Canadian Consulting Engineer

Engineering students show their concern for developing countries

March 12, 2003
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Engineers Without Borders, the fledgling organization dedicated to helping people in developing countries, held an...

Engineers Without Borders, the fledgling organization dedicated to helping people in developing countries, held an open day across Canada on Friday, March 6. The event was part of National Engineering Week
Students in the University of Toronto chapter manned booths in the atrium of the Engineering Faculty’s new Bahen Centre, off St. George Street, and they gave presentations on some of the projects in which they have been involved.
The Engineers Without Borders organization is fashioned after Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontiers, which has established itself as one of the most effective non-governmental organizations working to alleviate the harshest conditions in developing countries.
Engineers Without Borders was started in 2000 by two University of Waterloo engineering Graduates. It still consists mostly of engineering students, but there is also back-up from faculty and professionals. There are 21 chapters across Canada. The official mission is to “help people in developing communities gain access to the technologies they need to improve their lives.”
So far the Toronto chapter has sent six interns overseas to participate in different projects. One placement for example, sent interns to Bolivia to research ways to find more potable water for the Huarina community. Another University of Waterloo graduate, Steven Gray, described his experience in Peru where he helped to alleviate the hardships caused by extremely cold weather in the mountain herding communities. He showed unforgettable photographs of people living in homes with only a hole in the roof for a chimney, walking in sandals in snow, and nursing their animals, which were freezing to death.
Another unforgettable presentation was by Ginelle Skeritt, regional director of UNICEF Ontario, who explained about the terrible plight of AIDS/HIV sufferers in southern Africa. Thanks to AIDS, over 12 million children in Africa are orphans, she explained, and the most vulnerable are the children and young women who are often coerced into marriage with older men who then infect them. Adolescent girls in Africa are six times more likely to be infected than boys.
The enthusiasm and good intentions of the students involved in Engineers Without Borders is gratifying, yet they say the rewards go both ways. Anupam Singhal, the president of the University of Toronto chapter, said in the university’s Varsity newspaper that “While I would like to think that I have made a difference to EWB, the truth is that EWB has made more of a difference to my life.”
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