Engineers without borders: Building community
When members of the Princeton chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) returned to Huamanzaña, Peru, last summer for their final visit, the work was less about building physical things than building community.
It was the sixth year the undergraduate-led group had been working in Huamanzaña, a mountain town of about 130 people. The group had helped build a holding tank for the town’s water line and installed water taps in most of the buildings. The students also designed and installed stoves and chimneys that allowed residents to cook more efficiently and vent smoke out of their living spaces to avoid respiratory illnesses.
On the final visit, the object was to help the community sustain these developments. The students found that some of the metal chimneys had corroded so they helped residents repair them with local materials. They also helped the town establish a committee consisting of residents who would take responsibility for maintaining the water system.
“It really brought home the importance of projects being taken on by the community,” said project leader Barbara Hendrick, a junior. “We can bring in all this technology but if you don’t have the community support, you’ll never really get anything done.”
Next year, the group plans to begin work in the nearby town of Samne to help with trash and sewer problems. On campus, EWB also has focused on building community: In November, the group ran a daylong conference called “Collective Motion” that was part of EWB’s “campus initiative to generate meaningful, reflective dialogue on what sustainable international development truly means,” said chapter president Jane Yang, a senior