The UMass Amherst chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) annual auction, held on May 1 to raise money for its projects in Kenya and the Amazon, netted $11,000 this year, $3,000 more than last year’s event. The EWB chapter is a student organization dedicated to helping local and international communities create sustainable engineering projects to improve their quality of life. This year’s fund-raising was aided by gold-level sponsorship contributions of $2,500 from Robert Brack ’60, chairman of the Barker Steel Company of Milford, Massachusetts, and the Tighe & Bond company, with offices in Massachusetts and Connecticut. There was also a silver-level sponsorship donation of $1,500 from Dennis Bushe.
EWB has created clean drinking water for several thousand people in the rural Namawanga area of the Western Province in Kenya, near where President Barack Obama’s ancestors lived. During the past five years, the UMass Amherst EWB has installed, upgraded, or fenced in a total of 17 water-bearing spring boxes in the area. A spring box is a concrete retaining wall that collects clean, underground water from a natural spring and makes it easily accessible through metal piping. Then, in the fall of 2009, the chapter drilled a $15,000, deep-bore well that was the landmark achievement of its Kenya Project.
Meanwhile, the EWB chapter is also running a project in the Brazilian Amazon to produce a cheap, sustainable way to collect clean water and dispose of wastewater for some 1,400 people living in a rural preserve for rubber tappers. The refuge, a 2-million-acre site called the Extractivist Reserve Chico Mendes, is named after a renowned tapper organizer and was established some 20 years ago by the Brazilian government in its state of Acre.
Dubbed the “Blueprint Brigade” by Time Magazine, the international Engineers Without Borders organization, headquartered in Colorado, now runs over 350 water, renewable energy, sanitation, and other engineering projects in more than 45 developing countries. These projects are completed in partnership with local communities and non-governmental organizations. The organization has over 12,000 members in 250 geographically-based chapters, including the one at UMass Amherst. (May 2010)