Since 2000, engineering students have worked on various projects at Amigos de Jesus, a Catholic orphanage in Poses Verdes, Honduras. The project took root within the Civil Engineering Capstone course after Drs. David Dinehart and Shawn Gross traveled there with a team of students to design and build a 30 foot cross on the top of a hill that can be seen for miles away. Since then, Villanova students and faculty have constructed a volunteer center, school buildings, dormitories and other educational facilities that benefit not only the children at the orphanage, but also those from the community who would otherwise have no access to a bilingual education. Drs. Bridget Wadzuk and Andrea Welker also included projects in the Civil Engineering service learning course to assist with the design and installation of a water pumping, treatment, and distribution system at the orphanage. Currently, students are working on the design of a two story church for the site.
The Civil Engineering faculty are most proud of the fact that the course, trip and relationship with Amigos de Jesus have fostered a learning environment where students are able to simultaneously apply their technical skills, directly serve others in need and continue their own personal development and growth as members of a global community. The outcomes of the course and trip are perhaps best summarized by Michael Raulli ’00 CE, who was involved in the design and construction of the cross during the first year:
"From an engineering standpoint, it was extremely valuable. Normally, you work on engineering-related projects and that's where it stops. You never get to see things take physical shape. The construction helped us better understand what we were doing and made us realize what kind of considerations you might never have thought of if you did only the design work. The personal side of the experience was by far the most valuable part of the trip. The work we were doing was something that had value in the real world. Traveling to a country far different from our own, and working with people so different from others whom we deal with every day, was a unique experience."