CU-Boulder Students To Assist Rwandan Village As Part Of 'Engineers Without Borders' Team

March 11, 2004

Editor's Note: Digital photographs of earlier Engineers Without Borders projects can be obtained by contacting Carol Rowe at (303) 492-7426 or carol.rowe@colorado.edu.

University of Colorado at Boulder engineering students will be part of a team traveling to Rwanda, March 19 to March 31, to work with a village decimated by genocide just short of a decade ago and now suffering from poverty, insufficient food and unsafe drinking water.

The project in Muramba, Rwanda, is part of the Engineering for Developing Communities program at CU-Boulder and Engineers Without Borders-USA, a national nonprofit organization founded by CU-Boulder Professor Bernard Amadei.

Located in a mountainous region on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Muramba faces problems associated with war and severe poverty, according to Evan Thomas, CU student coordinator of the trip.

About 6,000 people in the region rely on subsistence farming and a 75-year-old gravity-fed water system to deliver drinking water to four taps, which produce muddy water and often do not flow at all. The community struggles with frequent illness due to unclean water, while poor soil conditions, a lack of irrigation for hillside crops and a 14-month drought have contributed to near famine conditions.

The first phase of the project will involve an on-site survey of the water system to determine what repairs are needed and the introduction of drip irrigation techniques. The team also will visit Rwanda's capital city, Kigali, where it will attempt to locate equipment suppliers and meet with the U.S. ambassador and students from the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, which will partner in the project.

Both Hutu and Tutsi students from Kigali will join with the American team in helping the Hutu community of Muramba, which suffered many deaths during the Rwandan genocide that began on April 7, 1994.

After assessing the water system, the team will return in May or June to begin implementation of water system repairs. Engineering teams also will return in subsequent years to address other community-identified needs.

The first 10-person team will be led by Amadei and Denver nurse Frances Feeney, who requested assistance from Engineers Without Borders-USA after a previous visit to Muramba. Four CU engineering students, a student and a professor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a professional engineer and a cultural consultant will complete the group.

The mission of Engineers Without Borders-USA is to work with communities to implement sustainable engineering solutions to problems in the developing world. The nonprofit organization, which has 65 student chapters and 800 members throughout the United States, currently is involved in more than 50 projects in 22 countries around the world. By using volunteer labor and donations, the organization has been able to assist communities in meeting a variety of basic needs, while providing valuable opportunities for engineering students to apply their knowledge and skills to help people who need it the most.

The first phase of the Rwanda project is sponsored by the CU-Boulder Outreach Committee, the Engineering Excellence Fund in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and private donations.

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