Pioneering students from the Engineers without Borders (EwB) Technion Chapter joined up with a community in rural Ethiopia to design and build a safe drinking supply water system for a school.
Additional projects of the Technion Chapter include solar heating in Bedouin settlements in the Negev desert, wind turbines in East Jerusalem and bioreactors for cooking gas (from organic waste) in Nepal. The Chapter’s work is on display at a new exhibit at the Central Library on campus
A safe drinking supply water system was recently built in a school at Meskele Cristos, a village in northern Ethiopia. The water system collects rainwater from rooftops during the rainy season which is stored in a water reservoir made of dressed stone, which was built as part of the project. Thanks to this new water system, over 600 students in the local school have access to water during the school day.
The water system in Meskele Cristos is one of the largest projects ever completed by Technion’s Engineering without Borders (EwB) Chapter. The partnership with the village was initiated out of a request for assistance by World Families Australia (WFA), an NGO supporting this village school for the past several years, and Yossi and Sheila Shalhevet, volunteers from the “Save a Child’s Heart” organization.
In May 2013, representatives from Technion’s EwB Chapter visited the village for an initial assessment. Among the group members were students Yael Meyouhas and
Nimrod Polonsky. “We saw that the school does not have a reliable drinking water source for a school of over 600 students,” relates Polonsky. “To be able to drink water and wash their hands during the school day, students needed to walk to a water source far away and carry back the water in gerricans, a practice that was rarely done. Subsequently, we set ourselves a goal: to establish a safe drinking water system at the school for the benefit of students.”
The goal finally became a reality –nearly two years of hard work and determination. Some 15 Technion students participated in the project. Water is collected during the rainy season and stored in the large water reservoir, which serves the school community throughout the year. Construction of the system was completed in cooperation with the village community and a local NGO called SYHLA. The program was made possible through donations made to EwB-Technion and World Families Australia (WFA).
The partnership with the village has not ended with this project. The partnership will continue to thrive through operation and training support for the system, setup by the Chapter, and the initiation of new projects as defined by the community.
We set ourselves a goal: to establish a safe drinking water system at the school for the benefit of students.
Yael Meyouhas, who today runs the Center for Global Engineering on campus, through which the Technion’s EWB Chapter operates, completed her undergraduate degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Technion. “I hoped to engage in activities focused on bridging between the environment, community and education, and thankfully that’s exactly the kind of work I do at the Center. The projects we are involved in are not “engineering for the purpose of engineering” but rather, “engineering for the people.” The solution applied to the water system in Ethiopia was developed in cooperation with the local community. At the end of the day, they will be the ones who will need to know how to operate it,” explains Meyouhas. She is currently studying a second undergraduate degree at the Faculty of Education in Science and Technology at the Technion, as part of the ‘Mabatim’ (‘Views’ in Hebrew) program.
The Center for Global Engineering at the Technion was founded by Prof. Mark Talesnick from the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who also established the Technion’s EwB Chapter in 2007. The Center was created following the realization that student involvement in EwB activities requires conceptual and vocational training.
Orit Aviran, who is also studying at the Faculty of Education in Science and Technology at the Technion and co-manages the Center added that, “All these activities have one motto: Technology for the Benefit of the Community. In other words, advancing technological know-how for the benefit of mankind, based on the specific needs of a particular community. This can be seen in all our projects: Nepal – bioreactors to produce biogas for cooking; the Negev – solar heating for kindergartens; and East Jerusalem – wind turbines. All of these projects were carried out with the full cooperation of the community, from conception, through the development stage, culminating in implementation. This was also the way the water project in Ethiopia was carried out.”
In honor of the completion of the first stage of the cooperative project in Ethiopia, a new exhibit displaying the work of Technion’s EwB Chapter was recently opened to the public in the gallery of the Elyachar Central Library.
“I attended a lecture about the volunteer organization “Engineers without Borders” and the various projects undertaken by the Technion Chapter and I was moved by the desire and willingness of these young people to invest their knowledge and time into contributing to the improvement of the quality of life of other people,” explained Anat Har-Gil, the exhibition curator. “I was very impressed by their down-to-earth attitudes. The process does not begin with the construction of a device or machine, followed by a search for a developing community it may be useful for. The opposite is true. These volunteers first visit communities in need of their help, learn the local lifestyle, try to understand the needs and challenges, and together with members of the community, suggest ideas for improving the quality of life of the inhabitants. The ideas raised by these volunteers are such that the planning, implementation and operation are made in full cooperation with the local community so that even after the program ends and the volunteers have left, residents are able to continue to maintain their own proposed solution.
While planning the exhibit, I found historical documents in Technion’s archive revealing how Technion engineers contributed to the benefit of mankind, dating back from the time of its inception, in the days before the founding of the State. The technological developments and methods they used to improve the lives of the people of Israel, have also helped other new states facing similar challenges.”
Photo credits: Nimrod Polonsky, Matan Segman, Tal Dana – Technion’s Spokesperson’s Office