Alumna helps Nicaraguans gain access to water

Jami Duffy has a big place in her heart for a small village in Nicaragua.

Duffy (BA journalism, political science ’03) lived in Linda Vista, a community of 200, in the mountains of northern Nicaragua where she served as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2004–06. The journey from the capital city, Managua, takes six hours on three different busses.

Locals sell corn and beans, but most families earn as little as $2 per day. There is no school in Linda Vista, and the average education level is fourth grade. But there is an open-ness in the people there. They accepted Duffy, the first Peace Corps volunteer placed in their community, with a generosity she describes as “extreme.”

And they’d organized a council of nine to lead the community in projects designed to improve the quality of life. It represented the community in local government affairs. But in Nicaragua, governmental funds are hard to come by. Small communities are able to get help for maybe one big project every couple of years.

When Duffy arrived, the council had her help in getting community projects done.

“Together we started a community bank, built a community center, planted organic family gardens, started a community preschool and organized a women’s empowerment group,” Duffy says.

And that’s not all. She led a 4H club for teenagers, worked to facilitate the building of 44 latrines and conducted reforestation projects. That would be enough for most people, but for Duffy, the one project she wanted to do — digging a well — never came together.

Although the community has several wells, all but two are dry. Duffy says locals told her the climate had been changing with less rain falling than in the past. During the dry season — half the year — families rely on five to 10 gallons of water per day. With that they cook, clean, bathe and drink. According to the American Water Works Association, daily indoor water use in the typical single family American home is 69.3 gallons.

It isn’t just the amount of water available that makes life difficult. It’s also the difficulty in getting it.

“When the wells are completely dry, women and children haul their water from a watering hole located as much as two miles away,” Duffy says.

After Duffy’s term, another Peace Corps volunteer came to Linda Vista and made the well project her goal. Building on Duffy’s success in the community, Sara Hawley is spearheading a fundraising campaign to raise $8,000. So far about $4,000 has been raised.

Duffy is doing her part to raise awareness and to inspire people to donate. She created a YouTube video as a tribute to her friends in Linda Vista and as a fundraising tool.

She focuses on the people, not the project.

“My philosophy throughout my service was that community members are people, not projects. That philosophy enabled me to build meaningful relationships, which was the foundation for our success as a community,” Duffy says.

Although she lived in Linda Vista for just two years, Duffy feels the community there is her second family. She’s godmother to her host family’s two children. She returns every year, and remarkably, cell phone service allows her to communicate regularly by phone.

“I care deeply about all of them,” she says.

For more information, contact Duffy at To donate, visit, click Donate Now, click Volunteer projects, Keyword: Hawley.

Duffy says she’s looking forward to her new position as program coordinator in DU’s Living and Learning Communities where she will work with the creativity and entrepreneurship community and the international community.

[Editor’s note: As of July 8, all of the funds needed for the well project have been raised.]

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