James Madison University

NEW COLLEGES FORMED A plan to reorganize the College of Integrated Science and Technology into two colleges took effect July 1, 2012. The new colleges are the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering.

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ISAT Graduate Brings Water Purification Technology to Africa

By Amanda Rivera
02/21/06

PHOTO: Justin working in KenyaAs Justin Henriques, JMU alumnus and co-founder of the non-profit organization Least of These International (LOTI), arrived in Africa, he knew he was bound for something incredible. “My first impressions were like the feelings you would get from being on a river raft right before a waterfall. Even if you couldn’t see the waterfall, your surroundings would indicate something great was about to happen…everything would give that incredible feeling of anticipation of some life changing event,” he says.

As part of LOTI’s series of trips to provide “sustainable energy systems” to several villages in Kenya, Justin traveled to Africa in December 2005 to begin stage one of implementing an effective plan of action. Justin conveys that the initial step for such projects is developing a rapport with the village leaders and their people. “Often in development projects the people are often left out of the equation. This of course is ironic since it’s usually the people who are to be the main benefactors of the project!” he says. However, winning over the people of the African communities proved to be no difficult feat. Justin says, “The incredible kindness and hospitality of the locals was overwhelming. They opened their homes, took us in, and fed us with the food that they had. Their generosity was not limited by the lack of their own resources.”

By way of their partnership with the organization Possibilities Africa (PA), Justin was able to direct his attention to the direct needs of the people. Meetings of thirty to fifty people, including both community members and leaders, were held to alleviate any concerns that the community had pertaining to LOTI’s project plans. “They were both excited and cautious at the same time. Many of these communities have been burned in the past from organizations that have come in and taken advantage of them. However, these communities are excited about change,” Justin says. While this trip did not produce any visible signs of change, monumental steps were achieved in breaking the ground for LOTI’s mission of providing lasting technology to these villages.

Future trips to Africa have been scheduled for April and August 2006. Over the course of six to eight months, LOTI hopes to offer technologies to aid in crop growth, water purification, and advancements for a local health clinic in the Mbeere and Namawanga communities of Kenya. The breadth of LOTI abilities proves, nevertheless, to be wide-reaching. Mission plans for Bolivia, West Africa, and East Asia are underway with high hopes of not merely impacting isolated areas, but global institutions as well. “We are excited to see LOTI grow and expand not for the sake of growth, but so that we become more and more effective at the work that we do. We also hope that LOTI will help contribute to forming a new ethic on the very definition of development,” Justin says.