Magazine Feature / People

Korbel alums find home in Denver-based international nonprofit

Korbel alumni

(From left) Korbel School alumni Kim Lemme, Chrissey Buckley, Andrew Britton and Korbel student Julia Lewis found jobs at Water for People.

Five DU alumni and a current student have found their niche at Water For People, a Denver-based nonprofit that supports the development of locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities and hygiene education programs in developing countries. 

And the world needs their help. The organization, which maintains staff in Honduras, Guatemala, Bolivia, Malawi and India, says 884 million people throughout the world lack access to safe drinking water.

“Much like Korbel works to create creative ‘problem solvers,’ Water For People is working to create innovative solutions to developing countries’ water and sanitation challenges,” says alumna Chrissey Buckley (MA international human rights ’08).

Buckley is one of five Korbel alumni filling vital roles within Water for People, from accounting and grant management to regional and worldwide management. A current Korbel master’s student also works there.

Buckley started at Water for People as a part-time administrative assistant while attending DU. Now an associate grant manager, Buckley says part of the nonprofit’s attraction is location. Students are drawn to Korbel because they are passionate about international issues and because they love Colorado. Water for People allows them to live in Colorado while empowering people in developing countries.

Alumnus Andrew Britton (MA international studies/international development ’08) serves as world water corps manager, and alumna Kimberly Slinde Lemme (MA global finance, trade and economic integration ’04) is the organization’s senior international accounting manager.

Julia Lewis has been a DU student since 2008 and a full-time employee at Water for People since 2009. Lewis expects to graduate next year with a degree in international development and a concentration in sustainable development. As senior manager of program services, Lewis is designing and implementing systems for handling grant proposals and reports, which will help the organization expand its funding sources.

“Water For People attracts individuals who ‘think outside the box’ regarding innovative solutions to developing sustainable water and sanitation solutions,” Lewis says.

Wende Valentine (MA international development/global health ’04) interned with Water for People in 2003 and became a paid staff member the following year. Since 2008, she has engaged with individual donors who contribute major gifts to the organization. Before that, she managed programs in India and Africa.

“Korbel and Water For People do seem to attract a similar type of person — one who is an independent thinker but also team player, one who challenges and thrives off of being challenged and one who won’t settle for easy answers, as we will never create sustainable solutions to global poverty with complacency,” Valentine says.

Valentine says her global health courses provided an excellent foundation to understand the integration of economics, government, civil society and community health in the developing world. Perhaps more importantly, she says her courses challenged her to think critically and ask hard questions. 

Kate Fogelberg (MA International Development/Global Health ’05) has worked for Water for People for nearly five years. She’s a regional manager in South America, where in many rural areas about 40 percent of residents lack clean drinking water and about 60 percent lack sanitation facilities. Currently, she’s working to open new offices in Peru and Ecuador and supporting the program in Bolivia.

“The lack of water and sanitation is not a technological problem but rather the convergence of political, economical, social and environmental causes,” Fogelberg says.

Fogelberg says that many nongovernmental organizations fall in the “implementation trap” where they run from one grant to the next, with little introspection, documentation and reflection of what works and what doesn’t. In contrast, she says, Water for People has a strong commitment to learning from both its successes and challenges.


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