Engineering students from around the world work with the Global Engineering Brigade and local communities to create clean water systems in areas that do not have access to them. College chapters travel to Ghana, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama to cater the water system to the community’s needs.
In Honduras, these efforts are needed more than ever as 5.7% of the population lacked access to clean water in 2021. The following year, Honduras’s capital Tegucigalpa also experienced a clean water shortage for its 1.5 million residents. Coupled with unsafe drinking sources, malnutrition and poor health care, there are increased fears of pneumonia, which is one of the leading causes of child deaths in the country.
Global Engineering Brigades
Global Brigades began in 2003 when Shital Vora, a physical therapist student at Marquette University recruited about 20 students to volunteer in Honduras. While students initially only delivered medical supplies, the scope of the program has since evolved. Global Brigades now also provides clean water, legal help and guidance on improving public health. During the pandemic, engineering students collaborated with communities over Zoom to help with clean water systems specifically.
Ongoing projects in five areas of Honduras continued post pandemic lockdowns. In cities such as Loz Izotes, residents’ primary water sources are local streams with untreated water. For this community, the only way to get sufficient water flow for everyone in the area is to build a well and install an efficient pump system. The location was assessed in 2016 and a water system is designed. However, a project partner is needed to bring the plan to completion.
The global engineering brigade has a five-step process for each water system project. Although it is typically a week-long trip, chapters strive to follow these steps to ensure clean water is presented to the community. Students and other volunteers first meet with community residents and leaders to assess current water sources and the community’s needs.
Once the assessment is done, Global Engineering Brigade engineers work with volunteers to design the project. They map the area, design the water system and create a budget that works with the community. With the project developed and the budget created, the volunteers present their findings to the community before they begin construction.
Volunteers also have the opportunity to visit previously completed projects to follow up and ensure it is operating correctly. The construction phase can take time due to funding. While volunteers are not expected to stay during the construction they can extend their trip if they want to.
Ongoing Projects and Future
While the pandemic temporarily changed the way the Global Engineering Brigade operated, engineering students are now back to work in person in 2022. At the beginning of the year, the University of Birmingham in England began to fundraise for their trip to Honduras planned for July 2022.
Similarly, Dalhousie University in Canada raised $30,093.34 for their trip to Honduras in May 2022. In 2021, the engineering students participated in a TeleBridage, helping communities virtually during the pandemic.
The University of Central Florida (UCF) in the United States is scheduled to travel to Honduras in May 2023. Students at UCF also joined the TeleBrigade in 2021 to help with the water access crisis.
Global Engineering Brigades worldwide continue to raise money and provide water systems to countries lacking clean water. As of 2019, 45 water systems have been constructed with the Global Engineering Brigade’s assistance.
– -Sara Sweitzer