Skip to main content
Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith, leader of UT's Nourish International chapter, helps to plant a sustainable garden in Uganda last summer.

KNOXVILLE—Jennifer Smith, leader of the Nourish International chapter at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, traveled to Uganda last summer with a team of students to help an African school plant a garden to provide an ongoing source of food for its students.

This year, Smith and her Nourish colleagues are at it again—with their sights set on Peru.

Club members will travel to Cerro Blanco, Peru, where they will help build a potable water system for the community and aid in organizing a town water committee to ensure the sustainability of the system for years to come.

Nourish International is a collegiate response to global poverty that empowers students and engages communities. During the school year, Nourish chapters at universities across the United States run socially responsible business ventures. Over the summer, Nourish students use this money to implement sustainable development projects abroad. The local communities pull themselves out of poverty by continuing these projects after the students return home.

“We decided we wanted to do something in South America involving water,” said Smith, a Russian language and global studies major from Maryville. “When we saw this project, we knew it was a perfect fit.”

Cerro Blanco is located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains on the south coast of Peru. It is the ancient capital city of the Moche people, a civilization of rich architecture and culture that flourished more than 1,000 years ago.

Lesser known, however, is the status of its people today. It is now a small rural community in the shadows of awe-inspiring archeological sites. The people are poor, living on less than $150 per month, barely enough to feed a family.

Local health surveys revealed high rates of parasitic disease and diarrhea from contaminated drinking water. These factors are partly responsible for high rates of infant mortality in the community. In addition to a lack of water, archeological sites in Peru are being looted by surrounding villages due to their extreme poverty.

To help this community, UT students are working with Moche Inc., a federally recognized nonprofit organization seeking to preserve archeological sites in Peru through community empowerment. The project is designed to provide water for 500 people at a total of 30,000 liters per day.

The health of the community will be greatly improved by this project, allowing the people to focus on advancements in education and make strides in agriculture through irrigation. In exchange for clean water, the people of Cerro Blanco will look after the archeological site. This way, the community’s past is preserved while providing for those of the present and future.

In preparation, chapter members have been participating in business ventures to raise money for this summer’s project. Nearly $1,500 has been made by selling Ugandan jewelry and handicrafts made by Grassroots Uganda, a nonprofit organization Smith learned about last summer while working with Nourish in Uganda.

The group is still raising money for the project. The students pay for their own travel. The trip is scheduled for June 28 through Aug. 2, and donations are being accepted at until June 30.

Smith has remained in contact with Jennifer Tumwizere—the founder of House of Hope in Kyazanga, Uganda—where four UT Nourish students went last year to build a sustainable garden. So far, the garden has been able to provide enough food to feed the students. Also, House of Hope has received a grant from the Norwegian embassy to build a new boys’ dormitory.

The UT chapter of Nourish International began in 2010. Nourish International is on twenty-four campuses across the U.S. Since 2006, Nourish chapters have raised more than $240,000 to eradicate global poverty and have sent almost 300 students abroad, working with community partners on forty-five projects from around the world.

For more information about Moche Inc., visit

For more information about Nourish International, visit

C O N T A C T :

Stephanie Dixon (865-974-2125,

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,