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Funding Engineers Without Borders

Senior civil engineering major Hayley Franz does one of the great under-publicized but all-important jobs at the UMass College of Engineering. Her responsibility is helping to raise funds to support engineering projects in Kenya and the Brazilian Amazon that provide clean drinking water for thousands of villagers eking out a subsistence living in the bush. More specifically, Hayley, who says she’s “always been very organized,” is the fundraising events coordinator for the UMass chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). In that capacity, she must help to plan, manage, and run two events that, together, raised more than $13,000 last year for the group and its seven-year-old drinking water projects.

“What originally attracted me to Engineers Without Borders was the opportunity to use my education and help other people,” says Hayley. “I am the fundraising events coordinator. I assist in organizing the major fundraising functions we have, mainly the 5K run we are staging on October 1 and the auction in May.”

The UMass chapter of EWB is part of the national organization of Engineers Without Borders, made up of 12,000 engineering students and professionals, who run 350 projects in more than 45 developing countries. The national organization has literally changed the lives of millions around the world. It supports community-driven development programs, rooted in practical engineering solutions, by collaborating with local partners to design and implement sustainable engineering projects, while creating transformative experiences and responsible leaders.

But, as every student at the college knows, engineering projects cost money. One way to get it is through the 5K race EWB organized for October 1 and dubbed it the “Sweat for Clean Water 5K Run/Walk” (www.runreg.com).

“For the 5K we had to map out the course, get the T shirts together, get sponsors, spread the word about it,” says Hayley. “Unfortunately, EWM members couldn't run in the race because, well, we were running it.”

The other fundraiser is the fifth annual EWB auction and social in May, an event that netted more than $13,000 for the chapter last year and requires a lot of footwork finding sponsors and private donations.  

“I was involved last year,” recalls Hayley. “We got a lot of local businesses to donate different items and services, and then we auctioned them off. People were really nice about it.”

Amazingly enough, Hayley has found time enough in her demanding EWB schedule to post excellent grades in her demanding civil engineering coursework. So much so that she was selected to the national honor society for civil engineering students, Chi Epsilon, which chooses its members “based on recognition of their scholarship, character, practicality, and sociability.”

She also found time to play intramural volleyball, softball, and basketball, and to complete an internship last summer in South Carolina with Lane Construction Corporation.

“I spent most of my time working on a bridge project,” she says. “So I spent a lot of the summer about 50 feet up working in a fall-protection lanyard, while doing surveying. I also did a lot of interpreting bridge plans.”

But EWB is the real labor of love for Hayley. “Just knowing that my fundraising will make it possible to help a community that doesn’t have the resources I’m so privileged to have, that’s really satisfying,” she says. “It makes the work I do worthwhile.” (September 2011)