Making a difference in the world

Recently my wife, Suzanne, and I attended an event at Fort Lewis College as a benefit for the Village Aid Project.

The Village Aid Project (VAP) was started nearly 20 years ago by Professor Don May to engage students and faculty in serving unmet needs in Third World countries. The focus has always been on water, sanitation, schools and engineering-based projects that utilize the expertise of Fort Lewis College faculty and volunteer group Professional Associates.

This program represents a peak of efficiency, effectiveness and heart. Students gain practical work experience while serving others. Professors volunteer their time in a non-classroom setting with students and feel the rewards of service. Rural Third World communities, with their invitation and full involvement, receive sustainable water, sewer systems and, in some cases, new schools.

A total of 90% of funds raised are used to buy building materials. Students volunteer their time and those who travel to the project communities cover their own travel costs. Fort Lewis College provides in-kind support to this uplifting program for students, professors and the world.

Over nearly 20 years, VAP has built projects in 29 communities in five countries. A total of 1,600 families now have clean and safe drinking water; 150 latrines have been constructed; and three schools have been built. VAP also pledges a five year commitment to return, educate and support the communities it serves. Local leadership and engagement is paramount in identifying and pursuing proposed projects. Future projects may include sustainable energy systems such as solar panels. Each year, two to three projects are built with a total VAP budget of $50 to $60,000. Talk about a cost-effective program!

You can learn more by visiting the Village Aid Project on the Fort Lewis College website ( Please consider making a donation. I promise your support will be efficiently and effectively used.

– John Gamble, Durango