Joint Projects

Students in MG

Villanova University Partnering with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to Improve Access to Clean Water and Sanitation in Madagascar

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University began a partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in 2005 and, since that time, has worked collaboratively to advance global solidarity through education, research, advocacy and service. Villanova recently expanded upon its work with CRS and is currently working with the organization in Madagascar to improve conditions with respect to water, sanitation, and hygiene.

“Our participation in projects such as the Madagascar project enables us to develop a model of research and direct action whereby our students and faculty can work with communities to determine ways we can match skills and resources with the needs of people in local villages,” said Barbara Wall, Vice President for Mission and Ministry. “This way we may all be part of working for authentic human development and the furthering of the common good.”

CRS came to Madagascar in 1962 to provide humanitarian aid in regions with high levels of poverty and malnutrition. For more than 50 years, CRS has carried out food and nutrition programs for underprivileged mothers, children, the disabled and victims of natural disasters. CRS serves as one of the country’s largest INGOs. In October 2014, CRS Madagascar (CRS-MG) was awarded a $38 million, 5-year USAID Food Security grant that builds on best practices and lessons learned from its other USAID multi-year assistance programs addressing the complex and multifaceted nature of food insecurity. The new program, Fararano, which signifies “harvest season” in Malagasy, is focused primarily on improving the health and nutrition of pregnant and lactating mothers and their children through the “First 1,000 Days of Life.”

With access to reliable sources of clean water and sanitation essential to the success of the program, CRS-MG has been investing significant resources to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene. CRS-Madagascar Country Director Laura Dills, formerly CRS’ Program Manager for Haiti, knew of Villanova’s engineering expertise in water resources through a training workshop that the University’s faculty and students developed and delivered for CRS Haitian water engineers following the 2010 earthquake. She was also aware of Villanova’s long-standing partnership with and commitment to CRS since 2005.  Last May, Dills reached out to Villanova to consider collaborating with CRS on its Fararano programming in Madagascar.

The first phase of collaboration was piloted successfully in 2014-15 with Villanova incorporating some of the data from Madagascar into its academic programs. Two fall courses in the College of Engineering – Design of Gravity Water Networks and Water Resources Engineering Design – worked on designing solutions for clean water and sanitation systems.  In the spring semester, students in a French Internship course in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences translated major program reports from French into English and Villanova’s engineering designs into French, while students in a team-taught Business/Engineering Course (Global Social Entrepreneurship and Microfinance course) designed a template for assessing the business plans of the private utilities companies with whom CRS-MG works.

During this time, a member of the Engineering faculty traveled to CRS-MG to deliver and install water monitoring equipment and train water utilities personnel to use it. Additionally, five Villanova undergraduates and one graduate engineering international development fellow have been interning with CRS in Madagascar for eight weeks this summer.

Between July 25-August 5, a Villanova team traveled to Madagascar where they visited CRS’ programming in sectors related to water and sanitation, business, and health and nutrition; offered initial observations and recommendations; gathed information and data for use in potential teaching, courses or research; and determined how to integrate this relationship into Villanova’s colleges and research centers. They also met with officials at the Madagascar and U.S. Embassies and government and church officials.

WASH project in Haiti

Villanova/CRS Water, Sanitation, Health (WASH) Training Workshop, Port au Prince, Haiti (Spring 2012)

  Professors Jordan Ermilio (Engineering) and Seth Whidden (French and Francophone Studies), Daniel Caine (alumni engineering consultant), Theresa Donohue and Kathryn Harter (alumni volunteer translators, facilitators)  May 21-26, 2012.  Training seminar for 27 CRS Haitian staff on the delivery of water, sanitation, and waste management services.  Faculty/student prepared workshop materials, included: lectures and case studies.  Workshop presentations and activities were delivered in English and French and included live lectures, pre-recorded Villanova faculty video lectures, and breakout discussion activities.  Participants were provided with copies of all translated materials and given a certificate of completion at the end of the seminar.

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CRS/Villanova Theater Department Drama Project (Summer 2005)

With CRS scholarship support, three Villanova graduate theater students spent one week on the Arizona/Mexico border, interviewing migrants, ranchers, border patrol, human rights activists, parish priests and social ministers, etc. Drawing on their experience, the students wrote, produced, and performed "Line in the Sand: Stories from the U.S. Mexico Border," an hour-long production that tells the human and complex story of immigration. "Line in the Sand" has been performed for university, church, and community audiences in the Northeast.

Line in the sand poster

With CRS scholarship support, three Villanova graduate theater students spent one week on the Arizona/Mexico border, interviewing migrants, ranchers, border patrol, human rights activists, parish priests and social ministers, etc. Drawing on their experience, the students wrote, produced, and performed "Line in the Sand: Stories from the U.S. Mexico Border," an hour-long production that tells the human and complex story of immigration. "Line in the Sand" has been performed for university, church, and community audiences in the Northeast.
(Photo credit Kevin Kostic)

Line in the Sand

Villanova grad, Gina Pisasale, portrays Lucresia. Lucresia is attempting to cross the Arizona desert to reunite her and her children with her husband in the States. (Photo credit David Snyder)

Line in the Sand co-authors

Co-authors of THE LINE IN THE SAND and Villanova theatre grads Jared Delaney, Elizabeth Pool, Gina Pisasale, and Baird Kistner, pose at this rest stop in northern Mexico. (Photo credit Kevin Kostic)

Jared Delaney

Villanova grad program of theatre graduate, Jared Delaney, portrays a Tuscan Border Patrol Agent. (Photo credit David Snyder.)