Villanova students return from eye-opening mission trip to help others

Students visit Panama as part of Villanova Engineering Service Learning Center trip.
Photo credit Courtesy of Villanova University
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Many college students are wrapping up fall break, but some from Villanova University's engineering department are returning from international trips where their sights were set on helping others. 

Madagascar, Tanzania, Ghana, Panama and Peru. That's where 30 Villanova engineering students spent the last week working to plan clean water systems or build sustainable energy systems. 

Jordan Ermilio, director of the Villanova Engineering Service Learning Center (VESL), said these are not resort spots.

"Very often people will travel several hours on a daily basis, or the services that they do have are not reliable," he said. "Fifty percent of the time or something like that, you turn on your faucet and there's no water coming out of it."

Lizzy Cullen, a recent graduate who did four VESL trips with the last one this summer in Madagascar, said it was eye-opening. 

"It just makes you rethink what a service project should aim to do. And it helps you see with a larger lens how communities really struggle, compared to what we think struggling is," she said. 

Ermilio, who has joined the students in the field, said this is not just about helping others. 

"It really changes the way that you see the world, the way that you see your role in global issues, so I think that's one of the main impacts that these projects have on us," he said. 

Cullen said after her first VESL trip, she was hooked and couldn't get enough of it. She recently was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and is leaving for Malaysia in January to continue her international work.