Alumna Bertha Cerda creates nonprofit to bring water to remote Ecuadorian village

Doing research for one of her first Master of Nonprofit Management (MNM) classes, Bertha Cerda heard of a remote mountain village in Ecuador without clean water. Residents, sometimes women in their 80s, carried buckets of water up steep trails. This was not only difficult work, but often led to the water being contaminated by bacteria.

Hearing that story, Cerda, a native Ecuadoran, had what she describes as a “crazy” idea. She could create a program that brought clean water, proper sanitation and health education to the village.

Cerda went to the head of the MNM program to test the idea. She expected him to say “slow down.” Instead, he said, “Go for it.” Cerda has not looked back since.

She used her time in the program to lay the groundwork for the organization she calls WISHES, which stands for water, innovation, sanitation, health, education and success. Her professors and mentors helped her refine her ideas and create an action plan.

Cerda graduated this past May and is waiting on 501c3 status to begin fundraising for the project. But some work has already begun. In partnership with local organizations in Ecuador, she has had piping installed around the community.

The dream doesn’t stop there. Beyond bringing clean water and health education to the village, Cerda wants to ensure the long-term sustainability of the project by working with community leaders to create more economic opportunity there. If successful, she hopes to replicate this model elsewhere.

“Regis’ Jesuit mission is to serve others,” she said. “As graduates, we carry that mission into the world. It is not good enough to be educated. You must use that education to move the world forward.”

Move the world forward with a Master of Nonprofit Management from Regis University.