penn college potable water table

Logan W. Ledebohm (left), of Mechanicsburg, and Chris A. Fisher, of Middleburg provide information and collect donations on the first floor of the Davie Jane Gilmour Center.

Williamsport, Pa. — A group of 21 Penn College students and two faculty members are planning a trip to the Dominican Republic to provide a valuable service to families in the Caribbean nation.

During this service-learning trip, the group will be distributing filtration systems that can provide clean water indefinitely with some maintenance.

Their journey follows a 16-week Global Service Learning Experience course taught during the spring semester by Wayne R. Sheppard, assistant professor of construction management, and Rob Cooley, associate professor of anthropology/environmental science. Both professors will accompany the students on the June 10 to 19 trip, which aims to make a positive difference in the communities they will visit.

“This semester, I have learned about the culture, history and tradition of the people we are going to help,” said Chris A. Fisher, a construction management student who will be among those making the trip. “My professors have given me the tools needed to enter a foreign place, with cultural and language differences, and hopefully be affected by the native people.”

The Middleburg resident said he has several objectives for the experience.

“First and foremost, give back to the people that are in need,” Fisher explained. “Another hope for this trip is to gain an understanding of how nice we have it here in the United States. Simple things like building codes for our homes and clean running water are not common in some places around the world.”

These differences and lighter subjects like cooperation and culture are among the topics explored in the course.

“Beginning with an overview of contemporary Dominican culture, the course provided content that connected the current socioeconomic characteristics of the nation with the legacy of colonialism, development, and globalism,” Cooley said. “While it is certainly helpful to provide aid to address immediate needs like hygiene, nutrition, or clothing, empowering people with the tools, technology, and knowledge to help themselves for years to come creates community/population/national-level benefits.”

That is how the course connects culture, history, and diversity with construction management, business, and society.

“If a person is ill from contaminated drinking water, they cannot go to school or work. If they don’t complete school, that limits their work capabilities. If they can’t work, they can’t earn money. If they spend money on medical care due to contaminated water, that reduces money for housing, food, school, and transportation,” Cooley added. “Helping community members ensure they have reliable, clean drinking water has the potential to break the cycle of poverty and help them lift themselves up to a better standard of living.”

The course covers many general concepts, but also encourages students to apply ideas and knowledge from their program of study.

“When I return to Penn College in the fall,” Fisher said, “I hope this class and trip will make me appreciate my day-to-day even more after experiencing what other people deal with.”

Throughout the semester, students manned tables around campus to inform their peers about the lack of potable water in many parts of the world. The statistics they cite estimate that 771 million people around the globe don’t have a source of safe water, which can lead to serious health conditions like dysentery, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A, and E.coli.

Along with providing information to passers-by, the class has been collecting donations to buy water filters for $25 each. The group will distribute the filters that, with proper maintenance, can indefinitely provide clean drinking water.

To donate a water filter, visit College Relations’ Global Experiences giving page at

Sheppard, who has traveled to the Dominican Republic several times, said that the group will also be building a house, completing multiple smaller projects, and serving in various ways at a local dump, an orphanage, a special needs facility, and other sites.

“Students will experience many different aspects of service and different cultures,” he said. “While these activities are great, the lifelong influence on these young people, and their compassion and community involvement, is something I am excited to see.”

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