The Independent

Engineers Without Borders: Ecuador and Laos

Ecuador. Photo by John Henry

By Shaina April Nez

Fort Lewis College’s student organization the Engineers without Borders (EWB) ventured out to Ecuador and Laos to help villages develop a working water system in their communities this past summer, from July to August.

Don May, director of Engineers without Borders and professor of Engineering, along with Laurie Williams, co-director and also a professor, and a total of 33 student members went on this trip to aid and participate in implementing water systems of these progressing communities.

The Engineers without Borders Village Aid Project at Fort Lewis College is a program that gives students the opportunity to work on engineering related projects in the developing world. Students study, organize, design and assist in the construction of projects that improve the quality of life in poverty stricken communities around the world.

Photo by John Henry

In order for Fort Lewis College’s EWB chapter to help and be a part of the project, they had to be connected with the Engineers without Borders USA national organization.

Laurie Williams, co-director of EWB, speaks on the process of how their chapter first got to work with such a project.

“The communities write proposals to the national organization asking for help, then a college chapter that wants to participate in a trip can look at the list and pick from there based on their expertise or interest they want to work with; that’s how we got our start but every year we would always go back to the same area, so now the people of that community knows we’re coming so we don’t have to go through the same start-up process,” she said.

Williams also mentions that workshops, meetings, and a class of EWB are encouraged to participate in, in order to take part in the trip.

Since the organization is non-profit, a lot of other student organizations like the Rotary club for instance, and community members of Durango donate to the EWB for their trips, and of course the enormous amount of time of EWB fundraising on their own and dishing money from their own pocket.

Running water in Ecuador. Photo by John Henry

Ecoli, a bacterium that normally resides in the human colon and in animals can become a serious contaminant when bound in a food or water supply. E coli was recently found in the village’s water supply, which led EWB to implement a new water system by adding a filtration system to their spring and running a pipeline to the community.

John Max Henry, a former member of EWB and a translator during the trip to Ecuador, spoke on the living conditions of Gallrumi, Ecuador, and how the community is still managing to remain tolerable.

“The village is full of waste from livestock and it’s almost cultural to the community to always wear boots to keep from being contaminated from the waste, these people have so little and yet they are the happiest and appreciative people in the world,” he said.

Rachel Medina, President of the Engineering without Borders, also mentions how the trip not a way to venture into another country, but a teamwork to gain knowledge without the need of skills.

“Besides learning to work on a project and gaining skills from it, just having an eye-opening, life changing experience is something words cannot describe on a type of trip like this, we’re there to help and assist a community in need and that is more different than just taking a trip anywhere and spending money,” she said.

This non-profit organization started in 2004 along with the trips to aid helping communities and has been going strong for seven years.