loves this work because each water system project is its own experience with unique challenges and opportunities to learn. He enjoys spending time getting to know the entire community by working alongside them, and is happiest in the sun, mud, or waist deep in a river. Even when he is not constructing in the field, Denis loves to build and his favorite pastime is remodeling or making additions to his home.

Virginia Leiba - Director of Community Outreach (Community Organizer)
Virginia Leiba is a native of Waslala and is well known in all of the 90 rural Waslalan communities due to her remarkable career. Virginia served the people of Waslala for over 20 years, first with the Red Cross during the Contra war and later with the Health Ministry of La Parroquia Inmaculada, the Catholic parish in Waslala. Throughout these years, she constantly pursued her goals by first finishing the middle school classes she was unable to complete as a child, and then attending adult high school classes at night, before finally enrolling in nursing school. At the same time, she raised a son and 4 daughters.

Virginia became a member of the Water for Waslala team on the 11th of August 2009, 20 years to the date after beginning her career in community organizing and health education. Her extensive knowledge of the Waslalan communities and experience working with community leaders is invaluable to the organization. At the start of her work as the Director of Community Outreach for WfW, she helped establish connections with numerous communities in the municipality and built the report of WfW as an organization that was there to help. Virginia is incredibly passionate about the project and the goal to bring clean water to her own people. She is currently responsible for conducting community meetings, aiding water committees in their legalization process, and leading health and environmental education workshops.

Virginia is a great cook, very nurturing, has an inquisitive mind, and loves to learn. In the past 20 years, she has hosted many volunteers from all over the world in her home. She enjoys learning about different cultures, practicing natural medicine, and cooking up a feast of creative foods, as well as spending time with her children and grandchildren.

Junior Martinez - Water System Engineer
Junior is originally from a small town in the far northern Nicaraguan zona de Régimen Especial Alto Wangki y Bocay, part of the region many refer to as the Mosquito Coast, a very isolated area whose native inhabitants speak the indigenous language Miskito. At age 13 Junior made a big decision and left home to further his education by attending high school in Managua, where he not only earned his secondary degree, but learned to speak Spanish as well. Shortly after graduation, he enrolled in the Agua Para La Vida water system technical school in Rio Blanco, Nicaragua. This intense two and half year program teaches all of the ins and outs of water system design through a grueling twelve hours of class each day.

In a short two and a half years, Junior earned his title as Technician in the Design and Management of Potable Water Systems and began his career providing clean water to communities in rural Nicaragua. He has extensive experience taking topographies, reviewing project designs, and supervising construction projects in several different regions in Nicaragua. Most recently, he worked with the United Nations to execute clean water projects in his home region in the Mosquito Coast.

Junior took on the position of Water System Engineer in April of 2013. In the last 8 months, he has made significant contributions to the work of WfW by reviewing the designs of two existing water systems and beginning to design the water systems that we hope to construct in the upcoming year. At this point, he has completed six complete water system designs. While some of Junior’s designs for annexes and renovations have already been constructed, the 2014 construction of the water system in Ocote Kubalí will be the implementation of the first complete water system that Junior designed for WfW.

Wilfredo Aráuz - Project Administrator (Accountant)
Wilfredo Aráuz, a Waslala native, is the Project Administrator for Water for Waslala’s local partner ADIS, the Asociación de Desarollo Integral y Sostenible. He is also a founding member of the ADIS board of directors, serving as the organization treasurer. Wilfredo became an integral member of the Water for Waslala team in 2012, when WfW partnered with ADIS in order to expand operations and scale projects. In this role he is responsible for managing all of the WfW funds that pass through ADIS, as well as funds for ADIS’ other health related projects, including the Villanova University supported tele-health initiative.

Wilfredo is experienced with fund management and public health projects, as he worked from 2007 until 2011 as project administrator for the Health Ministry of La Parroquia Inmaculada, Waslala’s Catholic parish, following in his father’s footsteps who, as a certified nurse had worked as a promoter with the ministry for several years.

On the weekends, Wilfredo is working on finishing up his bachelor’s degree in accounting at the Popular University of Nicaragua in Matagalpa. Only one class stands between him and his degree.

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Water for Waslala’s Board of Directors manages the organization’s operational, financial, engineering, and project management activities in both the US and Waslala, Nicaragua. The Board is run on a volunteer basis by young professionals who are passionate about helping the Waslalan people live with dignity.

The board is comprised of the following individuals:

Matt Nespoli - Founder & President
Matt spent two weeks after his sophomore year at Villanova University in Waslala, Nicaragua, and has never been the same since. Feeling a conviction to end the water crisis in Waslala, Matt wrote a business plan for Water for Waslala during his senior year of college in 2003, and has spent the last ten years putting his plan into action. In his role as President, Matt focuses on strategy development and management of both the Waslalan and US side of the organization.

Matt is currently a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group in Boston, MA. Matt received his MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 2012, with a focus on corporate sustainability strategy. Prior to MIT, Matt worked as a public sector strategy consultant in NYC, and as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC. Matt earned his undergraduate degree from Villanova University in 2004, receiving the Medallion Award for academic excellence in the field of Economics. Matt continues to direct Water for Waslala part-time together with the Board and other partners.

Nora Reynolds - Director, Program Committee Chair
Since Nora's first trip to Waslala in 2002, she has maintained her involvement with the region and returned to Waslala approximately ten times. As the chair of WfW's Program Comittee, she oversees the development and execution of our approach to delivering water programs in Waslala. Nora also manages the day-to-day communication with our Waslala team to ensure alignment between the Board of Directors and our boots on the ground.

Nora graduated from Villanova University in 2002 with a B.A. in Communication and Spanish. She then moved to Madrid, Spain to pursue a Masters in International Development at La Universidad Complutense. After returning to the US, she spent two years teaching at a bilingual school in North Philadelphia through Teach for America while she completed her MS in Elementary Education. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Urban Education at Temple University.

Jordan Ermilio - Director, Program Committee Member
Jordan has helped WfW develop its community-driven approach to designing, constructing, and maintaining water systems in Waslala since the organization's founding in 2004. Currently, Jordan oversees WfW's partnership with the Villanova University College Engineering, which provides Research & Development support to WfW to improve our gravity-fed and household filtration projects. Jordan also serves as a technical advisor to our Waslala engineering staff, and frequently travels to Waslala to conduct feasibility studies and inspect WfW water systems.

Jordan graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree from Villanova in 1997, and spent the next four years working on rural potable water projects in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and East Timor with the Peace Corps and Oxfam International. Jordan returned to Villanova to receive a Masters in Water Resources Engineering, and now works as the Service Learning Coordinator and adjunct professor in the Villanova College of Engineering.

Megan Townsend - Director, Fundraising Committee Chair
Megan currently leads a set of strategic initiatives within Water for Waslala, including managing a newly-formed Advancement Council that is focused on expanding our fundraising program.

Megan is a Organizational Change Management Consultant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, providing advisory services to clients within PwC's People & Change Group. Megan earned her MBA at Temple University and received her BA in Communication and a minor in Business from Villanova University. She is active in The Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA) and The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Rob Gradoville - Director, Program Committee Member
Rob Gradoville joined the WfW Board in 2013 after years of working in water and sanitation projects in Nicaragua, Peru and the Dominican Republic. He serves as a member of our Program Committee and is currently leading our pilot initiative to pair micro-lending with distribution of household water filters to remote Waslalan families.

In his full-time role at, Rob manages the organization's direct impact and Watercredit programs in East Africa and Latin America. His role involves launching and ensuring quality of programs as Watercredit expands and innovates. Rob was previously a Fulbright scholar in Peru, where he researched water resource management and climate change adaptation practices. He has field experience in the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) sector, having managed projects in various Latin American countries and serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic.

Jennifer Platt - Director, Program Committee Member
Jennifer brings twenty years of experience in domestic and international water, sanitation, and public health programs to Water for Walala. She thrives on using evidence-based research to develop programs that facilitate inter-sectoral collaborations and sustainable paradigms. Throughout her career, Jennifer has focused on developing stakeholder coalitions and on creating consensus-based policy solutions to complex environmental problems. She has applied her skills through positions at WASH Advocates; the University of North Carolina; WaterPartners International; North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Vanderbilt University’s Center for Health Services.

Jennifer has spent many years helping small water enterprises grow into large and successful endeavors. She looks forward to supporting Water for Waslala’s growth into its next phase of development.

Ann Meredith
Ann, a mission-driven and innovative leader of non-profit organizations, brings expansive experience and wisdom to Water for Waslala’s Board of Directors.

Ann's 15-year career in non-profit management and five years in the for-profit sector enable her to bring strategic planning, fundraising, board and business development skills to Water for Waslala. Currently the Executive Director of the American Diabetes Association of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, Ann’s knowledge and operational skills make her a tremendous asset to our leadership team.

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Water for Waslala relies on volunteers around the country to raise awareness of its mission and funds to purchase the materials needed to bring clean water to Waslala. WfW’s principal annual fundraising event is the Walk for Water, held on the campus of Villanova University, which has hosted the Walk since its beginning and long been a key institutional partner in helping WfW achieve its mission in Waslala. The leadership team comprises several students from Villanova and several alumni who have worked with WfW in the past.

The Walk for Water Leadership Team is comprised of the following individuals:

Colleen Francke - Lead Volunteer Manager
Colleen Francke is a senior English and Communication double major with minors in Peace and Justice and Africana Studies from Southbury, CT. Enthusiastic about raising awareness about the world's water crisis, Colleen found Water for Waslala the perfect fit for her and her desire to ignite change. After finally getting to visit Waslala this past fall during her senior year, she feels that her experience being involved with this incredible organization has truly gone full circle. Amazed by the work that was spearheaded by a small group of Villanova alumni, Colleen desires more than anything to add her own passion to the difference in the world that group is creating and has the power to continue to create. Although we are miles away from those in need, Colleen is confident that the hope to improve the quality of life for others can span continents, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who usually do.

Mary Bianco - Volunteer Manager
Mary Bianco (Volunteer Manager) is a Senior Communication and Cultural Studies double major with a minor in Spanish from Westchester, New York. Mary joined the group Water for Waslala during her Sophomore year at Villanova and became Co- Volunteer Manager her junior year.

Combining her desire to serve and passion for travel Mary has ventured to Costa Rica, Tanzania, Chile, Argentina and this past fall Waslala, Nicaragua. While traveling Mary has enjoyed developing partnerships and friendships with people in local communities. The service learning trip to Nicaragua was no different and serves as even greater motivation for this year's walk.

It has been an honor to work with the US and Nicaraguan teams and Mary looks forward to devoting part of her senior year to this wonderful foundation.

Kate Giancatarino - Adviser
Kate Giancatarino is a Campus Minister at Villanova University, co-directing the Service Break Experience program. This is Kate’s first year at Villanova and seventh year as a Campus Minister. Kate has an MA in Pastoral Ministry and an MSW, both from Boston College. She did her undergraduate work at the University of Scranton. Kate has been a supporter of Water for Waslala since its beginning and is excited to now be working with this incredible team.

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Villanova's Engineering and Nursing Colleges ensure that Water for Waslala's water systems and complementary health & hygiene workshops are designed and executed according to best practices. Both Colleges have developed service-learning programs in conjunction with Water for Waslala. Each year, Villanova engineers travel to Waslala, Nicaragua to conduct feasibility studies and inspect water systems, while nurses perform exams and health workshops for Water for Waslala's beneficiaries.

The following Villanova engineering and nursing professors lead the University's service-learning programs in conjunction with Water for Waslala:

Dr. Gerard Jones - Project Advisor
Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs - Department of Mechanical Engineering, Villanova University College of Engineering
Dr. Jones has been involved with WfW since its inception in 2004, and first visited Waslala in 2004 to conduct a needs assessment with Jordan and Mr. O'Brien. Along with Mr. O'Brien and Jordan, Dr. Jones has created the service-learning component of the Mechanical Engineering undergraduate curriculum to allow Water for Waslala to successfully meet its objectives, while also providing an exciting service opportunity for engineering students.

Dr. Jones received his BSME in 1972 from Villanova University, and received his MSME and PhD degrees in 1975 and 1981 from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Jones joined the Villanova Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1987, and now works as the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs where, among other strategic tasks, he is responsible for day-to-day running of the undergraduate engineering program.

Mr. James OíBrien - Project Advisor
Assistant Professor - Department of Mechanical Engineering, Villanova University College of Engineering
Mr. O'Brien has traveled to Waslala every March since 2004 with various groups of Villanova University Engineering students and faculty, conducting feasibility studies, inspecting water systems, and conducting water quality sampling. Mr. O'Brien works with mechanical engineering students during their senior design seminar to create sustainable, innovative technologies that address specific water-related needs in Waslala.

Mr. O'Brien received his BECE from Villanova University in 1971, and received his MA and ME from Temple and Villanova Universities in 1972 and 1977. He has worked as an assistant professor in the Villanova Department of Mechanical Engineering for many years, and teaches courses such as Engineering Computation, Engineering Service Learning, and Mechanical Engineering Analysis and Design.

Dr. Elizabeth ìBettyî Keech - Project Advisor
Assistant Professor - Villanova University College of Nursing
Dr. Elizabeth Keech received her BSN (1966) from Villanova University and a Masters in Nursing (1978), Social Gerontology (1987) and PHD in Nursing (1991) with a focus in gerontology from the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently an assistant professor in the College of Nursing, Villanova University.

The focus of Dr. Keech's professional career includes a focus on Public Health Issues and on the needs of the elderly. She has been teaching health promotion principles to nursing students and has traveled with them to Peru and more recently Nicaragua. The students assess the community's needs, identify priority problems, plan and deliver an intervention and evaluate the project. While in Nicaragua, the students work with the engineering students to complement the engineering project of supplying water to rural communities through health education.

Dr. Ruth McDermott-Levy - Project Advisor
Assistant Professor - Villanova University College of Nursing
Dr. Ruth McDermott-Levy, assistant professor at Villanova's College of Nursing, first visited Waslala, Nicaragua with nursing students for the Health Promotion course in 2007. She worked with the nursing students as they educated the lay health workers (LHWs) about water hygiene and infectious diseases in the region. She was impressed by the collaboration between the community, the parish, Water for Waslala, and Villanova Engineering and Nursing faculty to improve the health of the people of Waslala.

Ruth earned her bachelor's degree in nursing from Wilkes University; her MSN and PhD are from Villanova University. She teaches adult health and community health nursing. Her primary field of research involves the examination of Arab-Muslim experiences in higher education and health.

Dr. Bette Mariani - Project Advisor
Assistant Professor - Villanova University College of Nursing
Dr. Bette Mariani, RN is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Nursing at Villanova University College of Nursing. Bette traveled to Waslala, Nicaragua in 2009 and 2010 with Villanova nursing and engineering students to provide health education on topics such as: clean water, infectious diseases, disaster preparedness and safety. Bette is committed to sharing the message about Water for Waslala in an effort to help bring clean water and health to children and adults and reduce infant and maternal mortality.

Bette received her PhD in nursing from Widener University, MSN from University of Pennsylvania and BSN from Villanova University. She teaches primarily in the accelerated BSN Program for second degree students where she teaches in the acute care clinical area as well as health promotion. She also teaches introduction to professional nursing, advanced medical-surgical nursing, leadership and health promotion.

Our Financials

In an effort to remain as transparent as possible to our supporters, PDF financial statements for Water for Waslala are now available to download.

Our Sponsors

Their generosity and support has been critical to our achievements in Waslala thus far.

BNY Mellon is an investments company that helps individuals and institutions to move, manage, and safekeep assets around the world.

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck is a national law firm specializing in corporate services, gov't relations & policy, litigation, natural resources, and real estate.

Nestle Waters' commitment to water advocacy, environmental sustainability, and community partnerships has helped make it the industry's leading bottled water company.

SEER is a Philly-based internet marketing agency specializing in SEO, PPC, & Analytics with a strong focus on quality results and giving back to the community.

Contact Us

Contact us with any questions, suggestions, comments, or ideas:

Water for Waslala
c/o Justin Knabb
2000 Friedensburg Road
Reading, PA 19606

Matt Nespoli
Founder and President of WfW

Interested in receiving periodic updates on our progress and upcoming events? Sign up for our mailing list here.


Since its start in 2004, Water for Waslala has worked with the Waslalan people to construct eighteen water systems serving over 2,500 people throughout the region. With the help of Google Maps, we're now able to show the world our progress.

Select any system below to learn more about its key features, or read the stories of several beneficiaries impacted by our systems.


Who are the people that Water for Waslala is working to help? They are mothers, teachers, students, hard-working farmers -- and we had the opportunity to hear how their lives have changed by having direct access to contaminant-free water.

Read their stories.


Nelly Chavarria wakes at dawn ñ often earlier. For years, the first thing she did upon waking was to take a ten-minute walk to the nearby stream, either alone or accompanied by her daughters, to fill up three-gallon plastic buckets with water.

Usually, she went barefoot ñ sometimes she wore the thin plastic sandals that are ubiquitous on the feet of women and girls in her Nicaraguan village. Bucket by bucket, Nelly and her daughters gathered water from a stream that was contaminated with animal waste from the ganadero, or cow breeder, living upstream. Four or five times a day, they repeated this process to bring water back to their family.

As Nelly now reflects on this all-too-familiar journey, she looks at her callused feet, and motions toward her back and knees, illustrating the physical effects of such exertion.

ìMy daughters would complain about how heavy the buckets were,î she says. ìSometimes they would fall down and the water went everywhere.î They would just have to go back and refill what had spilled.

For those of us who live in developed cities, itís hard to fathom living without a grocery store within two minutes of our homes. What if you had to walk ten minutes to a different neighborhood just to replenish your water supply?

Water for Waslala came to Nellyís village of San Benito in late 2008 and built a gravity-fed system that safely transports clean water from a natural spring in the nearby mountains to the school and households. Nelly jumped at the chance to install a tapstand in her yard. All she had ever known was carrying water to her house from the stream ñ she never dreamed of accessing clean water in her backyard. With a tapstand, she would be able to cook and wash dishes without worrying about getting sick or running out of water.

Nelly is only 39 years old, but in listening to her life story, you would think she was much older. Having lived through the brutal civil war pitting Sandinistas against Contras in the 1980s, Nelly possesses the type of wisdom that comes from being thrown into adulthood at an early age. After her father was killed in the war when Nelly was 12, she started helping her mother by supporting her 13 siblings. She took on work as a domestica, or cook, in another household, married a man from San Benito at 16, and has rapidly grown up ever since.

Many families in San Benito are just like Nellyís, living their entire lives without knowing what itís like to turn on a water tap in their own household. Water is just another absent utility, like electricity, that the communities here have struggled without. Spending significant portions of their days just walking to get contaminated water, most Waslalans see the inconvenience of wasted time as a generally accepted way of life.

The mountainous terrain makes water access all the more difficult here. Unfortunately, building wells to access groundwater is not an option. Gravity-fed systems, like the WfW system, are the optimal solution, transporting clean water safely from its high-altitude source to the village. The systems require leadership, engineering expertise, and funding to build.

In communities like San Benito, residents are energized to build and maintain such a system, but lack the necessary leadership, expertise, and funding to get started. WfW steps in to help make their vision of potable water a reality.

People like Nelly no longer have to waste their time walking to get contaminated water. They ultimately live healthier, more prosperous, and more fruitful lives. Water does not only nourish; it jump starts an entire village.

From the first day Nelly turned on her new tapstand, her children jumped and danced in the spray of refreshing, life-giving water. Her health, productivity, and happiness with the system has only grown since installation. WfW hopes to make clean, convenient water more of a normal occurence for those in Waslala.

Nellyís days still begin early. With her daughters still in slumber, she greets the sun and looks forward to brighter days ahead for them. With less-callused feet, she now walks across her home for a pitcher of clean water and pours herself a glass. She feels refreshed. She feels thankful.

Thanks to WfW, Nelly and her family are well on their way to living more dignified lives of purpose.


Cristian Reyes is in the fifth grade. Watching her play the classic recess game "Cat and Mouse", itís easy to see that she is a confident leader ñ giving instructions to the rest of her classmates, leading them in a chant, and volunteering to be the first ìmouse.î During a break from the game, she and a few other children walk over to a nearby tapstand to take a drink of cool, clear water.

ìThe kids would be absent from class for a good while, before we had water,î says Cristianís teacher, JoaquÌn. ìSome of them would bring water from home, but if not, they would either have to stay thirsty all day or walk to the stream.î The stream he speaks of is about five minutes away ñ not, by any means, in the schoolís ìbackyard.î

In late 2008, WfW built a gravity-fed system in San Benito to bring clean water from a natural spring to both the school and Cristianís house. When asked what she thinks of the change, Cristian hesitates a little. ìThe water tastes a lot better now,î she says with a grin.

The kids at Cristianís school now have access to two tapstands at the school, so they no longer have to take ten minutes out to get a drink during the schoolday. Those like Cristian, who also have a tapstand at home, have more time to do their homework because household chores take less time. Water retrieval, which used to represent a big chunk of Cristianís household responsibilities, is no longer an effort with a tapstand in the backyard.

Cristian, like many children, used to make multiple journeys to an inconveniently-located stream throughout the course of a day. Once, in the morning, to bathe before school. Once or twice, during the school day, to drink water. Again after school to help their parents to bring water back to the house.

After dark, fetching water would become more difficult and dangerous, so children would wait until morning for fresh water. The time required to walk to the stream seemed too great to expend just for washing hands, so kids would often just use the latrine near the schoolhouse and not bother to walk all the way to the stream afterwards.

All of these inconveniences add up to wasted time, not to mention the health disadvantages that come from drinking contaminated water and not practicing correct hygiene. Time is important in these communities ñ because of the lack of electricity, once the sun goes down there is no opportunity to do homework or anything else, so families just go to bed.

Now, Cristian has more time to work on her homework, and she can do a lot of things at home that she wasnít able to before. ìThe river that we used before was dirty,î she said. ìItís better that the water is clean ñ now we can take baths and drink water, and also wash clothes, here at home.î

Her mother, Irma, speaks proudly of her daughterís drive as she watches Cristian studying at their home. ìSheís not like the other kids, no,î she says, smiling and shaking her head. ìShe does everything at school, all of the extracurriculars like dancing and sports too.î Itís easy to imagine Cristian as the typical overachiever in a middle school here in the U.S. ñ the captain of the sports team, going to after-school dance classes and getting straight Aís at the same time.

Irma thinks that Cristian has the ability to go far in life. As is typical of most parents in villages as remote as San Benito, Irma hesitates to voice any hopes that seem unrealistic. She does reveal, however, her dreams for Cristianís future education: ìSheíll be able to go to high school. Maybe, she will even go to college ñ get a degree in something.î

ìShe is very smart,î Irma adds with a smile.


Meet the people who have benefited from your donations and support. Witness how clean water has changed their lives.
Click the videos and photo slideshow links to see what we have accomplished in Waslala, and learn more about our ongoing work in the US and Nicaragua.



Support WfW by participating in or donating in support of our big annual fundraiser - the 5K (3.1 Mile) Walk for Water at Villanova University!

Help us change lives - raise $100 and you will allow us to bring clean water to a person's home for the rest of his/her life!

When: April 12, 2015
Where: Villanova University Main Campus
Registration (includes lunch): $20 for Students, $30 for Adults.
Register in advance for a 2015 Walk T-shirt!



A great way to support us is to ask your wedding guests to donate to Water for Waslala in lieu of a wedding registry. We've been fortunate to have many of our friends graciously support us in this way, and we hope others choose to do the same in the future!


Water for Waslala is conducted primarily by volunteers. Our Board of Directors, student volunteers, and Villanova faculty all volunteer to make WfW successful.

Join our team as a volunteer! We could currently use some help in the following areas:

Send us an email and let us know if youíre willing to help us in any of these areas, or if you have another idea for how you could help WfW. Build your resume and skill set while also supporting a great cause!


Waslala mayor and local government support to ensure sustainability
Posted on February 1, 2015 by Nora Pillard

Nora Pillard Reynolds, Vice President

I recently returned from a quick trip to Waslala. Although I always wish I had more time, we packed a lot into the three days! One of the most exciting developments is our collaboration with the Waslala mayor, Luis Hervin Ramírez Gutiérrez, and the local government.

Similar to some other WASH organizations (Water for People in particular), we believe that this coordination and financial contribution of the community and the local government is vital to ensure long-term sustainability of water systems.

Waslala mayor, Luis Hervin Ramirez Gutierrez, WfW VP, Nora Pillard Reynolds, and WfW Director, Junior Gasparini
Waslala mayor, Luis Hervin Ramirez Gutierrez, WfW VP, Nora Pillard Reynolds, and WfW Director, Junior Gasparini

WfW’s 10-year track record is starting to yield important partnerships and recognition!

Local government partnerships

Co-financing for WfW’s implementation costs: The mayor has committed to support 25% of the costs for the next project in a community names Hierba Buena! This commitment, which the mayor has publicly announced in Waslala, includes not only material costs, but also the associated costs related to monitoring and evaluation, technical staff time, etc.
Co-financing for WfW’s capacity-building costs: For example, in past years, WfW hosted a training workshop for all water committee presidents (which, of course, includes costs). This year, those costs will be covered by the municipal government and our team will work alongside Cesar Antonio Lopez Perez, the municipal technician for water and sanitation, to plan the training and lead certain workshops.
WfW gets “a seat at the table” for future government spending: For the first time, the municipality of Waslala has a development plan for 2014-2034 with the current plan of action for 2014-2016. The planning was shaped by 23 leaders in Waslala and Junior Gasparini, WfW’s Director, represented WfW as one of the leaders shaping plans for the municipality.

WfW VP, Nora Pillard Reynolds, Municipal government technical advisor for water and sanitation, Cesar Antonio Lopez Perez, and WfW Director, Junior Gasparini

National recognition for exemplary implementation: All of our water systems are now part of the evaluations conducted by the Nicaraguan Social Fund, FISE so this ensures external monitoring and evaluation according to national standards (in addition to our own assessments). After the evaluations were conducted of all water systems in Waslala (those constructed with WfW, other NGOs and government systems), the municipal government started using our system in Dipina as the model system in the whole municipality!

This last point is something WfW is extremely proud of, as we are starting to turn heads at the local and national level. It has been a long road supporting development in Waslala over the past 10 years, but we have learned quite a bit, and excited about our prospects for the future.

Of course, there are many additional details and benefits to the collaboration with the mayor and the local government, but we are excited to use this opportunity to catalyze what WfW, and your donations, can accomplish in Waslala.

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Partnerships for Success: Building capacity through stronger community ties
Posted on August 18, 2014 by Joshua Dulle

Over the past few months, Water for Waslala worked with the Alcaldia Municipal of Waslala and other NGOs working in Waslala in the development of the Plan de Desarollo Municipal de Waslala, a strategic plan for developing the municipality over the next 30 years. This interaction led to two exciting new partnerships for WfW.

Community education partnership with Fundación Madre Tierra Partner FUMAT

Fundación Madre Tierra (FUMAT) is a thirteen-year-old Waslalan NGO that maintains a campus in Waslala and provides high school education on the weekends to students who travel from the surrounding rural communities. They recently added a new component to their program, which builds local capacities in rural communities through education and training. They approached WfW with the idea of a partnership to visit and offer additional training to the communities that we are currently working with or have worked with in the past. Of course, WfW was happy to collaborate as WfW recognizes the benefits additional education will offer for the overall improvement of a community and for the sustainability of our water systems. Beginning in the next few months, FUMAT will hold trainings for the water committees, parent teacher associations, and primary school students in the Dipina area on topics from the proper functioning of a committee to environmental protection and management of the watershed

Technical support partnership with the Alcaldia Municipal de WaslalaPartner Alcaldia de WaslalaThe Alcaldia Municipal de Waslala, i.e. the local mayor’s office, has been collaborating with WfW for several years, sharing data – including the water committees we have trained in their workshops – and allowing Villanova University students to study urban water points. They recently asked for an even deeper partnership – building water systems side by side. The alcaldia has a modern digital instrument for surveying projects that allows for greater precision in measurements and simplifies data collection and storage. Our water system engineer will work alongside a technician from the alcaldia to gather data for new WfW projects with this tool and their technicians will help draft water system designs. The alcaldia recognizes the value of the relationship with WfW, sees the collaboration as a way to advance WASH goals in the region, and, as such, has pledged funds in their 2015 budget to make a “contraparte” – or supporting contribution – to support the construction of new WfW clean water systems.

Onward and upward with these new community partnerships! WfW is continually moving toward our goal to provide clean water to the 56,000 men, women, and children of Waslala.

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3 lessons learned from the Water for Waslala interchange with El Porvenir
Posted on July 28, 2014 by Joshua Dulle

For three days in May, the Water for Waslala team left Waslala and travelled to El Sauce, a town in the dry hot west of Nicaragua, to visit the clean water projects of a partner in ending the Nicaraguan water crisis, El Porvenir. El Porvenir is a long-term player in the Nicaraguan WASH field with over 20 years of experience implementing clean water projects, including wells, pump systems, and gravity-fed systems. Vice versa, for three days in June, four members of the El Porvenir team made the less than pleasant drive to Waslala where we took them on the exhilarating and muddy excursion to see our recently completed clean water project in the community of Dipina.


We were excited upon our arrival in El Sauce and by the warm greeting we received from the El Porvenir team. While initially struggling with the idea of leaving our ever-pressing work in Waslala, this excursion was a welcome change for the team. El Porvenir had planned a full tour that would allow us to see a large variety of their projects, and gain new insights into the implementation of WASH projects in Nicaragua. At the end of our three-day visit, and their subsequent visit to Waslala, we had learned a lot.

Three lessons learned from the Water for Waslala interchange with El Porvenir:

  1. As dire as the water situation is, Waslala is fortunate because, at the least, there is water.

The west of Nicaragua is dry, almost desert-like. During our visit, there were brush fires sweeping across the mountains and ash rained from the sky. Freshwater springs flowing from the mountains are few and far between, as are open streams with sufficient flow to support entire communities.

In El Sauce, the solution to the water problem is wells – hand dug wells 10 or more meters deep which support 4-5 homes, or, more difficult still, machine drilled wells that can reach 150 meters in depth or more.



While the grueling work of carrying dirty water from streams is a reality in the communities of Waslala, the hope is in the availability of sufficient and clean water. Gravity-fed water systems are a simple and viable solution. With the technical expertise of WfW, the hard work of the community, and a little funding, communities can resolve their dire water situations.



  1. “When an idea is good, it is good.”

El Porvenir constructs hand washing stations and latrines at schools in their beneficiary communities. The hand washing station is a simple design with far reaching implications. It allows for the daily practice of hand washing, reinforcing hygiene education and helping children build a lifelong habit of good hygiene.


Our team recognized a good idea when we saw it. Hand washing stations at schools are an idea worth adopting and, starting with Dipina, WfW will construct a hand washing station at the schools in our communities.

  1. Water for Waslala is on track and coming to maturity as a water organization in Nicaragua.

Using the work of an old player in the water field as benchmark, we were encouraged to find that WfW is on a pathway to success. Our clean water system designs incorporate innovative water storage tanks, engineering redundancy, shut off valves, cleaning valves, and sturdy household tap stands.


WfW works with the community to form, train, and legalize a community water committee (CAPS) to oversee and sustainably maintain the water system. This is a practice El Porvenir recognizes as vital for continued system functionality over the system lifetime.

El Porvenir is leader in community education on hygiene and sanitation practices, environmental protection, reforestation, and watershed management, themes WfW has integrated into a new education model emerging in collaboration with Fundación Madre Tierra, another Waslalan NGO.

The team ended our interchange with a feeling of reassurance knowing that our projects are well constructed and that our hard work is paying off in projects of which we can be proud.

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From Foreigner to Friend: A Summer in Waslala
Posted on June 25, 2014 by Joshua Dulle

As I turned down the main street onto dusty dirt road, I was filled with nervous energy and pure excitement. I was about to leave my secluded oasis of a rented room at the Agriculture Institute and move into a house with a local family, which I had only met briefly once before. Are they going to understand my garbled Spanish? What are they going to think of the foreigner that is going to be living with them the next two months? Will they be accepting of my culture?

When I walked up the path to the house I was greeted by the seemingly vicious barks of the two resident watchdogs. I later learned that their names were Chocolate and Didi and their barks were much worse than their bites. After I got passed the watchdogs, I was greeted by one of the warmest smiles I have ever encountered, that of a woman named Jacinta. She instantly ran to me and gave me an enormous hug that far exceeded her small stature. She ushered me to sit and instantly began giving me coffee and other treats and would not take no for an answer. We began talking and, much to my surprise, she was extremely patient with my weak Spanish. As it turned out, I was not the first foreigner that had lived in the house so Jacinta was proficient in playing a game of charades to get her point across when I did not understand her.

When Jacinta returned to the cocina to get more coffee, I took in my surroundings. What I saw was a chaotic mix of chickens, parrots, dogs and tropical trees. Instead of feeling put off by all that was happening around me, I was overcome with a sense of ease. This was my home for the next two months and I could not have been more excited.

Water for Waslala
A chaotic mix of chickens and tropical trees.

A while later, Jacinta’s thirteen year old granddaughter, Alexandra, came bounding up the pathway on her way home from school and instantly asked me if I wanted to play volleyball with her as if I was an old friend. I soon learned that there were two other people living there as well, Nelson and Besmar. Nelson, an engineer from another region of Nicaragua, is working on a new municipal water tank in Waslala and Besmar, from a distant community in the municipality of Waslala, moved to the city to work with the Alcaldia, the local Mayor’s office.

Water for Waslala
Jacinta and her granddaughter, Alexandra.

Later, as I was unpacking, I heard a raucous laughing and talking coming from the porch. I made my way outside and discovered Alex, Jacinta, Besmar and Nelson recounting the happenings of their days. At first, I was reluctant to join the conversation because I was not fluent in Spanish and afraid that I would not be able to contribute to the conversation. However, they were extremely patient and encouraged me to use my Spanish. This nightly exchange became a ritual for us. After dinner we would all sit outside and talk about our day. Most nights it turned into a Spanish lesson for me and, in return, I taught them phrases in English. As weeks passed, these conversations became something that I looked forward to each day.

Water for Waslala
Chloe and Alexandra, already old friends!

The way I was welcomed into Jacinta’s home is the same manner in which I am welcomed into the whole town of Waslala. I have not met one person not instantly greet me as an old friend as opposed to a foreigner in their world. The first question of every person I meet is “What do I think of both the people and city of Waslala?” They genuinely want me to share the same love and admiration for their country as they have always had. Everyone is willing to help me learn my way around and is extremely patient with my feeble, yet improving, Spanish. The more time I spend in Waslala, the more I feel like a legitimate part of this tight knit community and not just a visitor.

04Chloe is a Civil Engineering Student at Villanova University who is interning with Water for Waslala for the summer, will return in October with the Villanova Engineering Service Trip, and who hopes to return to Waslala for a year of service after completing her degree.

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Everybody Loves A Happy Ending: Villanova University Students Attend the Inauguration of the Newest Water for Waslala Clean Water Project
Posted on April 8, 2014 by Joshua Dulle

Dipina_Inauguration_IMG_1872Excitement hung in the air as they mounted their horses and tightened their packs before setting off for the hike. Having heard stories about the struggle and sweat that occurred on the muddy hike to Dipina, many of the Villanova University students viewed the trail to Dipina with anticipation. Luckily for them, March is the height of the dry season and hiking is less treacherous. The atmosphere was lively as 40 students and staff mingled with the community members who had come to meet us, lend us their horses, and lend a hand to help us arrive at the inauguration of their newly completed clean water system.

The convoy arriving at it’s destination – the water storage tank in the community of Dipina.

Yes. You read that correctly. The clean water system in the community of Dipina is complete and fully functioning! 330 beneficiaries in 55 households now have access to clean, safe drinking water in their own homes. No longer will they be making multiple trips to rivers hauling heavy buckets or rationing drinking water because the trip is too far. Nor will these individuals be forced to bathe or wash their clothes in rivers. Now mothers will not have to knowingly give their babies contaminated water for lack of another source. With the completion of this clean water project, life will be much better for community members in Dipina and Water for Waslala is one step closer to their goal of ending the water crisis in Waslala, Nicaragua by the year 2030.

Community members excitedly waiting for the students to arrive in Dipina.

The clean water system in Dipina is the largest water system constructed by WfW to date, covering 3 separate sectors and providing water to 55 homes, four schools, and one church. It is the third complete full-coverage water system – a tap stand at each home in the community – constructed in the last two years. This water project is unique in that it is the first system to utilize water meters in order to measure water consumption, which will promote water conservation and fair use. The completion of this project marks successful progress in the upward trajectory WfW is pursuing.

Community celebrations are colorful and joyous events.

The community deserves as much credit for the success of this project as does the WfW team. In the end, each beneficiary contributed at least 80 full days of labor – over 4,400 total work days. Community members purchased the land containing the natural spring, donated their horses and mules to haul materials, donated wood, sand, and rock, and fed the WfW Construction Manager who lived in the community. While WfW provided $55,000 in materials and labor, the community contributed $35,000 in labor and materials. So, now that the community had reached project completion, there was definitely reason to celebrate.

The community slaughtered a cow and cooked plenty of delicious food.

Community celebrations are colorful and joyous events with loud music, traditional dances, heartfelt words, and plenty of delicious food. In true celebratory fashion, the community slaughtered a cow and cooked the Latin American classic beef soup, grilled meat, and beef pot roast. The community specifically coordinated everything so the Villanova students, who they recognize play an important part fund raising and supporting WfW from the States, would be in their community to participate. To them it was an honor to host passionate volunteers dedicated to making a difference in Nicaragua. Though to us, it was humbling to be included in such a monumental celebration.

Enjoying homemade Nicaraguan enchiladas. Yum!

The celebration started at our arrival at Dipina’s newly constructed water storage tank, where we met with more members of the community. After learning a bit about the technical details of providing water to 55 households, we proceeded to the community school, which was decorated with blue and white balloons and colorful fabrics to provide shade from the hot midday sun. We enjoyed the delicious foods that were prepared and each student ate like it was Thanksgiving dinner. Afterwards the real fun began. First, the cutting of the ribbon and symbolic opening of the faucet representing the clean fresh water that now flows through the community of Dipina. Then the community spoke passionately about their new system – recounting the story of events leading up to WfW agreeing to help them build a clean water system, their joy in having clean fresh water, and their gratitude for everyone in the US who made the project possible. Finally came the dancing. Students from Dipina performed traditional Nicaraguan dances, and Villanova students performed “traditional US dances” when they plugged in an iPhone and danced the Cupid Shuffle in the community of Dipina.

Soon the ribbon will be cut and the faucet will be opened to symbolize the clean fresh water that now flows through the community of Dipina.

A celebration is not a celebration without some dancing.

The day was definitely a day to be remembered, and for community members in Dipina, it will be a day they never forget. The day that, for the first time in the history of their community, the men, women and children of Dipina had access to an abundance of clean fresh water.


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Celebrate World Water Day and help WfW raise $30,000 for the 10th Annual Walk for Water
Posted on March 22, 2014 by Nora Pillard

World Water DayToday, March 22nd is World Water Day! Each year on this day, the UN encourages everyone to take a moment to reflect on the importance of water in your everyday life and the management of our world’s water resources. In the U.S. it’s easy to take water for granted, yet nearly 800 million people worldwide live without access to clean water. Water for Waslala also asks you to take a moment to think of thousands in Waslala, Nicaragua who are living without access to clean water.

For World Water Day last year, we shared the top 10 ways you can celebrate World Water Day. While we think all of those ideas are still great ways to reflect and contribute, this year, we thought we’d keep it simple and ask your support for our upcoming Walk for Water on April 27th. Last year we had close to 300 walkers and raised $23,000. Help us meet our fundraising goal of $30,000 for the 10th annual event.

There are several ways you can support the walk, either in person or virtually:

Register today to attend the walk. The 5K Walk for Water is at 12 pm on Sunday, April 27th at Villanova University.Walk_2014_FB_ProfilePhoto
Create a team fundraising page and upload WfW photos to your page. You’ll get a custom page at that you can send to friends and family so they can donate to your team’s fundraising goals online.
Unable to attend the day of the event? Sponsor a walker or ask your company to sponsor the walk.
Promote the Walk and share this post or videos from our website with friends and family via twitter, Facebook, etc. or change your cover and profile photo to promote walk to your friends!
Pass out or post Walk for Water flyers in your business, church or neighborhood
To learn more about the walk visit the Walk for Water web site:
Walk Details

Register online individually or as a team.
All participants will receive lunch and registrations before the day of the event will receive a race T-shirt.
Every $100 raised will supply one Waslalan with piped clean water for a lifetime!
The Walk for Water Leadership Team comprises several students from Villanova and several alumni who have worked with WfW in the past. To learn more about these incredible individuals visit:
Let’s reflect and focus on water TODAY… and consider helping us help others to have the gift of water EVERY DAY.

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Notes from the Field: With Great Effort Comes Great Reward
Posted on March 12, 2014 by Nora Pillard

Posted on behalf of Hannah Anousheh, Carleton College student who volunteered during her winter break and plans to return to Waslala this summer to continue her work.

I met Don Armando at Dipina Central, a dusty and quiet town center with a little store and a few houses. It was where the bus dropped us when the road petered out. He came out of the distance on horseback, it was like a scene in a Western, the sheriff emerging from the dust, pistol in hand.

Don Armando starting his morning milking routine
Don Armando starting his morning milking routine

He accompanied Junior Gasparini, Taleno, Josh, and I on his horse as we began the treacherous walk to the schoolhouse. It had just rained and the ground was laden with slick mud. It was incredibly slippery. I could hardly keep my balance and every few feet my rain boots got stuck in the mud, requiring Junior or Taleno to help me pull my leg out. Watching me slip so many times, Don Armando asked me if I wanted to ride on his horse and I gladly accepted. He laughed when I told him I had never ridden a horse before; children in the communities of Waslala learn to ride a horse before they even enter the first grade. Unlike me, they can also walk nimbly through the mud, terrain they know well. Atop his horse, his mula, and once I was finally able to catch my breath, we chatted.

Don Armando made milking look much easier than it really was
Don Armando made milking look much easier than it really was

Don Armando is a ganador, meaning that he raises cows for milk, which he then sends to the quesera, the cheese factory. It is the most lucrative business in the communities of Waslala because cheese is a staple in the local diet – a complement to beans and corn – and supplements the income earned from growing these crops, which almost every family in the community raises.

Walter, the local boy who runs the cheese factory, waits on the last farmers to bring their milk so he can begin making the daily blocks of cheese.

He explained that his community, Dipina, solicited a clean water system from Water for Waslala almost six months ago. Now, potable water flows into tap stands outside each house in Dipina. Every man in the community who wanted a tapstand for his house was expected to provide the manpower for the project. Once the team was established, subgroups were formed based on location and one man from each group kept track of the hours they worked and served as a representative on the project board. Don Armando, a tall and sinewy man of twenty-eight, smiled abashedly as he told me that he was chosen as leader of his subgroup because he was the youngest and strongest in his group.

To build this water system, these farmers took two days away from their farms per week for seven months. When I asked Don Armando to explain why he did it, he said firmly, “Teníamos la necesidad!” We needed it!

While the staff of Water for Waslala brought pipes and other important equipment to Dipina for the construction of the water system, the team of workers was responsible for bringing it to the construction site, as they were the only ones equipped with mules to complete the journey. It is their project, and while Water for Waslala supplied equipment, technical and organizational expertise and some financing, they provided all of the manpower and money for additional equipment. Their motivation determines the speed with which the project is completed.

The horses tied to the trees and fence, while their owners attended the community meeting.

I experienced this type of collaboration first hand at the asamblea, a meeting at the schoolhouse, to plan for the culmination of Dipina’s water project. When we arrived almost everyone from the community of Dipina was there. The men were tying up their horses and the women were setting up a make-shift store with bright pink sugary rice drinks, baskets of sweet corn bread, crackers and pastel colored taffy. A little while later, the schoolhouse was packed to the brim, and the asamblea was underway. Big men with spurred boots, splattered with mud from the day’s work, squeezed into little desks, crunched numbers and scribbled furiously. They had to calculate how many hours they had worked and plan future work hours. There were some disagreements, which resulted in raised voices, but they were in jovial spirits for most of the meeting, proud that their water system was almost finished.

Big men with spurred boots squeezed into little desks listen attentively during the asamblea.
Big men with spurred boots squeezed into little desks listen attentively during the asamblea.

I traveled to Waslala over my winter break from college because I recognized that water is a basic human need. I understood that the government, especially in developing countries, does not always provide water infrastructure and I wanted to volunteer with an organization like Water for Waslala, with the mission of bringing clean water to these communities. This clean water project is committed to ending the water crisis in Waslala, Nicaragua by the year 2030.

Crunching numbers and scribbling furiously in order to calculate the hours each person had worked

Even with this understanding, the need for water is an abstract concept, especially when a hot shower is two steps away and water is considered a boring option compared to other trendy hydration drinks, as it is for me at home in the U.S.

I encountered Don Armando’s conviction that the energy, time, and money they put into this clean water project was worth it across the whole community of Dipina. They banded together and mobilized themselves due to the urgency of their need for a clean, consistent water supply. Their mobilization is an exciting phenomenon because not only are the communities of Waslala far from one another, but the houses in each community are also very far apart–it can take up to an hour on foot to get from one house to another.

Riding on the roof of the truck in route to Dipina.

In the past people collaborated rarely – only when they needed to for business or church; there were no other civic institutions that brought people together. The clean water projects and filtration systems being implemented by Water for Waslala in Dipina and many other communities bring bright signs for the future. Many of these communities have now had experience organizing themselves and other development projects no longer seem so unrealistic.


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Notes From The Field: Elation And All That Comes With The Adventure To The Top
Posted on January 28, 2014 by Joshua Dulle

Clean Water for Waslala_Dipina_Journey_001
Taking in the view from the top of the water storage tank – one of the highest elevations in the community of Dipina.

Elation. It is almost impossible to express the feeling of clinging to the back of a dirt bike careening down steep rocky roads that sharply wind through the highest and most expansive mountains, taking in seemingly endless green vistas, crowned in clouds and morning fog, while the sun rises above the peaks and slowly wicks away the moisture. If there were a word to capture this exact feeling and moment, elation could be it. The word comes close to capturing the joyful and expansive soaring of my heart, the wide-eyed wonder, and the adrenaline-cushioned fear, concealed behind my contented grin. Many people reading this will never have the opportunity to see these views or experience this trek, especially not as their morning drive to work. It is a Tuesday morning and I am en route on my first ever community visit in Waslala to see our project progress in the community of Dipina, located deep in the heart of Nicaragua.

Off road racers, mountain bikers, climbers, serious hikers, campers and mountain dwellers can probably wrap their minds around this scene; filled with a mix of intense hiking and effort just to reach the small community of Dipina. I was entirely unprepared. My expectations, formed from previous experiences in which I arrived in a community in the comfort of a 4-wheel drive Land Cruiser, parked, went about my day’s work, and was back in the office by 5pm, completely missed the mark in this case. Until the evening before we left, no one had mentioned to me that we would be riding motorcycles to community, wearing rubber boots with all of our gear to spend a night crammed inside a middle school knapsack. There was absolutely no mention that we would have to ford four rivers, rivers which were easily knee high, pushing our motorcycles. Nor did they mention that this endeavor was only half of the trip and that, after an hour and a half of riding, we would park the motorcycles in someone’s house and hike for another hour and a half along a narrow trail into the mountains – a trail often slippery, pocketed with quick-sand like mud, and at times quite steep as it ascended in elevation until arriving in the community of Dipina.

Clean Water for Waslala_Dipina_Journey_002
Junior and Taleno work together to push one of our motorcycles through the river en route to Dipina.

I kept my pace and tried my best to keep from falling by staring at the ground and placing my boot in the muddy imprint exactly where Junior had placed his boot seconds before. I could feel blisters forming on my feet and my legs quickly turned into stinging rubber weights that grew heavier to lift with each step. The heat and the sun were unrelenting. I almost fainted, and did not have the words in Spanish to explain that everything started spinning each time we stopped to rest, so could we please just keep walking. Junior, realizing how I felt and understanding my soon-to-be defeat, trekked into a nearby cornfield and returned with an ear of corn which he insisted I eat in order to raise my blood sugar.

By the time we reached Omar’s house, the house of our host where we would be eating and sleeping that night, I was unable to do anything more than sit down on a bench and stare. I can only imagine how I looked to everyone else. My shirt was dripping with sweat as if I had dived into one of those rivers fully clothed, which, when considering it, I felt I nearly had done. I had no energy to remove my boots or my waterlogged socks. After what felt like forever, I managed to pull off one boot. Junior pulled off the other and I placed my socks and shirt in the sun to dry.

I felt beyond tired, uncomfortably filthy, run-down and worn-out. What I really wanted was a steaming hot shower and my bed with fabric softener-fresh sheets. I had not physically pushed my body or my mind to that extent since my first time doing P90X Plyometrics or hiking a volcano in Guatemala six and a half years prior. Junior and Taleno just laughed at me. This grueling trek was only the beginning of our hike. Now that we had arrived in Dipina, we had to hike much higher – to an elevation higher than any water point in the community – to view one of the two water storage tanks that would be supplying water to the community. With legs aching, I managed to pull my socks and boots back on and we set off again.

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The view looking up at one of the two water storage tanks that will supply water to the community of Dipina.

When accepting this position, I theoretically knew the need for the work WfW does – because in these parts of the world clean water organizations can change the lives of an entire community or region. I studied the world water crisis and had seen gravity fed water projects in rural Honduras. Still, with this first experience in Dipina, the reality of the need became very real to me. Here was a community more than removed from the main stream of society – no electricity, no cell phones, and until this point in time no running water. All of the community resources had to be carried or hauled by mule for over 90 minutes into the interior of rural Nicaragua. Locations this removed from society almost do not exist in the US. Even in the forests of rural Pennsylvania or the vast plains of the American Southwest, more often than not there is a cell phone tower blinking in the distance. Here there was no restaurant serving pancakes, nor any gas stations within walking distance. If anything was rural, this was it.

All of that hiking, sweat, and pain became so worth the effort once we reached our next stop – the school in Dipina. It just so happened that on this day the trench digging and pipe laying had reached the school. The school children were outside watching the construction efforts and several boys grabbed pickaxes and shovels to help dig the last bits of trench. I stood witness as Taleno and Junior helped the community members cut and glue the final pipes and attach a faucet to the tap stand providing clean fresh water to schoolchildren just outside of their school for the first time ever in the history of Dipina.

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Students grab pickaxes and shovels to help dig the last bits of trench.

We continued onward and upwards to the water storage tank. I arrived at the tank drained, almost less than human. I could not raise my legs or keep my balance to cross the barbed wire fence enclosing the tank. My clean water had run out. We filled my bottle from the pipe at the tank and passed it around, each person drinking almost the entire 800mL themselves. After our tank inspection, we returned to Omar’s house. I am unsure of how I made the descent and barely remember walking back. I do remember how badly I wished for a shower – a truly first world problem in a community that had never had running water. Yet in the end, the day ended beautifully, with a swim and bath in a cool clear stream, hot fresh corn tortillas, a majestic thunderstorm filling the night sky with streaks of lightening, and me passed out cozy and warm in my hammock.

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Sunset in the community of Dipina.

Since my first visit to Dipina I have returned several times as progress on the project nears an end. I have hiked the same route and several different, equally treacherous routes. I have slid down muddy hills so steep that descending on my backside was easier than trying to climb. I have ridden horseback to the second water storage tank, located even higher in the mountains. I rode on the roof of the worn out truck, which I lovingly nicknamed Marcy, that serves as public transportation from Waslala to the town where the trail and the journey to Dipina begins. Once I arrive, I watch students line up to drink clean fresh water from their new tap stand. I observe how much easier life is for families with a tap stand at their home. People constantly express their gratitude for the support of Water for Waslala and the funding that made their clean water project possible. The trip that was initially the death of me has become an amazing adventure and a source of great joy.

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Riding horseback to the second water storage tank located even higher in the mountains.

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The vista from the second water storage tank. In the distance, the roofs of the homes of project beneficiaries are visible.

I love words, conveying ideas, expressing emotions, providing a snap shot into an experience, yet I have done and seen so much in such a short time, I struggle to find the words to explain or express all of it. If you really want to know Waslala and the elation of working here, you will have to visit us and experience it for yourself.

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Marcy about to load up for her 3-hour journey to Waslala. To the right is the beginning of one of the muddy trails into the community of Dipina.

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Part-Time Field Worker to Assist Performance Monitoring Research
Posted on December 12, 2013 by Nora Pillard

By Daniel Cain, Graduate Student in Sustainable Engineering at Villanova University

Graduate research on the functionality and sustainability of rural water systems will now be supported by a part-time field worker from Waslala. The water system research is performed in Nicaragua and Panama and managed by Daniel Cain, a second year graduate student in Sustainable Engineering at Villanova University. During the last week in November, Dan traveled from Panama to Waslala, Nicaragua to meet with the Water for Waslala team and facilitate the training of the part-time field worker, Carlos Ordoñes. Carlos is currently a university student in Waslala and will work on collecting water samples and performing water quality analysis. During the last week of November, Dan and Carlos spent three days traveling to three of Water for Waslala’s water systems in Santa Maria Kubalí, Yaro Central, and El Guabo Jicaral. On the community visits, Dan and Carlos hiked to the community water intakes, tanks, and tapstands to collect water samples. After the sampling, the water was tested for chemical and bacteriological analysis. For the next five months, Carlos will provide water quality follow-up for a week each month, and in February, he will assist Dan in the data collection of a water committee diagnostic to further the system performance research. Carlos’s field work experience in the rural communities of Waslala will prove to be critically valuable to the rural water system performance research which aims to improve the effectiveness of the water system design and construction.

Carlos and Dan during the November visit
Carlos and Dan during the November visit

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Villanova Engineering Service Trip 2013. From the Field.
Posted on November 20, 2013 by Nora Pillard

VillanovaEngineeringServiceTrip_WaterforWaslala_1 (920x690)Posting on behalf of Josh Dulle, Program Development and Strategic Communication Manager

Three weeks have passed since Allie, Carmine, Donovan, Dylan, Gene, Lauren, and Ryan, the 7 Villanova University College of Engineering student volunteers who visited Waslala over their fall break, departed Nicaragua and they are surely missed. When I took a tumble in the mud on the return hike from Dipina last week, Junior shouted out “chanchito,” piglet in English, in commemoration of Ryan’s nickname and the many times he slid through the mud on our hikes to and from communities throughout the students’ week working alongside the Water for Waslala team.

Water for Waslala has a long-standing relationship with Villanova University, especially with the College of Engineering. In its first years as an organization, before there was a fully staffed Water for Waslala office or an in-house Water System Engineer based in Nicaragua, Water for Waslala collaborated with the Villanova College of Engineering to create all of its water system designs. During the Villanova Engineering Service Trip of the spring semester, students visited potential water sources, conducted flow rate tests, collected topographies, and gathered all of the data necessary to design a system. Back in Philadelphia, Villanova engineering professors and students designed the water system and sent the final plans to Junior Gasparini, now the WfW Program Director, and Denis Taleno, our full-time Technician. Using the funds provided by Water for Waslala, Junior would purchase the concrete, PVC pipes, and all of the other supplies needed to construct the entire water system. Taleno would work in the field to construct the spring enclosure, stream crossings, water storage tank, and other infrastructure called for in the system design. Then, during the fall service trip, Villanova engineering students would assess the functioning of the new system, make minor adjustments to the system design if needed, and begin legwork for the next system.

Eight years since its start, Water for Waslala’s relationship with the Villanova College of Engineering is as strong as ever. This year the fall Villanova Engineering Service Trip focused on measuring both the quantity and quality of water that the most recently completed WfW projects provide with the goal of ensuring that community members will have consistent access to clean water. Working with Taleno and Iain, students installed digital pressure sensors in the water storage tanks in the communities of Dipina, Santa Maria Kubalí, and Yaro. These digital pressure gauges collect real time data on the water level within the storage tanks and save this data on USBs with sufficient memory to store a year’s data. Once analyzed, this data will provide information about daily water usage, peak usage, and tank refill times, allowing students to know the quantity of water available to community members in both the rainy season and dry season. To supplement this data, students installed digital rain gauges to measure seasonal rainfall, which will help determine the quantity of water that is available throughout the year.

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Engineering students installing pressure and rain gauges in Santa Maria Kubali.

Engineering students installing pressure and rain gauges in Yaro with WfW's Director, Junior Gasparini (camouflage jacket).
Engineering students installing pressure and rain gauges in Yaro with WfW’s Director, Junior Gasparini (camouflage jacket).

A constant consideration in the construction of Water for Waslala’s clean water projects is whether to implement a chlorination method to purify water. Enclosing clean water sources has been shown to protect water from contamination and reduce incidences of waterborne illness; still, in some cases, such as the upcoming clean water project in Ocote Kubalí, water sources are open streams or contain a high content of sediment. Students conducted chlorination tests on water collected directly from the stream in Ocote Kubalí. These findings determined the amount of chlorination needed to ensure the provision of a sufficient quality of water and helped to approximate the costs of chlorinating water at the community level. Students also collected water samples in each community they visited and tested these samples for E. coli, Enteroceaebacteri, and coliforms, while utilizing their newly acquired Spanish skills to train the in-country WfW staff the proper techniques to conduct these tests in the future.

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Engineering students collecting water samples for water quality testing in Arenas Blancas.

Water for Waslala is fortunate to have a relationship with the engineering students who dedicate themselves to making a difference in Waslala and the benefit of the industry knowledge, field experience, and technological resources of the Villanova University College of Engineering. Through this relationship, WfW will continue to utilize progressive techniques to adapt to the context and technical needs of varying communities as projects grow to provide full coverage service in order to provide clean water to Waslala.