‘Nova EWB provides service in Thailand



Kate Carrubba

The Villanova chapter of Engineers Without Borders traveled to Thailand in May in order to provide two villages and an orphanage with a sustainable source of water, both for drinking and agricultural purposes.

The trip was student-run and involved 10 Villanova students and two professors, all of whom volunteered to go. The group was in Thailand for 10 days.

During that time, they installed a new filtration system, built a 4,000-liter break pressure and distribution tank, constructed tapstands and buried over one kilometer of pipe, all to bring drinkable water to the village from a stream that lies many miles away. The students also educated the villagers of Chiang Mai on how to maintain and use the new systems.

Senior Sarah Arscott, EWB president, said the group’s efforts will greatly benefit the Thai villages and orphanage. The new agriculture line will lead to an increased income, which in turn will allow the orphanage to accept more children. She described the goal of the expedition as “teaching and assisting the villagers in technical and human needs” that the engineers could provide.

Arscott described the village residents as “smiling and grateful” for the efforts of the volunteers. She said that the villagers were willing to help the students with the project, even offering to dig trenches through their own backyards. Once the project was completed, the thankful villagers threw an appreciation party for the EWB members.

Throughout the entire experience, the group managed to have fun and enjoy themselves, despite not knowing a word of Thai or Lahu, the local dialect. Arscott said the group came away with lessons about working together as young engineers and using local knowledge to modify their designs.

Senior Ashley Ferguson described the trip as “absolutely incredible” and “truly rewarding.” She recounted new experiences such as taking bucket showers and watching bug fights, as well as “learning new uses for a rubber band and all the games you can play with it.” Overall, she said she built “amazing relationships with the community.”

This is the second time the Villanova chapter of EWB has been to Thailand. The first occurred in May 2007, when a preliminary group of Villanova EWB members went to Thailand to research the situation and create a basic plan.

During this trip, the students were able to learn about the lifestyle of the villagers and the land they depend on for their livelihood, all of which were key factors in the original plan.

EWB decided to go to Thailand when the EWB chapter at the University of Maryland asked if the Villanova group wanted to take over the trip. Now that the Thailand trip was a success, the group is beginning to plan trips to countries such as Panama, Kenya and Nicaragua. The trips are planned entirely by the students, with input and advice from faculty advisers.

The Thailand trip was funded by a combination of private donors, corporate sponsors, the engineering alumni society, the College of Engineering and student fundraising. Because of their work throughout the year, the students were able to raise enough money to cover 90 percent of the costs for the trip, including the flights.

The Villanova chapter of Engineers Without Borders has been in existence since 2002 but has become much more active since 2006. Students from all majors and colleges are welcome, since the team learns the necessary engineering skills as they go. Currently, there are around 70 registered members, all with different levels of activity.

The group is involved with other projects during the year as well. EWB built many of the structures for last year’s Special Olympics Festival. Last year, EWB also teamed up with Water for Waslala in the Walk for Water, which benefited the similar goals of both groups. In 2006, they traveled to post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans in order to help a school. They also attend various workshops and conferences hosted by the national EWB organization throughout the year.