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Village Empowerment: International Service Learning

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Technical Capacity Bldg for Developing Countries & Service Learning

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1385.1 - 13.1385.16



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Paper Authors


John Duffy University of Massachusetts Lowell

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Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty Coordinator of the SLICE program, Coordinator of the Graduate Program in Solar Energy Engineering, and Director of the Center for Sustainable Energy.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Village Empowerment: International Service-Learning


Since 1998, as part of the Village Empowerment Program, a total of 110 students/volunteers from University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) and several other universities in engineering and other fields have traveled twice a year to the same network of villages in Peru. UML students in service-learning projects in more than 20 different courses have designed and helped install over 80 systems, most running on renewable energy, in 43 villages and towns in the Andes Mountains of Peru for medical clinics, schools, and town halls. The villages in general have no grid electricity, one pay telephone (or none) per village, no space heating, houses made of adobe, and elevations up to 3600 m (11,500 ft.). The indigenous Quechua, or Inca, people in the villages survive on subsistence agriculture. The systems utilize solar energy to power transceiver radios, lights, computers, vaccine refrigerators, and other medical equipment in clinics as well as laptop computers and lights in schools. Water supply and purification systems for whole towns have been added as well as microhydro and biogas. To help make all these systems sustainable, we return every six months to the same two networks of villages. We are also helping to start microenterprises of aquaculture, of manufacturing and renting solar lanterns and LED headlamps, of biodigesters, and of developing and manufacturing solar water purification bottles coated with a photocatalyst with a dye indicator. The program has transformed the lives not only of many of the villagers but also of the students and volunteers. Some of the students have changed their life-long professional goals as a result. Many medical personnel have told us repeatedly that our radios have saved many lives.

There is a danger in the apparent popularity in students participating in service projects in developing countries involving “one-shot” designs and installations in which there is no sustained involvement for training, maintenance, and replacement. The importance of continual training of local personnel, of periodic maintenance and adjustment, of learning and redesigning from operating experience cannot be overemphasized.

Duffy, J. (2008, June), Village Empowerment: International Service Learning Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3712

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