Engineers Without Borders is a humanitarian, nonprofit organization with student chapters at many universities and professional chapters in major cities around the country. EWB endeavors to improve the quality of life in developing countries by partnering with communities to implement equitable and sustainable engineering solutions.
Huff helped with construction of the new water system. He also collected extensive GPS data needed for future projects. He is a graduate student in forestry at OSU. Poresky also is an OSU alum, and is working in Portland as a senior staff engineer for Geosyntec Consultants. In addition to his work on design and construction, Poresky served as the professional mentor and advisor for the project. He is president-elect of the Portland chapter of EWB. Cornyn, now a chemical engineer at OSU, helped with community health surveys, water testing and construction.
The OSU chapter of EWB has been working with the communities of El Naranjito and Las Mercedes, El Salvador, since 2005. The group was originally summoned by a Peace Corps volunteer in the communities who identified better access to clean drinking water as the most important need for the communities. In this rural area, government services, as well as expendable income, are quite limited.
EWB-OSU has made three trips since early 2006 to build relationships with the communities, collect information, establish a local water board, and distribute locally produced ceramic filters. The ceramic filters fit neatly atop a 5-gallon bucket. The concept is based on technology invented by Potters for Peace. They consist of porous clay and colloidal silver pressed into a funnel-shaped mold. The result is safe drinking water for every home.
The winter trip focused on providing easier access to water by building a rainwater collection system at a school. Travelers also kept busy performing community health surveys and collecting information for future projects such as additional rainwater collection systems, spring box improvements, and pipeline installations.
The rainwater collection system will collect roof runoff during the rainy season and store it for use during the dry season. To complete the project, EWB members utilized their engineering knowledge and handyman skills, while working alongside community members who contributed valuable local know-how and labor. The project is expected to benefit the school significantly. Previously, teachers and students had to walk about 20 minutes over steep terrain to obtain water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. In all, the trip was a success and the group looks forward to returning for future projects.
While it might not have been a typical vacation, it was an eye-opening and rewarding experience that the travelers won’t soon forget. The group arrived back in the States on Christmas Eve carrying dirty clothes, fond memories, and a strengthened appreciation for the things we sometimes take for granted in the US: clean tap water, a hot shower, and the company of loved ones.