At Your Service

January 25, 2011

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When you wash your clothes, do you ever wonder how you’d clean them without a washing machine? People in developing countries don’t, well, because they can’t. Washing clothes anywhere other than scrubbing on a riverside rock is a completely foreign concept. So is taking a private shower.

But thanks to a group of service-minded students like senior engineering major Justin Boucher, the people of El Incendio (in the San Lorenzo province of Nicaragua) now have a washing station, replete with two private showers and a pair of clothes-washing basins.

Last spring, Boucher and a group of his classmates spent spring break working with a Spanish non-profit to help improve water quality for El Incendio residents. Traveling on behalf of CSLEPS – NC State’s Center for Student Leadership and Ethics and Public Service – the students chose to spend their academic breaks immersed in the culture and customs of the South American country while completing acts of service for the local community.

With Alternative Spring Break locations as diverse and in-need as Alaska, Italy and Louisiana, Boucher chose Nicaragua because the service project focused on water quality in a setting with no existing infrastructure.

“As an environmental engineering major, I wanted to see what kind of sustainable projects I could get involved with abroad,” the Saxapahaw, NC, native said. “There really was no other way I could gain an understanding of what that meant other than going there and getting hands-on experience, even if just for a week.”

The team spent long hours in the hot sun working only with their hands.

“Everything we did was done by hand,” Boucher said. “There were no trucks and no machinery.

“It was an eye opener to see how much work you must do to get things done.”

The experience did not deter Boucher from his career goals. After graduation he plans to continue helping those in developing countries benefit from improved systems.

“To see what the rest of the world goes through and to see how I can become a part of making a difference is a big part of where I want to go with my career in the future,” he said.

But first, Boucher will return to Nicaragua in March for his senior year spring break – this time as a team lead.