Work on dam in Panama is completed!

After seven years and numerous service-learning trips, the dam that many Ripon College students and area residents have been working on in Panama finally was completed during a trip in January. The trips and volunteer work have been in support of Ripon native Father Wally Kasuboski with his continuing endeavors to help the people of Panama.

Kasuboski, fondly called “Padre Pablo” by the locals, arrived in the back country of Panama in 1988. Since then, he has helped the people there build churches, schools and bridges. A major problem he witnessed was the lack of safe drinking water. Many people were suffering from stomach parasites, cholera and dysentery. During the dry seasons of Panama, finding any water at all is difficult. This inspired him to create Padre Pablo Dam and Reservoir project.

“This dam is located in the mountains of Panama in Wacuco,” says Emma Bronson ’17 of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, one of three Ripon College students who joined January’s trip. “From Father’s compound, we were at about 250 feet above sea level and the dam site was at about 1,350 feet above sea level. This dam will provide fresh and clean water for the locals during the dry season.”

“These are just local people from the Ripon area, all ages, wanting to come out here and just help. The willingness from everyone to just help out was amazing.”

Bryana Fredrickson ’18 of Franksville, Wisconsin, says, “I learned that you don’t need anything fancy to do good, and to work and build something for a good cause. All you need is hard-working people and people with big hearts who are willing to do whatever is needed.”

Ben Valdez-Hempel ’17 of Minneapolis, Minnesota, says, “What inspired me to go was that I am of Salvadoran descent and had never been to Central America before, and I wanted to experience the Central American culture and landscape. On top of this, I was inspired by Father Wally’s dedication to the Panamanian people and in making their lives better, and I wanted to help with that. I learned that I would like to apply this to my career after college in aiding people abroad who need it the most.”

The three Ripon College students shared 10 days of manual labor, working from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. packing concrete, moving boulders and hauling cement bags. The experience was both difficult and rewarding.

“My favorite part was seeing everyone in this group come together for a great cause and work together to finish this project,” Fredrickson says. “Everyone brought something a little different to the table.”

“I learned to appreciate what I have because not everyone has the same opportunities or means,” Bronson says. “The day we finished the dam, the local women came and made us lunch and seeing the smiles on their faces knowing that they were going to be getting clean water made the experience so worth it. This is an experience I will never forget and hope to return to Panama next year.”

Father Wally already has future projects in mind, including more dams or perhaps a school.

Megan Sohr ’18
Oshkosh, Wisconsin

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