Aspen resident leads clean water project for Nepalese village |

Aspen resident leads clean water project for Nepalese village

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times
Aspen resident Katie Cassetta, third from right, helps a young boy play the guitar at an orphanage she volunteered with in Nepal in 2008. Cassetta is now teaming up with the orphanage’s former manager to raise funds for the construction of a water pipeline in the village of Khaireni.
Courtesy photo |

When Aspen resident Katie Cassetta was a freshman in college, she was eager to spend some time volunteering in a developing country. Taking a step a lot of 18-year-olds might have shied away from, she spent a summer living with a host family in Nepal, where she worked at an orphanage in a village about an hour south of Kathmandu.

Cassetta and the other volunteers taught math and English at the orphanage, played soccer with the children and transported sick children to doctors in nearby cities. Seven years later, Cassetta maintains a friendship with the orphanage’s former manager and is now teaming up with him on a project to bring clean water to another Nepalese village.

“The manager of the orphanage at the time, Prakash Ojha, committed his everyday life to maintaining the livelihood of the kids living under his roof,” Cassetta said. “He was young, selfless and devoted. It was really incredible to witness.”

Now the director of Common Action for Sustainable Development-Nepal, a nonprofit dedicating to improving quality of life in rural Nepal, Ojha asked Cassetta to be his American ambassador a few months ago. Her focus is on the construction of a water pipeline in Khaireni, a village where women have to walk 30 minutes to the nearest water source as many as 10 times a day.

Clean water will not only improve villagers’ health but help them grow crops, their source of food and income, even during the dry season, Cassetta said.

“One of the coolest things about this project is the variety of ways in which it can bring the village out of poverty,” Cassetta said. “Clean water means less illness. Less of those precious savings will have to be spent on medicine and more of them can go to things like school, proper shoes, a new goat or moped or hygiene products for a household.

“The pipeline will bring running water to the village, but notably, to the fields, as well. Reliable irrigation means they’ll finally be able to grow crops during the dry season, potentially doubling their current income from crop sales, not to mention more food on the table.”

So far, about $5,600 of the $7,000 needed for the project has been raised. The goal is to complete construction before the rainy season starts in June. While the project will be led by engineers and employees from Ojha’s nonprofit, the local villagers also will have a hand in digging and placing the pipeline.

“Clean, running water really is everything,” Cassetta said. “Such a simple and sustainable way to lift a community out of poverty and prevent them from ever going back.”

Cassetta is raising money for the project in two ways. The first is a page on fundraising website GiveForward, where donors can give directly.

But she’s also tying the fundraising with two of her other passions.

Cassetta lived on a working ranch in Wyoming after college, and while there, she photographed portraits of the ranch’s horses and wranglers. Last year, she started selling prints of her photos online, and after seeing some success, decided to donate all of the proceeds from future sales to the pipeline project.

“It’s been a lot of fun having these different hobbies in my life come together under this particular opportunity,” Cassetta said. “Horses, photography and humanitarian work have been part of my life for a long time. I’m grateful to be able to bring them all together to accomplish something good.”

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