IU East students traveling to Dominican Republic to construct, distribute ceramic water filters

Indiana University East students are preparing to leave for the Dominican Republic this week to construct and distribute ceramic water filters for families in need of clean drinking water. Eight students will travel to the Dominican Republic November 20-25 as part of an online service-learning course at IU East.

The service-learning course is the first offered through the Richmond campus that will take students abroad to fulfill its mission. Service-Learning is an active method of learning in which students engage in structured community service and reflect on the meaning of that service.

Dianne Moneypenny, assistant professor of Spanish, is leading the study abroad trip. She said the project was inspired by FilterPure Filters CEO and Director Lisa Ballantine. Ballantine visited IU East as part of the Hispanic Heritage Month festival and in conjunction with the campus’ “One Book, Many Voices” project in 2013, which focused on the book Wine to Water by Doc Hendley.

“IU East is making diversity and internationalization a strategic priority. Lisa inspired the campus to do more, to be a citizen of this world, and to work with the tools we have. The students have wanted to do service with her organization in the Dominican Republic since this visit. However, IU East at the time did not offer courses in international service. This course and trip mark the first of such ventures.”

The purpose of this course is to allow students to engage in international service in the Dominican Republic with the organization FilterPure Filters. FilterPure is dedicated to the development of a sustainable business and management plan that involves manufacturing and distributing high quality and best-in-class Ceramic Water Filters (CWFs).

Ballantine, a Chicago area native, moved with her family to the Dominican Republic in 2000 to do mission work. The experience was transforming for her and enhanced her interest in providing clean water throughout the world. She had learned about ceramic water filtration and was interested in learning the technology. Ballantine continues to work in the Dominican Republic and Haiti to help update the ceramic water filter and manufacturing processes for increased effectiveness and sustainability.

While in the Dominican Republic, students will complete various tasks including producing filters and in-home education of filter users. Students of Spanish language will experience linguistic and cultural immersion during the semester of study and while abroad.

Moneypenny said students in the course have studied cultural and historical texts and watched films to better understand the broad Dominican experience.

“We have also engaged in self-reflection and debated the concept of service and service-learning and how this travel will be different than other types. We even did a workshop on the Dominican accent, which is notoriously difficult to understand,” Moneypenny said.

Katie Yohey, of Richmond, Ind., is one of the students traveling to the Dominican Republic. She is a secondary education and English major minoring in Spanish. “What a better way to give thanks on Thanksgiving break than to provide clean drinking water,” Yohey said. Students at IU East are on fall break the week of November 24.

Shyla Mahlerwein is a humanities major minoring in Spanish. She said she is excited about the trip and to be a part of the experience.

“I am so blessed to be a part of this group as a student here at IU East. Thank you for making it possible for us to make a difference in lives. Not only will we be impacting the lives of the families in the Dominican Republic but, no doubt, our own lives will be changed by this experience,” Mahlerwein said.