Cold Lands, Warm Hearts

Mike Paddock '87 '88 calls his volunteer work in Central America "almost like an addiction." "I've learned so much," says grad student Kelli Whelan '10 of her efforts in Guatemala.

It's not uncommon for students and alumni from the chilly north to travel to Latin America and other developing regions with the aim of helping people wracked by poverty, disaster, and war. What is sometimes unsaid is the degree to which these selfless acts rebound upon the givers.

Many Michigan Tech people insist they have been enriched more than they can measure by their humanitarian efforts. Here are three of their stories.

Mike Paddock

Yes Man

by Nicole Sweeney Etter

Babies were dying. The scarce water available to La Garrucha, Guatemala, was often rationed, and what remained was tainted with animal droppings and other contaminants—a problem that could have fatal consequences.

So villagers enlisted the help of civil engineer Mike Paddock, PE, PS, and engineering students he mentored at Milwaukee's Marquette University. Their mission: to build a new water system that could capture and purify water from a spring fourteen miles away. The end result delivered twenty-one gallons of clean water a day for each person and much more: it increased school attendance because children no longer had to spend time fetching water and firewood to boil contaminated water, reduced deforestation, and lowered the infant mortality rate.

Those are the sorts of rewards that drive Paddock, a board member of Engineers Without Borders–USA (EWB-USA), to commit every spare minute to using his engineering skills to help rural communities abroad. Over the past decade, Paddock has designed and/or built more than seventy-five projects, from water systems to schools to bridges, in Ghana, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. He travels, mostly to Guatemala, five or six times a year as a mentor to student chapters of EWBUSA and . . .

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Emily Gochis and Hans Lechner holding a photo of Marvin Rene Huezo Mendoza

A Party for Marvin

by Jennifer Donovan

Michigan Tech graduate students Hans Lechner and Emily Gochis were exploring the streets of the tiny, impoverished Salvadoran village of San José las Flores when they heard music booming from a little house. Someone was singing at the top of his lungs—in English.

The Peace Corps Master's International (PCMI) student and his wife couldn't resist checking it out.

That's how they discovered Marvin Rene Huezo Mendoza. The seventeen-year-old was sitting in a room plastered with art, singing along with the Doors. But to greet Lechner and Gochis, he had to crawl across the room.

Marvin was disabled from a bout with polio when he was two. His family couldn't afford crutches, let alone a wheelchair.

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Sue Ellen Kingsley

Well Done

by Danny Messinger '12

Sue Ellen Kingsley was on a mission: her friends were in dire need of clean drinking water and had asked for her help.

It was 2006, and she had just returned home to the Copper Country from a small village in northwestern Guatemala, where she had been working as an accompanier. "Accompaniment programs bring in people from privileged countries to provide space for native people to do what they need to do, even when their home country is in turmoil," she explains. "There's much less danger of violence from the government and military when there are accompaniers present."

People in her community needed more than peace and safety; they also needed good wells, so she brought word to Michigan Tech's civil and environmental engineering department.

Coincidentally, a new student chapter of . . .

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Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.