Roger Ward, a member and project leader of the EWB Professional Chapter in Indianapolis, visited Rose-Hulman on Wednesday, November 6th to present his team’s clean water project in Kenya. Himself a Rose-Hulman graduate, Mr. Ward described how the project has progressed from the initial assessment trip in 2011 to the successful implementations in 2012 and 2013. His project focuses on ensuring sustainable clean water in the rural town of Bungoma, located in the highlands of western Kenya. A purification method known as a spring box was implemented to achieve this goal. Spring boxes capture the water from natural springs and filter it through several layers, including rough rock. The water can then be dispensed from an opening high enough for villagers to place their jugs underneath.
Throughout the presentation, Mr. Ward emphasized several guiding principles of Engineers Without Borders, including the importance of involving the community in the process, providing a solution that they are willing to use, and using locally available materials to work towards long-term improvement. To involve the community, his team met with community leaders to develop a memo of understanding. In this agreement, the community committed to help construct and routinely maintain the spring boxes in return for the EWB team’s pledge to oversee, train workers for, and fund the initial implementation. The team also made sure that the community would use the spring boxes, because many previous attempts by various organizations to provide a clean water supply failed due to a lack of maintenance, lack of funding, or lack of community acceptance. As a result, the team saw many abandoned pumps, water towers, and pieces of ruined equipment lying around the countryside. To minimize the cost and dependency on imported goods of their solution, the team used locally purchased bricks and other local supplies.
After the team’s successful implementation trips in January 2012 and 2013, the community reports a decrease in illnesses and water sampling indicates a 95% decrease in bacteria with the spring box filtration. Each spring box required two and a half days of labor and about $500 for materials, and the local workers quickly learned how to construct them. Overall, Mr. Ward’s presentation served as an inspiration for our EWB chapter; his team’s spring box project demonstrates how we can overcome many constraints to improve the quality of life of the poor around the world.
Beginning in spring 2013, we are taking on local outreach projects through the Servants At Work (SAWs) ministry. These projects identify the need among people with disabilities for wheelchair ramps, since many receive wheelchairs through their healthcare but are left without easy access to their homes. Partnering with SAWs, we build wheelchair ramps to provide these people with improved mobility. SAWs provides the building materials and blueprints for each ramp, and we provide the construction labor. We have already assembled several ramps and plan to continue volunteering for projects as new needs arise.
Having finished our program in the Dominican Republic (which included the construction of a septic system and retrofitting an existing building with a hurricane proof roof to increase the quality and quantity of care provided by a medical clinic, as well as constructing latrines in a disease-ridden community nearby), our next program, starting this summer, will be in a brand new community. We will be returning to Ghana, this time to the community of Gomoa Gyaman, about 50 miles from our previous program in Obodan where we constructed a brooder house and a community center. Everyone is very excited about the prospects of this collaboration and we can’t wait to see what working together over the next 5 years will lead to!
The Gomoa Gyaman community has about 5,000 indigenous citizens and over 100,000 in the surrounding region. The community is primarily agrarian and has no major public infrastructure except for a school, church, and public market square. They lack key infrastructure that will help them realize their mission to provide opportunities for development for the community members. The elders, in conjunction with the traditional leaders and Gomoa Gyaman Youth Association, have concluded that four public latrines strategically located throughout the community will curb the health and environmental hazards of improper disposal of human waste.
Sanitation is critical to the welfare of this community and the provision of compost latrines will go a long way to improve the health of the community as a whole as well as provide fertilizer for their crops. A healthy community will lead to more productive citizens and improve the wealth of all. Other possible future projects with this community include a solar-powered library, a senior secondary school, and a health clinic which would further augment the health and education of community members.
While this is a large undertaking, with a bigger scope than all of our previous projects, this collaboration will lead to a great experience for both parties. In order for this to be successful, we need your support. Traveling to Ghana costs roughly $1,600 per person, and in order to maximize the number of students who can benefit from this great opportunity to travel and work with people from a very different culture than their own, extra fundraising is necessary.
Our preliminary budget estimates that the upcoming assessment trip will cost roughly $13,900, allowing 6 students and our professional engineering mentor to travel to the community to learn about the community and their greatest needs, as well as to collect the necessary technical data relating to the design of the compost latrines.
Our second implementation trip to Batey Santa Rosa in the Dominican Republic took place at the end of February, 2013. Our project’s goal in Batey Santa Rosa is to build twelve latrines for the community, which will help limit the spread of fecal-born parasites and disease.
During our first implementation trip we constructed three latrines and over the next six months the community successfully built three latrines on their own, using the skills and knowledge that we taught them. The second implementation project was a one week trip where six students and two mentors inspected the latrines that they had built and then constructed three additional latrines; this brings the total number up to nine latrines, three shy of the project’s goal.
Next year we will return to inspect the final three latrines that the community plans to construct and will bring the project to a close as we begin the process of transitioning to our new project in Ghana.