UNM students and their partners prepare the site for the health clinic.

When Associate Professor of Economics Matias Fontenla took students down to Nicaragua to see how economics play out on the ground, he was impressed that the students took on the task of buildings homes and a school. Even he couldn't have anticipated that these ambitious and resourceful students would set their sites higher: to build a much-needed health clinic in the Amazon region.

These projects cost money. "The students fundraised – they sold cupcakes and cookies, and cleaned the Pit," Fontenla said. Then they set their sites higher. UNM already had a Nourish International Chapter (established in 2010).

They posted their project, "Improving Access to Health Care in the Peruvian Amazon," on the Nourish International site. They had 21 days to get people to donate to their cause. Other colleges and universities – like Cornell, Yale and the University of Texas – were also competing for donors and dollars. But there's only one winner who gets the money. This time, it's UNM.

"The UNM chapter raised $8,661 from 104 donors. They received an additional $1,000 for the most money raised and another $1,000 for the most donors. They also got a five-percent match of $433, for a grand total of $11,094 in just 21 days," Fontenla said.

Fontenla said that Nourish UNM goes back to Felicia Alexander. She was a UNM honors students who traveled on her own dime to the university where Nourish International was developed, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. "She set up a table at Honors orientation and recruited students. She's currently doing Teach for America in Houston after deferring admission at the University of Pennsylvania Law School," he said.

Current UNM Nourish co-directors are Sam Waggoner and Mercedes Pratt. Nicole Devereaux represents the UNM chapter on the Nourish International Board of Directors. Devereaux has been a driving force in the chapter's fundraising efforts.

Fontenla said, "Every penny goes toward the project. The students – five to 15 of them – pay for their own flight and room and board. I am so proud of them. Felicia, Sam and Nicole were part of the original group that went to Nicaragua to build homes and a school in a squatters' community. All three are brilliant and future leaders at whatever they decide to do."

Individuals may view the Project description from the Nourish International site.

Media Contact: Carolyn Gonzales (505) 277-5920; email: cgonzal@unm.edu