Engineers Without Borders
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a foundation that partners with poor communities to help provide them with basic human needs. Its mission is to build a better world with engineering projects that will help solve the world’s most urgent problems. It builds to save lives.

Building Safe Structures

Many people are without a home in poverty-ridden countries, often living without so much as clean water or electricity. Due to environmental disasters, forced refugees and internally displaced people, many must roam the streets. Back in 2015, estimates determined that there were 100 million people facing homelessness. The need for durable and permanent refugee camps and homes is more pressing than ever. This is where EWB-USA saves the day. It addresses the challenges in engineering associated with “transitioning emergency infrastructure to more permanent systems,” which helps boost host communities who take refugees in.

Engineers Without Borders often takes on villages’ needs for bridges to aid in safer and easier travel. It found that one Guatemalan village had to walk three hours on dangerous mountain roads just to reach the capital. Access to capitals or bigger towns can be dire as they encapsulate hospitals, schools, markets and so forth. So, the Engineers Without Borders project team and volunteers decided to create bridges for these communities. The foundation takes up to several weeks to construct these bridges to make sure they are sturdy, safe and dependable for these villagers.

Engineers Without Borders also discovered the need for schools. It found out that a native Guatemalan girl had biked over an hour to reach her school. As a result, the foundation started building schools and improving the schools’ infrastructures, making them safe and durable. It has brought education to places like Guatemala, Lat Cantun II, Santa Eulalia and more.

Installing Solar Panels

Electricity is a luxury that not many homeless or poor people get. However, it is a necessity for the safety and well-being of many people. This is why EWB-USA not only makes solar panels for villages in need but also introduces and installs them. The solar panels bring hot water, better food storage, increased phone access and light to homes and schools alike. Engineers Without Borders also installs solar street lights to help keep the residents and refugees safe.

University students in EWB-USA even built a solar charging station for villages. These stations could be used by all, specifically to charge phones. It found that cell phones were extremely important for youths to apply for jobs, apply for housing and communicate with friends and family.

Engineers Without Borders helps bring electricity to these areas by partnering with foundations like IKEA and UNHRC. Its partnerships have been a key way to faster and more efficient help for these communities. Currently, Engineers Without Borders is working on over 55 projects located in more than 20 states and two territories, trying to make a difference.

Providing Clean Water

Clean water is yet another widely inaccessible luxury in many poverty-stricken countries. In Uganda alone, over 23 million people must walk over 30 minutes a day to get water that is often contaminated, bringing disease and even death. Engineers Without Borders saw how water brings life and found creative ways of providing clean water for villages. The foundation has dug and repaired wells, built rainwater catchment systems and constructed water filters. Additionally, it has built gravity-based water supply systems in phases for those in the mountains.

In Cyanika, Rwanda, the villagers benefited from one of the Engineers Without Borders’ creative rainwater catchment systems that consisted of two single tank systems. It allows the villagers to save time as well as their lives. One villager even sent a letter of thanks, expressing their gratitude as it bettered many lives, health and well-being of all the villagers.

Engineers Without Borders continues to fight to provide people their basic rights and needs. It continues to live up to its mission of building to save lives through the power of engineering. For more information about this organization, check out its website.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

Engineers Without BordersIn nations across the globe, rural communities lack access to clean water, risking disease through poor sanitation and spending valuable time collecting water miles from home instead of working or going to school.

Civil engineering professor Bernard Amadei visited such a place in the village of San Pablo, Belize, in April 2000. After discovering their circumstances, he went home to Colorado and, with the help of colleagues and students at the University of Colorado-Boulder, produced solutions to the plight of San Pablo. He and 14 of his engineering students returned to the village and implemented a clean water system – and Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) was born.

In 2017, EWB-USA is made up of more than 16,800 members committed to low-cost, high-impact solutions in response to the world’s most basic human needs. Since 2015, EWB-USA has opened two country offices in Nicaragua and one in Guatemala, with plans to have offices in five countries by 2020. Among its volunteers are students at science and engineering universities across the U.S.

Rolla, Missouri, population 20,000, is home to Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T). Founded in 1870 (as Missouri School of Mines), the school is known nationally and internationally for its engineering programs in civil, geological, environmental, mechanical, computer, electrical and aerospace disciplines. The school also hosts the Engineers Without Borders Missouri S&T chapter, dedicated to developing communities along with internationally responsible engineers.

EWB-Missouri S&T has traveled to and completed projects for villages in Honduras, Bolivia and Guatemala since its inception in 2005. Among multiple other efforts, the chapter has taught techniques for building earthquake-resistant housing in Solola, Guatemala, and has implemented a sanitation system and more efficient energy sources for a school in Rio Colorado, Bolivia, resulting in healthier children who can study after the sun sets.

In August 2017, the team wrapped up a nine-year effort that implemented a clean, public and sustainable water system for over 500 families in the village of Nahualate, Guatemala. The Puerto Bando team is implementing the distribution line and pipeline suspension bridge for a water system in the Bolivian village. The same team is also working on a design to implement systems in a single trip, bringing clean water to rural villagers even faster.

In all, nine villages in South America have been wholly impacted by one chapter of a small engineering school – and Engineers Without Borders supports nearly 300 professional and student-based chapters throughout the U.S.

Says Dr. Amadei, “Improving the lives of the five billion people whose main concern is to stay alive by the end of each day on our planet is no longer an option for engineers; it is an obligation.”

– Jaymie Greenway

Photo: Flickr

Accessible Drinking Water
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is an organization of 16,800 volunteers who hope to give worldwide communities the opportunity to sustainably meet basic human needs. They install footbridges to accommodate travel, solar panels to facilitate energy and light and, in a world where one in 10 people don’t have accessible drinking water, Engineers Without Borders is implementing technology that can help. Here are six places where EWB is bringing water to those who need it most.

Cyanika, Rwanda

This northern community rests near the country’s border with Uganda, and for many villages, the closest accessible drinking water is kilometers away. Women and children make multiple trips to collect water, and when they arrive they must pay for their water, often leaving them with the decision of choosing between hunger or dehydration. They wait in line, sometimes only to realize that the well is dry. Engineers Without Borders has installed three unique community rainwater catchment systems, two single tank systems and one system of four tanks in the larger town of Munini. In Gasebeya and Nyarotosho, the single-tank systems save an average of 11 hours that would usually be spent collecting water. The saved time leaves community members with opportunities for raising more livestock and developing more income, and the saved income and time also means that they can maintain the systems on their own.

Mugonero, Rwanda

Along the western border of Rwanda, Mugonero was hit incredibly hard by the 1994 genocide, with 3,000 people killed in the community. Rebuilding continues slowly but surely in this small community accessible only by a small dirt road of switchbacks. Engineers Without Border worked with L’Esperance, a local NGO in Mugonero, and despite the NGO closing in 2013, EWB’s efforts in the region have been maintained for years and continue to benefit the community. Engineers Without Borders installed three rainwater catchment tanks, a UV water treatment system and an irrigation system that drastically improved the conditions of accessible drinking water.

Amayo, Nicaragua

In Nicaragua, 800,000 people do not have access to safe drinking water, leaving 37 percent of rural communities reliant on contaminated sources. EWB partnered with Potters for Peace, a U.S. nonprofit that uses clay pottery techniques to create water filters, to install 30 water filters. Accessible clean water means safer health conditions for the community, which uses the clay filters for both drinking and cooking. In addition, Potters for Peace educated locals (often rural women) on how to reproduce the water filters. This element of community engagement left Amayo highly self-sufficient and far healthier.

Jinotepe Hogar de Ancianos, Nicaragua

The Hogar Board of Directors, a local municipal body, benefitted from the reserve water system installed in Jinotepe by gaining the respect of their community. The reserve uses gravity in a 2,500-gallon tank to bring a fresh water supply to the community. Unfortunately, the tank itself has been in need of repairs since 2015, but the community feels that the current emphasis on health and the faith in the Hogar Board would be impossible without the EWB project. Accessible drinking water is now a priority of the community, thanks to the (albeit temporary) system provided by EWB, and the Board of Directors has a new confidence and dedication to provide it. Funding will remain a challenge.

Pueblo Nuevo, Nicaragua

Reaching clean water required long and frequent trips for the community members of Pueblo Nuevo. Engineers Without Borders cite the benefits of their integrated water distribution system as providing men with more time to tend to crops, children with more time to make it to school, and women with the liberation from five to six daily trips to the river. The distribution system does rely on rainwater, and so the impact it has can vary from serving 150 to 350 people. It pumps water from a hand-dug well to a holding tank, which then is distributed to three different districts. The rationing and maintenance required to benefit from the distribution system mean that the community has not only benefited from increased accessible drinking water but from increased community organization.


Seventeen projects are in the “implementation” phase in Guatemala, and 15 are considered “complete,” but most are still under review to evaluate their impact. The involvement of Engineers Without Borders in Guatemala is incredibly concentrated on potable water projects. These efforts comprise 58 percent of EWB’s Guatemala Project. At least five systems are considered functioning, each reaching between 350 and 1,500 people depending on the size of the community. The largest system involves 26 kilometers of pipe, and the projects have brought flowing water to every tap in the community. In addition to putting this infrastructure in place, the Guatemala projects focused on whether it was necessary to introduce a circuit rider (water technician) to the community to maintain the system. As implementation continues with new systems, Engineers Without Borders has placed an emphasis on training for pump maintenance, so that Guatemalan communities can be self-sufficient and continually have accessible drinking water.

Brooke Clayton

Photo: Flickr

Tanzania ProjectMichigan State University Engineers Without Borders (MSU EWB) is developing the Buyuni, Tanzania project. The project will build rainwater-collecting devices for drinking use. Providing access to consistent sources of clean water is crucial to poverty reduction. Poverty also plays a prominent role in chronic absenteeism from school, and people in poverty tend to have limited access to clean drinking water.

Providing clean water to use for drinking and cooking, MSU EWB hopes students will attend and remain in school. EWB is a group of humanitarian organizations in more than 30 countries that aims to provide sustainable solutions through education and engineering expertise. These engineers will dig wells, design water treatment systems, build bridges, set up solar panel arrays to power schools, and complete countless other projects.

Brandon Kortum, a junior from MSU majoring in Applied Engineering Sciences and Chinese, is the Project Lead for the Tanzania project, which began in January. Kortum has worked with MSU EWB since the start of his undergraduate career. “I joined EWB because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to use the skills that I learned in college to help people around the world,” Kortum says.

The MSU EWB team works in Buyuni, Tanzania with a non-profit organization, Salvatorian sisters, to collect rainwater on a secondary school and use it for drinking. “We are hoping that this project will make it easier and cleaner to attend school,” notes Kortum.

The system will first collect rainwater in a gutter system on the roof of the school. Then, they remove larger debris and rough pollution in a first flush system. After the first flush system, the systems will store water in four 15,000-liter tanks in the courtyard of the school.

The water, along with supplemental water from the school’s well, passes through a slow sand filter. Next, that sand filter then removes any particles in the water. Afterward, the systems will purify the water using chlorine stored in numerous large water tanks. From there, people can use the water for drinking or cooking.

The project is incomplete, but the team hopes this new system will increase school attendance. They also hope the overall well-being of the students will improve and be a step in fighting poverty in Tanzania.

If anyone is at all interested in joining, EWB-USA has chapters in many major cities and universities with over 16,000 members. Contact information for chapters near you can be found at or by simply searching for local chapter websites.

Alexis Pierce
Photo: Flickr