We talked with Lee Blaney, an assistant professor and the group’s advisor, and Michael Brown, a student engineer, about an important trip they’ll be taking in January and how you can help.
Q: What is EWB planning on doing in January on your trip to Isongo?
Lee: The January implementation trip has one primary objective: to install a clean water system in Isongo, Kenya. Residents are currently collecting water from an unprotected spring. Our previous trip demonstrated that this shallow water is contaminated and represents a public health concern.
On the implementation trip, the team is planning to construct a borehole [a well to draw deeper water] and hand-pump system to provide clean water from deeper aquifers. Once the clean water supply is constructed, EWB-UMBC will help to form and train a village water committee on maintenance and operation issues. The goal is that after this trip, the community will be able to maintain this well.
In addition, EWB-UMBC wants to continue to engage the community in best water, sanitation and hygiene practices. Ultimately, all three of these elements are required for a successful project.
Lee: To successfully complete this project, EWB-UMBC requires funding to drill the borehole, purchase the raw materials for the hand-pump, and acquire tools necessary for maintenance and operation. In addition, donations will help pay for UMBC students to travel to Isongo to complete the project. Once the water supply is installed, the EWB-UMBC team will conduct water quality testing to ensure that this new water supply is safe for consumption. Your small gift can help benefit the lives of hundreds of people in Isongo for a lifetime.
Michael: The more money we can raise, the more students we can send [to Isongo], increasing the total impact that we can have on the community. One great thing about our fundraising page is that potential donors can see exactly where their money will go.
Q: What does the support from alumni and donors mean to you?
Lee: EWB-UMBC relies on gifts to fulfill our mission of implementing environmentally and economically sustainable engineering projects, while developing globally aware and internationally responsible students and engineers. We especially appreciate gifts from alumni because we believe that EWB-UMBC not only promotes projects in the developing world, but also transformative experiences for UMBC students. In EWB-UMBC, undergraduate students are empowered to tackle complex, real problems on the other side of the world.
Lee: One of the fundamental canons of engineering is “to hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public.” In EWB-UMBC, students are empowered to use the knowledge that they gain in classes to benefit real people. Meeting these people and knowing that our work is helping to improve their lives is very powerful.
[UMBC student] Chris Mullen, who traveled to Isongo on last year’s assessment trip, expressed the impact of these experiences nicely: “I learned just as much in those ten days as I learned in the previous semester. It’s not just about the engineering application or the problem solving, it’s about the experience: getting to know people living in a foreign land that you won’t hear about on the news, good people who will make a bigger impact on my life than I could ever make on theirs.”
Michael: Helping communities in need is exactly why the students in this group give so much of their time and energy. Engineers Without Borders projects are great because the ultimate goal is to give the project over to the community. This creates a sense of empowerment within the community because they are ultimately the ones who are making it all happen.
To see more of what EWB-UMBC does, check out their Tumblr.
Make Baltimore the Most Generous City in America #GivingTuesday’s mission is to create a national day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season. It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations like UMBC. This year, we’re partnering with a number of local organizations in our own #GivingTuesday effort, the “Bmore Gives More” movement. Our goal? To raise $5 million collectively in support of all of Baltimore’s amazing charitable and non-profit organizations.