Engineers Without Borders

Engineers Without Borders

I still can’t believe I went to Guatemala.

Six months ago, a team of NMT Engineers Without Borders members assembled and flew south. We crossed the Gulf of Mexico, landed in Guatemala City, and took a van northwest along narrow winding roads into the mountain highlands. There, we were welcomed into Xolá, a community without an adequate supply of clean water but with the biggest hearts you can imagine.

Xolá makes Socorro look big. 625 individuals live there, nestled in the mountains, circling a valley that contains the springs that are their only consistent water source. Most do not have steady jobs, and they survive primarily from subsistence farming. But food is not their biggest concern, because they only have access to water for three hours or less a day and it is completely untreated. This is inadequate for health and sanitation, but they lack the knowledge and resources to improve the situation. So they reached out to EWB for help.

EWB is a national humanitarian organization dedicated to using engineering projects to aid communities like Xolá. We work closely with communities to develop appropriate solutions to meet their basic human needs, and emphasize education, collaboration, and empowerment to ensure the projects are sustained long after we are gone.

Tech’s EWB chapter is relatively new, and this is our first international project. It took years of work, false starts, and fundraising to even get to this point, but now we are doing what we are meant to do. As someone who has been there for the whole journey (all two thousand miles of it), it is an incredible feeling!

Our assessment trip half a year ago went well:  we gathered information to design the system upgrades, surveyed households about their needs, and met many wonderful people. Before leaving, we signed an agreement with Xolá and the local municipality committing to a five-year partnership with them. Now, we have finished designing, and plan to return to Guatemala this summer to implement the project.

As we finance all aspects of the project and trip ourselves, fundraising has been our biggest task. It is unglamorous but essential. This semester, we are holding two events: first, a benefit dinner at Bodega Burger Co. at 6:30 PM on April 4th. There, we will dive more into our project and process, and enjoy a delicious meal and entertainment in the process. Second, we have teamed up with ASME and are hosting a golf tournament on April 27th. Dinner tickets ($30 for students and $35 for non-students) are available at support.ewb-usa.org/nmtdinner19 and golf registration and direct donations are at tinyurl.com/NMT-golf. All proceeds go directly to our project with Xolá.

My journey with this club began because they had hard hats on their club fair table and I thought they were the caving club. But within a few moments I realized that EWB was what I had been looking for all along: a chance to put my knowledge to real-world use helping others. I love working with similarly motivated members, who are from a variety of backgrounds, not just engineering. Of all the activities I’ve done in college, EWB has been the most meaningful, inspiring, and educational, and I hope to stay involved far into the future. And I can’t wait to see Xolá again!

For more information and to get involved, contact us at nmt.ewb@gmail.com, check out our website at nmt.edu/~ewb, or come to our weekly meetings Mondays at 5PM in the Tripp Room of Skeen library.

-Evelyn Byrd

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