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

March 9, 2005

Editor's Note: Photographs of earlier Engineers Without Borders visits can be obtained by contacting Evan Thomas or Carol Rowe.

Five engineering students and a professor from the University of Colorado at Boulder will be part of a team returning to Rwanda over spring break to assist a village suffering from poverty, drought and unsafe drinking water.

During the March 19-31 visit, the team plans to work with vocational students in the village of Muramba to install two rainwater catchment systems that will augment clean drinking water supplies for approximately 6,000 people. The systems will include two 10,000-liter tanks constructed of locally produced compression bricks.

The project 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.

Amadei will accompany the students on the trip, which is the fourth visit by an EWB group to Muramba since March 2004.

After the initial visit to assess the community's needs, groups of students from CU-Boulder and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have returned twice to do maintenance on an old gravity-fed water system and to install solar-powered lighting in a local clinic and school. Neither the clinic, where an average of 70 babies are born each month, nor the vocational school where Muramba students develop their skills to benefit the community, previously had any lights. Solar-powered computers also were introduced in the school.

Located in a mountainous region on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Muramba faces many problems associated with poverty, drought, a ban on burning wood and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, according to CU student Evan Thomas.

"They embraced us the first time we came, and continue to welcome us each time we return," said Thomas. "We return to Muramba several times a year, and we now have strong friendships with the students and villagers."

On EWB's first visit to Rwanda, students met with President Paul Kigame and the minister of infrastructure, who pledged their full support, including improving the road between Kigali and Muramba so that supplies could be brought more easily to the village. The president and minister of infrastructure subsequently visited Colorado, where they met again with the EWB team.

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.

The Rwanda project was selected for the 2004 Humanitarian Award by the EWB-USA board of directors.

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.

Anyone wanting to make a donation to support the work in Rwanda may contact Evan Thomas at ethomas@colorado.edu or (303) 550-4671.

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