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Water, Water, Everywhere…Making it Fit to Drink: Duquesne Student Volunteers Make a Difference

Seventeen Duquesne University students, surrounded by the flow of Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers, have had water on their minds.

Actually, it’s a lack of clean drinking water that took over their thoughts—and carried them to the mountains of Honduras’ Copan region in March. They brought with them a willingness to work, a fund-raising effort that helped to provide for a new filtration system—and a good understanding of water, thanks to a new course developed at the University.

The students are volunteers with Pure Thirst, a student-run organization that focuses on issues of water. Working with Spiritan Campus Ministry, the students approached Dr. Stan Kabala, associate director of Duquesne’s Center for Environmental Research and Education, to expand his online course, Water, Environment and Development, to a face-to-face class examining economic, environmental, sociocultural implications.

“The course opens your eyes to the water crisis and how much more complex it is than there just not being enough water,” said Lauren Drumm of Woodbridge, N.J., an environmental science major and volunteer who made the Honduras trip.

Pure Thirst began in 2010 through the efforts of Matthew Burnett, a Duquesne student from DuBois and the organization’s founder. Burnett was inspired by Dr. Jeffrey Rice, an oral maxillofacial surgeon whose foundation conducts healthcare and other mission trips to Honduras. During one trip, the foundation built a water filtration system; Burnett realized that he wanted to help, and Pure Thirst was born.

“We have the technology to help,” said Burnett, a supply chain management major. “It’s just that people have to take the initiative and make it happen.”

With some serious recruits among Burnett’s Duquesne classmates, Pure Thirst planned this Honduras trip to help build a new filtration system and pipeline in a Copan village.

This time, they were armed with more knowledge about the global factors that impact the quality and quantity of clean water in developing nations. Initially, Kabala thought of the class as linking ecological and health considerations with economic and social realities in developing countries, allowing low-cost solutions to be easily maintained. “I soon realized that the linkages were much broader,” he said, “connecting science, ethics and service in a manner that enabled students to concretely improve the lives of the people they met and worked with in Honduras.”

For more information on Pure Thirst and the Honduras trip, visit www.purethirst.org.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.