The Vermont Cynic

DIY Humanitarianism Hits UVM


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No matter what day of the week, walk through the Davis Center atrium or past the library steps and you’re likely to be asked for a moment of your time by a group of activists. In an atmosphere where everybody cares, it’s tricky finding the right fit for your world saving ambitions.

One UVMer, though, is building her own framework to solve the world’s problems. Selena Garcia-Torres, sophomore, is spearheading her own non-profit project from her dorm room.

The Long Island native was inspired by a Montauk superfood store’s fundraising project for surfer-founded non profit, Waves for Water.

PHOTO BY OLIVER POMAZI

PHOTO BY OLIVER POMAZI

“There was an amazing sense of community about it,” she said, “I thought, ‘This is what I want to do’.”

Waves for Water runs a program called Clean Water Courier, described on their website as “based on a Do-It-Yourself Humanitarian model.”

“Clean Water Couriers are everyday people, travellers like you distributing filters to those in need around the globe,” says the foundation’s website.

Simultaneously balancing classes and navigating the complexities of college life, Garcia-Torres is working to bring the Courier program to UVM.

“The objective is to apply everything I’ve learned in class to a real life scenario,” she said, “So often you learn things, and nothing is done about it.”

Garcia-Torres is a Global Studies and Community Development and Applied Economics double major, working also on a Spanish minor.

“You shouldn’t look at a major or a class as just that, but as connected to everything else,” she said.

Classes she’s taken in high school and here at UVM have impacted her greatly, as well as her travels.

“Last year and this year learning about how there are companies trying to privatize water,” she said. “That’s so messed up.”

“I’ve gone to so many countries, and you’re seeing giant corporations robbing these countries of their natural resources,” Garcia-Torres said.

Garcia-Torres couldn’t imagine life without clean water.

“You can go fill up your water bottle in the sink, but you don’t think that people don’t even have a well in their town, or that it’s totally filled with storm water,” she said.

“I say I prefer Smart Water over Fiji water while other people only have one clean water source which is being polluted by our actions,” she said, “It’s crappy water!”

In terms of organization, the filter project is in its early stages. Garcia Torres, along with her roommate, sophomore Brittney Manning, has been brainstorming for months how to pull the project together.

“We’ve thought of different ways to raise the money–maybe a 5k run down by the lake,” she said.

“Social media’s going to play a huge role,” she said, “If we can make really good content for people, that’s a big part.”

Along with self-promotion, Garcia-Torres stressed the value of professors and their opinions in the project-building process.

“It’d be interesting to hear what my professors have to say about which countries need [the filters] the most, where we could make the biggest impact,” she said.

“This is the best time to do a project like this because you have all these resources in front of you,” she said.

Finally, Garcia-Torres is determined to foster a deeper connection with those she will bring water to than merely a client-customer relationship.

“You don’t want to go in there thinking you can just save the day,” she said, “Why not make connections with these people and find out what else you can do for the community.”

In these early stages of the activist’s project, Garcia Torres wants to bring as many mind to the table as she can.

From sponsors, to professors, to fellow students, Garcia-Torres is gathering support from all over campus. Forming an official SGA club is the next step for the project.

“It’ll be interesting to meet more people who have this idea, who share this thought process,” she said, “I want to make a system out of it.”

Garcia-Torres is turning her education into real-world action and is inspiring those around her to do the same. Her brand of activism is immediate but cohesive, and will surely flourish on campus, if not around the globe.

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DIY Humanitarianism Hits UVM