ONNOR BERNSTEIN FOR THE HOYA Students in “Kenya: Clean Water Project” discuss plans for H2OYAS.
Students in “Kenya: Clean Water Project” discuss plans for H2OYAS.

A Catholic studies seminar that began last year is making waves in an effort to provide clean drinking water in Africa.

Taught by Fr. Richard Curry, S.J., the seminar, “Kenya: Clean Water Project,” was first offered last January. The class was conceived by Matt Demicola (COL ’13) and Pat Clancy (MSB ’13), who approached Curry with the idea.

The seminar does not resemble a typical Georgetown course; it is not offered directly through the university registrar, and each class session involves organizing and managing a business, that raises money to provide potable water in Nairobi, Kenya. The business will be called Clean Water H2OYAS,
“We want to make a major contribution to clean water in Africa and work with the organizations already in existence so they can lean on the generosity of this university,” Curry said.

Demicola and Curry hand-picked students who they believed would contribute to the organization. According to Curry, the pair was looking for students who were passionate and eager to make a difference.

“We were looking for zeal,” Curry said. “We were looking for people with a business background, but even if they didn’t have that, if they had zeal, we wanted them.”

There are currently 10 students in the course, most of whom are seniors. Despite the unique registration process and basis of the class, all students are graded to ensure they pull their weight.

“It helps push accountability,” Clancy said. “There are a lot of organizations who have members that are not as involved as maybe they could be, but — knowing how much everyone at Georgetown cares about their grades — the fact that we’re getting graded pushes us to accomplish our goals.”

Last year, the organization raised $4,000 for Sister Mary Owen, who co-founded the Nyumbani Children’s Home, Kenya’s first facility for HIV-positive orphans, with Fr. Angelo D’Agostino in 1992.

This year, the seminar chose to focus on two main goals: It wants to become incorporated as a nonprofit organization and seeks to actively build a well in Nairobi instead of only donating the money they raise.

While the seminar focuses on how to create a business, Demicola emphasized that it also incorporates the study of Catholic values.

“We don’t necessarily just focus on the business aspect and then the moral. It all intertwines,” Demicola said. “We’re driven by the Catholic moral theology and also want to do this in an appropriate business manner.”

The organization’s emphasis on Catholic values, which uphold that clean water is a basic human right, benefits from Georgetown’s network of Jesuits.

“This is not going to be a mission accomplished solely by 10 Georgetown students and a Jesuit priest,” Clancy said. “We’re going to have a lot of help from Jesuits over in Kenya, and there are Georgetown connections to St. [Aloysius Gonzaga High School, a coeducational jesuit high school in Nairobi]. It’s definitely an ambitious goal, but it’s something we think is possible.”

Although most participants are seniors this year, the organization will continue to pursue its goal next year by recruiting new members who share a passion for helping others.

“The organization will continue, and so will the class,” Demicola said. “It will be kind of a legacy.”

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