WEFTA volunteer Alex Litofsky has returned to the Panamanian community she first fell in love with several years ago. She is using her experience and contacts to help improve access to water through a project that will benefit a local school and surrounding homes.

Alex is currently a water resources engineer at a consulting firm in Cleveland, Ohio. She also serves as the city engineer for the City of East Cleveland. Alex was a Peace Corps Environmental Health Volunteer in Panama from 2014 to 2016. She traveled back to the country’s Quebrada Pastor community in 2021 as a WEFTA volunteer following a social media posting by WEFTA Executive Director Tim Wellman. The post was an appeal to returned volunteers interested in WASH work in Panama. Off she went with the title of Field Engineer.

WEFTA: A winning model

Alex appreciates WEFTA’s model of relying on 1) strong partnerships with local contractors and organizations to organize and execute work, and 2) a network of experienced professionals who care about seeing that the work happens. She believes WEFTA’s approach draws on best practices for sustainable and empowering development work that prioritizes building local capacity.

Alex is even helping to expand WEFTA’s network in Panama through a partnership with the Northeast Ohio Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders. That relationship offers additional connections resulting from the chapter’s project in Cerro Muleto, in the Niba county of Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé. A significant part of that partnership involves student interns, with the intention of training and inspiring Panamanian engineers to take up the work of building water and sanitation infrastructure in rural Panama. But Alex is most excited about the prospect of helping to build the capacity of the emerging network of water professionals in Panama to develop and run a rural water nonprofit that can increasingly take over this work more directly.

Serving a community that she calls home

For Alex, working in Panama is deeply rewarding. In her own words, “Every time I return to Panama, I fall in love with the place and the people all over again. I love that feeling, and I am grateful that WEFTA has facilitated return trips to this beautiful country. More importantly, WEFTA has given me the great gift of being able to continue to offer my Peace Corps community – a place I call home, people I call my family – assistance beyond my original two-year commitment and continue to contribute to building local capacity in Panama – the ultimate project of sustainable development, empowerment, and self-determination.”

WEFTA volunteer Alex Litofsky in Quebrada Pastor, Panama