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Billikens for Clean Water Build Partnerships in Belize

Three SLU students, along with mentors from Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology, spent their Spring Break learning about clean water access in Belize and paving the way for future work with by SLU’s Billikens for Clean Water club and local communities in the country’s southern district.

Students test water samples in Belize

SLU sophomores Jeffrey Kelley, Sarah Koepsell and Crystal Bell test water samples in Belize along with faculty mentor, Craig Adams, Ph.D. (right). Photo by Rachel Rimmerman

Billikens for Clean Water members (B4CW) sophomores Sarah Koepsell, from the School of Nursing, Crystal Bell, of the Department of Civil Engineering), and Jeffrey Kelley, of the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, represented the SLU club on a recent spring break assessment trip to Belize.

Traveling alongside mentors from Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology, including Craig Adams, Ph.D., Oliver L. Parks Endowed Chair and professor of civil engineering, and Rachel Rimmerman, the college’s events and outreach coordinator, the group spent time visiting several Mayan communities in the Toledo district. There, they met with community leaders, tested samples from their water sources and analyzed the overall need for clean drinking water in the region. In addition to studying and learning about water quality in southern Belize, the students were also able to learn about the Mayan cultures throughout the area.

The group tests water samples in Belize
The three students and their faculty mentors used instruments to test for turbidity, pH levels, hardness levels, chlorine, and did petrifilms to test for total coliforms (bacteria presence) when sampling local water supplies in Belize. Samples were also brought back to the lab to test for fluoride and arsenic levels. Photo by Rachel Rimmerman

The group also developed relationships with St. John’s College Junior College (SJC) in Belize City, where they met students in the environmental science department. SLU’s club is hoping to partner with the the department at SJC on future assessment trips.

B4CW worked closely with Jesuit leaders in the area such as Derek Vo, S.J., and Tom Greene, S.J., who both helped organize the meetings with each village. B4CW is working on upcoming trips to return to Belize and do further assessments.

B4CW’s long-term goal includes commitment to the Toledo district, which will ultimately lead to the implementation of water systems to bring clean water to communities who lack access. The club is also planning on organizing a camp for local high school students at a rural school in one of the communities that the three students visited with a goal of teaching local Belizean students about clean drinking water.

The group at St. John's College

The group met with  Alice Peralta, president of St. John's College Junior College in Belize City, during the trip. Billikens for Clean Water (B4CW) hopes to partner with the Belizean college on future water quality projects.  (From left to right) Craig Adams, Ph.D., SLU professor of Civil Engineering and faculty advisor for B4CW; Crystal Bell, sophomore in Civil Engineering; Alice Peralta, President of St. John's College; Sarah Koepsell, sophomore in Nursing; Jeffrey Kelley, sophomore in Aerospace Engineering; and Rachel Rimmerman, Parks College event and outreach coordinator and staff advisor for B4CW International TeamSubmitted photo

To learn more about Billikens for Clean Water, their project in Belize, and the club’s mission, visit Billikens for Clean Water.