In-Person Trainings for Engineers Without Borders and Others

In an effort to fulfill our mandated role of educating others on the Village Earth Approach to sustainable community-based development, we have recently conducted numerous trainings with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapters from around the country. The two-day, in-person courses focus on a number of areas essential to the successful implementation of projects. 

In order to create successful projects, we must ask ourselves, “What is it about a project that makes it successful and sustainable? What structural, social, or even psychological barriers inhibit or prevent individuals and groups from getting involved and working together for change?” In this training we focus on a model for how EWB chapters can fit into the overall process of community change, focusing on the relationship between local partner organizations, EWB Chapter organizations and communities. We explore the concept of appropriate technology as both the “hard” physical technologies, but also the “soft” social-organizational technology that ensures equitable distribution and long-term sustainability. This training draws on the theories and methods of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, whose work has guided some of the most successful development and education programs around the globe, including the Orangi Pilot Project in Bangladesh, the NAAM movement in Burkina Faso and the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement in Sri Lanka, among others.

These courses have been very well-received thus far. One student told us, “To put it mildly, this course has changed the way I view myself in the world. I have no doubt that it will affect how I conduct myself as a member of a team and as a leader. I am especially interested to see how it affects my interactions with my existing social groups of work, family, school and friends.”

So far, UC Santa Barbara, University of Illionois Champaign-Urbana, Rutgers University, EWB Northeast Regional Chapters, Colorado Springs Professional EWB Chapter, Princeton, Hope College, University of Michigan and the Colorado State University EWB Chapter have participated in our specialized training. If you are interested in scheduling an EWB training or a specialized training for your group, please contact us by replying to this email.

Village Earth/ EWB Partnership

Above: The people of Santa Rosa de Dinamarca and Village Earth representative, Kristina Pearson, dancing in the Umisha Festival. Kristina met with the community in February 2007 to begin project preparations.

The Engineers Without Borders (EWB) University of Colorado chapter made the original visit to the Ucayali Region with Village Earth in 2006. They participated in the January 2006 regional workshop and documentary film production. They also offered their services to the Shipibo. 

One Shipibo community, Santa Rosa de Dinamarca in Masisea District, took the initiative and submitted a project application for a clean water project in their community. The Fort Collins Professional Chapter of EWB agreed to take on this project. We are very excited to work together and it is great that we are both based in Fort Collins allowing us to meet periodically to discuss project planning.

Santa Rosa de Dinamarca like many Shipibo communities is suffering from lack of clean drinking water. Wells have been installed, however, half are not currently functioning. The present situation reflects the past disconnect between non-governmental organizations (NGOs), funding agencies, and Shipibo communities. The Shipibo complained to us that NGOs came and installed wells in their communities using a design from somewhere else. Therefore, the wells do not function properly in their tropical rainforest environment. This shows the importance of building off local, indigenous knowledge and how local environmental conditions are an essential consideration before taking on any project. As well, local people were not trained in how to install or maintain these wells themselves, so when they break down they remain dormant and unrepaired.

Before the wells, Shipibo communities obtained their water from the rivers and lakes surrounding their communities. However with the increase in pollution from upstream, these water sources became highly contaminated. Population centers upstream dump their waste, there is contamination from oil exploitation, and increased sedimentation from logging have all polluted the watershed making the water unsafe for consumption. However, since their wells are not very deep (10 meters at the most) it is most likely that the water in the wells is actually connected to the rest of the contaminated watershed. Therefore, EWB is going to look into the possibility of digging deeper to reach the pure, clean water aquifers.

Below: The community’s watershed

Parasites and other gastrointestinal illnesses are a problem especially for children in this community because of the lack of clean water. Clean water is an essential part of creating sustainable, healthy human communities. Only when people have the basic necessities of life covered (clean water, food security, clothing, shelter) can they begin to take their own self-determination seriously and work for a better future.

 

Below: Young Shipibo girl from Santa Rosa de Dinamarca

Village Earth and Engineers Without Borders are excited about our partnership and will be visiting the region for an assessment trip immediately following the Indigenous Tribunal event in late June. Village Earth will continue to empower communities to direct their own “development” processes. EWB will be assessing the local situation and doing topographic surveys in order to better understand the local environment, as well as assess community wants and needs. 

There is a lot of potential for future collaborations between Village Earth, EWB, and the Shipibo people to be working with all communities in need in such projects as sanitation, construction, fishfarming, and survey work to help out with land issues.

If you are interested in supporting this project, contributions can be made through Village Earth or you can attend EWB’s first fundraising event on April 27. For more information, check out the EWB Fort Collins Professional Chapter’s project website.

 

Above: The Umisha Festival in Santa Rosa de Dinamarca.