This club, with 30-40 dedicated members, is actually a chapter of EWB-USA, a nonprofit organization that “supports community-driven development programs worldwide by collaborating with local partners to design and implement sustainable engineering projects, while creating transformative experiences and responsible leaders,” according to their website.
Ana Flores, an ESF junior and environmental resource engineering major, has been an active ESF-EWB member since her freshman year when she signed up at the campus’ activities fair. She is currently vice president but was the club’s secretary last year. Flores says ESF-EWB’s mission is to “get engineering students and professionals working together on local and international projects focusing on sustainability.”
The club’s international project is in Buena Vista, Honduras, a small, mountainous village of about 300 subsistence farmers. A Peace Corps member initially managed the project but passed on the responsibility and data when her term ended. The village has no readily available potable water to drink. They had been using a system of hoses near a polluted water source with coliform bacteria, which caused them intestinal illnesses. The hose system was unreliable; it often disconnected and would only run during the rainy season. Pesticide use contributed to the contaminated runoff.
Alfalit International, Inc. works in Honduras as a “non-governmental organization committed to establishing infrastructure in the under-developed communities of the region,” and formed a partnership with ESF-EWB, providing better communication with the village as well as equipment, labor, and construction materials. EWB in turn designed a gravity-fed water filtration system.
The top of a nearby mountain has natural clean water, so the water system collects this and brings it down to the village’s houses. There are storage tanks and structures and an almost complete pipeline, now 20 out of 24 houses now have potable water promptly delivered. This winter break, ESF-EWB plans to see a finished project when members go to check the system and get the community’s response. The Buena Vista Water Board, which represents the villagers’ interests, will take over project maintenance after construction.
ESF-EWB also works on local projects. Working with Amberations in Marietta, NY, the club plans to build a composting toilet as well as develop trails and facilities. The club wants to reach out to other majors and incorporate more outlooks and skills. For example, ESF-EWB is researching wetlands and could use individuals who have knowledge about biodiversity, community implications, laws, and regulations, says Flores. The club is looking for eager members that want to learn, do work, and have outside-the-borders fun.
Check out next week in the series for the Student Environmental Education Coalition (SEEC).