In a small box in his Corvallis home, Michael Campana keeps his sister Ann’s driver’s license. The edges are slightly melted, but the license is otherwise intact – rather amazing considering it was found in the wreckage of American Airlines Flight 77, which was flown into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
Campana, now a professor in geosciences at Oregon State University, was teaching a class at the University of New Mexico on the morning of Sept. 11, when he saw his wife standing at the back of the room. He knew something was wrong.
When class was over, Mary Campana told him that his sister Ann, 49, was on board the plane that had crashed into the Pentagon. Ann Campana Judge was the travel director for National Geographic Society, and was flying with a co-worker and with three middle school students and their teachers, on their way to a National Geographic field trip in California.
“It was their first time on a plane” Campana said of the children accompanying his sister on the flight.
Days after the attacks, Campana flew to Washington, D.C., for a memorial service for his sister and other victims of the attack. There was a makeshift memorial at the site of the crash, where Campana left his own gift, which included a bottle of Dewar’s Scotch and a pack of Marlboro Lights, his sister’s favorites. When he returned home, Campana began to consider how he could create a more lasting legacy in memory of Ann.
As a professor at UNM, Campana had traveled to impoverished countries, helping locals set up clean water systems that brought in fresh, safe water directly to villages, rather than having to transport it for miles. Using simple technology like gravity flow systems, and making sure that the operation and upkeep of the systems was in the hands of the people using the water source, Campana made a difference for little cost.
Ann’s love of travel and her dedication to education around the world tied in well with her brother’s work, so Campana decided to set up a foundation in her name that would fund organizations doing similar work in Central America. He had two goals in mind; create a foundation that distributed nearly 100 percent of its funds to the projects, and support organizations that didn’t simply sweep in, create a project and then leave.
“That’s not empowering the people, that’s making them further beholden on gringos,” he said.
The foundation started small, but seven years later, has distributed nearly $200,000 to projects across Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama and El Salvador. Because each project is relatively low cost, that money is able to support many different organizations with grants ranging from $5,000 to $12,000. The foundation recently funded a project in El Salvador with the OSU Engineers Without Borders group.
This June, Campana took a two-week trip to Honduras and Nicaragua to visit some of the sites funded by his foundation.
“It’s just astonishing how far $12,000 went,” he said. “I was extremely impressed.”
In addition to funding other organizations, Campana is anxious to do some more hands-on work in Central America, something he hasn’t had much of a chance to do since coming to OSU in 2006.
“I realized how much I missed working with local people,” he said. “It’s amazing how people who have a fraction of what I have are doing such great things.”
Bringing clean water directly to isolated villages doesn’t just improve the sanitation and health of the residents. Campana said it has a very direct impact onthe lives of women, who are typically taxed with carrying in water from outside sources, often taking up hours of each day.
By eliminating that task, young women are freed up to attend school, while older women used that “extra” time to tend crops of herbs and spices, which they can then sell outside the village, becoming economically independent often for the first time.
Campana has many more projects in his sights, from education programs to providing drills for villages to create their own wells. One day he’d like to bring OSU students to Central America, as well.
When Campana visits a new site, he can picture his sister alongside him. “Ann would be there, swinging a sledge hammer, with a Marlboro in her mouth,” he said. “She’d be out there.”
For more information on the Ann Campana Judge Foundation, see www. http://www.acjfoundation.org/
To read a blog post Campana wrote about the 9-11 Memorial, see http://aquadoc.typepad.com/aquablog/2009/01/a-trip-.html
To hear an interview with Campana, click here.
~ Theresa Hogue