On the Green

Immigration research benefits Guatemalan village

April Veness, associate professor of geography, describes herself as “amazed, surprised and gratified” during a recent visit to San Isidro, Guatemala, for the official inauguration of its new water system.

Veness had been a mover and shaker in making the potable water system a reality, and the village named the system in her honor.

But, she says, when she began her research project on immigrants in southern Delaware, she had no idea that it would lead to a water project in the remote village in the western highlands of Guatemala.

“The villagers know me only as ‘abril,’ meaning the month of April, which is lower case in Spanish,” Veness says. “When we arrived in the village, I saw the banner at the celebration saying ‘Proyecto de abril,’ April’s project, and I was very surprised and honored.”

Veness and Sarah Archbald, AS ’07, traveled with 10 Rotarians, who also were involved in the water project, on a minibus from San Marcos to San Isidro for the celebration.

It was a memorable day, Veness says. It was the rainy season, and the road between San Marcos and San Isidro was impassable, so they approached the village from the Mexican border after a six-hour drive. Even so, they had to start walking up the mountain for the last kilometer until the villagers came in pickup trucks to take them on the last leg of the journey.

Veness says she is hopeful that electricity will come to San Isidro some day.

During her three-week stay that ended her sabbatical year in Guatemala, she also met with a delegation from Builders Beyond Borders and Rotarians in San Marcos to discuss plans for a school for deaf children.

Veness’ research focuses on Guatemalans in Delaware and in their native country and on the effect of remittance money earned in the United States. The remainder of her visit was devoted to completing her research on Guatemalans by visiting the people in different villages whom she has been interviewing over the past five years.

Students honored

Three UD students who assisted Veness and others with the water project in San Isidro have been honored by Rotary District 7630 for their humanitarian service to the residents of the Guatemalan village. The project was funded by a matching grant from the Rotary Foundation.

Catherine Singley, Catherine Feeley and Archbald had received grants from the University to help support their research and service.

“It was a unique and satisfying experience for me and my students to have years of building relationships materialize when San Isidro completed its potable water project,” Veness says.