The Human Edge: Designing a World of Hope
If you told me 10 years ago that I would be volunteering my time to develop master plans for non-profit organizations around the world, I’d have called you crazy. But that’s exactly what I’ve found myself doing. What’s...
If you told me 10 years ago that I would be volunteering my time to develop master plans for non-profit organizations around the world, I’d have called you crazy. But that’s exactly what I’ve found myself doing. What’s more, I realized my engineering background could be used through a Christian non-profit organization called Engineering Ministries International (EMI) — a group consisting of engineers, architects, surveyors, and other techs who donate their professional skills by travelling abroad to help the less fortunate.
We design future facilities that will serve the poor in developing countries, working on projects such as orphanages, clean water, bridges, medical centres, hospitals, and training schools. EMI also does construction management and sends emergency response teams to disaster zones.
I’ve been privileged to travel to places like Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, and even spent six months living in Uganda. My most recent trip to Lebanon in February 2012 marks my seventh project trip abroad. I’d like to give you a taste of what I experienced.
Our team met together for the first time in Beirut. We included a structural engineer from Anchorage, a mechanical engineer from Kentucky and a senior architect from Colorado. A junior architect from Winnipeg and I were the Canadian contingent. The team was of one spirit and worked very well together, enabling us to get much work completed in-country.
After a couple of days in Beirut, our client organization took us up into the mountains about an hour outside the city to see the site we were to work on. This was a camping and conference centre that is much cherished by those who enjoy it to escape for a few weeks from the city.
Consisting of a disorganized network of 50-year old buildings with inadequate infrastructure, the site has a church, orphanage, dormitories, basketball court (they love B-ball), kitchen, and a dining hall for around 50-100 people.
The organization wishes to ultimately expand the camp’s capacity to 300 people. This was where the EMI team provided them with experience and know-how to properly plan for future redevelopment on the site whilst keeping the existing buildings functional throughout the process.
The work was not without its struggles, mainly surrounding the steep grades of the site, and the short timeline imposed on us.
Our daily program meetings with local architects and the client were critical in our effort to collect as much in-country information as possible. Thankfully, Lebanese people learn English, French, and Arabic in school, which eliminated potential communication barriers.
For two weeks we worked tirelessly to complete the architectural, structural, civil, mechanical, and electrical conceptual designs, providing as much detail as possible. When we presented our master plan to the organization’s general assembly, they responded with praise and excitement. But the most satisfying moment was to come when our final report is given to the client in June. The report will empower the client to move forward and realize their dreams — a very exciting moment for all involved!
These trips give me great pleasure, knowing that I’ve played even a small part in helping the global community by using my skills as an engineer to help those who are less fortunate. Who knows where I will go next!cce
Ryan Williams, EIT is a civil engineering graduate with ISL Engineering and Land Services in Edmonton, Alberta.
The names of the camp and the EMI team members have been kept anonymous — a measure the organization considers necessary for their protection and ongoing ability to work in this part of the world.