Engineers in Action expands operations into Ecuador

Posted on: January 26, 2017


Engineers in Action (EIA) announced today its first Ecuador project site will be in the community of Comuna Guangaje, located south of Quito. The organization had previously announced its expansion in late 2016.

“We had high hopes of strategically expanding our impact into Ecuador in 2017, and I’m happy to see this accomplished within the first month of the year,” said Rod Beadle, executive director of Engineers in Action.

The Indianapolis Professional Chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA will partner on the project to provide the community with a long-term solution to water access issues effecting local health and prosperity.

“The women in the community are currently traveling long distances to bring back water, which is often not sanitary,” Beadle said. “The community women were a part of the conversation from the beginning, sharing with us the difficulties they face to have access to water for their families, for cooking, for their crops and livestock. This project will take a huge burden off the women and children, ensuring the kids can go to school and the women can spend their time more efficiently to care for their families.”

Engineers in Action works in communities like Comuna Guangaje to identify priority needs that will positively impact their quality of life, their health and their individual capacity.

“We want to come into a community and leave a lasting impact,” Beadle said. “Another group came to Comuna Guangaje years ago and installed a water system, but it didn’t last. The difference with our organization is our ongoing relationships.”

Engineers in Action starts by meeting directly with a community to listen to their needs, then works to raise the funds and identify partners to support the project’s implementation. EIA handles every element of getting supplies, planning timelines, setting travel logistics and preparing the community for project implementation, which includes hands-on training for the community members that will be taking care of the new system once it’s installed.

“Training the local community members is a huge benefit,” Beadle said. “This is their water system, bridge, greenhouse, etc. We want them to take ownership of it from the start. While we do continue to visit the community regularly after implementation, that’s more about the relationship building. We have a lasting relationship with them so that we can continue helping them with future needs or any major issues with previous implementations. But, when we teach them the maintenance skills and how the system works, we increase their capacity: that is our ultimate goal.”


Contact: Amanda McConnell

Engineers in Action (EIA) is a 501c3 with offices in Chicago, Illi.; La Paz, Bolivia; Madison, Wisc.; Quito, Ecuador; and Tulsa, Okla. Founded in 2009, the international organization works in rural, impoverished communities in Latin America to provide access to basic needs such as water and sanitation with an overarching goal to improve the lives of people in need and increase local capacity in the communities they reach while encouraging global awareness in program volunteers and participants.

EIA has a significant focus on long-term impact, achieved by building real relationships with indigenous individuals and communitieis with a partnership attitude, which ensures the money and effort spent on implementation have minimal negative effects, are embraced by the community individuals and are there for many years to come. Learn more at Request Executive Director Rod Beadle for a speaking engagement by emailing

New minor at the University of Oklahoma gives skills to students who want to make a difference

Posted on: December 19, 2016

NORMAN — A new minor at the University of Oklahoma offers undergraduate students a chance to broaden their world view in a way that coursework alone cannot do.

The minor gives students the skills and knowledge needed to bring clean water, sanitation and health to underdeveloped regions of the world, said Jim Chamberlain, co-director for education and outreach at OU’s Water Technologies for Emerging Regions (WaTER) Center.

“Students come with a sense that water is a critical issue. Many students have been on mission trips with their church and seen it firsthand,” Chamberlain said. “This helps students to gain extra skills to follow up on this passion they have.”

The students put what they’ve learned into practice during an international trip lasting at least three weeks.

“That’s what changes their lives,” Chamberlain said. “They’ve already learned the theory and the social and cultural context.”

The two-year program consists of 18 credit hours and the trip abroad, where students help residents with projects like building solar water pumps or mechanisms to catch rainwater and filter out bacteria.

“The in-country immersion experiences have had, by far, the most impact on the students,” Chamberlain said. “They are eating their food and playing with their children.”

Summer 2017 projects will be in Cambodia, Uganda and Bolivia.

A new perspective

After spending three weeks in Uganda this summer, Cecilia Herrera, 23, decided she wants to join the Peace Corps following graduation.

An industrial and systems engineering major from Mustang, Herrera said she envisioned a career with a big corporation until she went on the WaTER trip and lived with villagers who don’t have the most basic necessities.

“Do you carry your children on your back to go fetch water?” one woman asked her. That reality made her realize how privileged she is and it changed her perspective.

“After I went abroad I knew this is what I want to do, give a voice to people in developing countries,” Herrera said. “I became passionate about that.”

The professors also inspired her, she said. “They are really role models.”

Andrea Laws, 24, a chemical engineering major from Norman, also went to Uganda.

“This trip was an incredible learning experience, not just in the engineering sense, but in a cultural sense. Many of the people we met were incredibly giving, even when they had relatively little to give,” Laws said.

“The kindness and generosity many of the Ugandans showed me inspires me to do the same.”

Chamberlain said the WaTER minor has attracted about three times as many women as men.

“A lot of women who go into engineering want to make a difference in the world and not just make a paycheck,” he said.

International development

Chamberlain came to the WaTER Center five years ago, in part to help develop the minor in water and sanitation for health and sustainable development. The program is in its second year and has grown to include more than 25 students.

Open to any major, the new minor is housed in the civil engineering and environmental science department. Most students in the program so far have been environmental and civil engineering majors, Chamberlain said.

Students must pay their own way for the trip abroad, which is required. The WaTER Center works with nongovernmental organizations in the countries. In Bolivia that is Tulsa-based Engineers in Action; in Cambodia, it’s a couple who moved there from Oklahoma City; and in Uganda, it’s Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe’s Sewing Hope Foundation.

Students learn best about a culture — and their own resiliency — when placed in uncomfortable situations, Chamberlain said. In Bolivia, two male students were left without a translator when she came down with bronchitis. They learned how to communicate non-verbally, he said.

Chamberlain said the work abroad and the coursework at home prepare students for work in international development with the Peace Corps, U.S. Agency for International Development, State Department, faith-based organizations and service organizations, like Engineers Without Borders.

“Graduate students have been doing this for years, but now undergraduates have the opportunity,” he said.

Law wrote this about her experience:

“I’ve really enjoyed my time learning about water and sanitation for health, and I’d really like to be able to work to make a difference and work to improve the lives of others if I can.

“This experience will definitely prepare me for situations where I need to adjust quickly in order to do the best work, or situations where there is an obvious difference in culture or point of view but a team effort needs to be made to reach a goal.

“I’ll always look back on my time in Uganda as something of immense value to my education and growth as a global citizen.”


This story originally appeared in the Oklahoman and was written by Oklahoman reporter Kathryn McNutt.

EIA utilizes amplified social media presence to push #GivingTWOsday campaign on #GivingTuesday

Posted on: November 8, 2016

Engineers in Action, a 501(c)3 based in Tulsa, Okla., joined the #GivingTuesday movement today with a twist on the well-known hashtag and a call to donate as little as $2 on Nov. 29.


“With how often people are known to walk in a convenience store and lay down $2 for a fancy bottle of water, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to highlight what a huge impact that mindless $2 expense would make in the rural Latin American communities we serve,” said Rod Beadle, executive director of Engineers in Action (EIA).

The organization, which recently launched its Twitter handle @EIA, will utilize a social media strategy on Twitter and to raise awareness with new audiences during the global day of giving that follows Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

“On Thursday we celebrate what we’re thankful for with our families, then we immediately kick into high gear for holiday shopping,” Beadle said. “Giving Tuesday is a great way to pause and recognize that there are many individuals on this planet in need, some in need of the most basic necessities.”

Engineers in Action works in rural communities to provide the leadership, labor and materials necessary so that communities have easily accessible water that is safe to consume and sanitary to utilize for every day tasks. The organization also works on projects to enhance the cognitive development children and focuses on bettering the individuals they effect by providing ongoing support and continually building relationships.

“What really sets us apart is our longterm presence in these communities,” Beadle said. “With our permanent, full-time Bolivian staff, we can have pre- and post-implementation impact other organizations don’t. We talk to the community leaders beforehand to ensure what we’re installing or building fits the community need. We’re connecting dots between our donors, supporters and service providers to make sure the project goes smoothly, then we’re coming back after implementation to provide ongoing training or maintenance to ensure the investment continues to have a positive impact on the community for many years to come.”

EIA’s #GivingTWOsday campaign on the globally-recognized #GivingTuesday day of giving is an opportunity for individuals who don’t typically make donations to non-profits to get involved in philanthropy, hopefully with a donation to EIA.

“EIA works in areas of the world where $2 is an entire family’s budget,” Beadle said. “We hope that everyone gets involved with #GivingTuesday in some way, but what easier way than to donate $2?”

To make a #GivingTWOsday donation, go to To learn more about EIA go to


EIA hosts 2016 Clean Water Fast Oct. 13-15

Posted on: October 5, 2016

Next week, dozens of Engineers in Action supporters will come together across the nation for a 36 hour fast. Participants will abstain from everything except water to highlight the ease of access, cleanliness and safety of water sources found in our communities.

“We so often take for granted the water that comes out of our tap, or the ability to go grab a water bottle from your corner convenience store,” said Rod Beadle, executive director of Engineers in Action. “We serve populations in Latin America who have to travel miles to get access to any water at all, and the vast majority of the time the water they do access is unclean with a high risk of water-borne illness.”

The fast is an opportunity to raise awareness for EIA’s cause while simultaneously raising funds for the organization and its partners traveling to Bolivia and Ecuador to provide infrastructure and leadership to communities in need.

“We offer sustained support, with partnerships that require ongoing financial backing and a physical presence,” Beadle said. “We have teams traveling their regularly, and a number of staff permanently placed in or near the communities we work in.”

EIA is encouraging anyone who might be interested to sign up for the fast now.

“It’s a very simple way to connect with EIA’s mission, and every penny makes a huge impact on our continued growth,” Beadle said.

EIA has an office in La Paz, Bolivia that services 26 projects across the country, with planned expansion into Ecuador in 2017.

To sign up to fast, click here. To sign up to donate to a faster’s campaign, click here. For more information on the fast, click here.

Engineering students build bridge, friendships in Bolivia

Posted on: September 21, 2016

The following post originally ran in the Cornell Chronicle Sept. 20, 2016

by Tom Fleischman

Eight Cornell undergraduates, representing the Engineers Without Borders-Cornell Student Chapter, traveled to Bolivia over summer break for a bridge-building project in a tiny village in the southwest corner of South America’s poorest nation.

The team, led by mechanical engineering major Nathalie DeNey ’18, built a 165-foot-long suspension bridge made of concrete, steel cable and wood. The bridge spans the Vitichi River and connects the village of Calcha with its agricultural crops as well as a neighboring town – important particularly during the rainy season, when the river becomes dangerous to ford.

Over the two months, the team also built other things – relationships – that they hope will be just as enduring in the remote village, 200 miles south of the Bolivian capital city of La Paz.

“It was an adventure to be down there for eight weeks, and it was really worth it,” DeNey said. “The lasting friendships that we formed from being there for an extended period of time were incredible. We’re still in contact with a lot of them; occasionally, they get internet access so we have Facebook friends in Calcha.”

Other EWB-Cornell travel team members included mechanical engineering major Jonathan Mabuni ’16, environmental engineering major Susan McGrattan ’17, and civil engineering majors Joseph Ienna ’17, Meriel Engrand ’18, Mario Saldana ’18, Bethany Schull ’18 and Anna Sofia Montoya-Olsson ’19.

“These students brought to fruition a permanent structure and lasting goodwill to a well-deserving community who worked alongside and opened their homes,” said Rebecca Macdonald, the Swanson Director of Engineering Student Project Teams. “Their motivation and commitment drove the project, with Cornell faculty, staff and alumni, along with family and friends, providing the support necessary to pull it off.”

Cornell began its affiliation with Engineers Without Borders during the 2011-12 academic year, and for the last two years has collaborated with Engineers In Action (EIA), a nonprofit based in the U.S. that provides logistical and other support to engineering teams traveling to Bolivia for projects such as Cornell’s bridge build.

Rod Beadle, executive director of EIA and a registered professional civil engineer, said the work teams like Cornell’s EWB group perform is important for communities like Calcha, where 98 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, according to the EIA website.

“It’s very common for many communities in the developing world to be on the banks of a river or stream that may bisect the community, or separate the community from its schools or agricultural fields,” Beadle said. “When you get heavy flooding, for long periods people’s access to all sorts of things can be cut off.”

Arrived in mid-June

The team arrived in Bolivia in mid-June and got right to work, digging the foundations for the concrete anchors on both sides of the river, from which their bridge would be suspended.

“We spent our entire first week just excavating,” DeNey said, “and after that, it seemed like we were constantly mixing concrete. There wasn’t a day that went by where we weren’t mixing concrete.”

Most of that mixing was done by hand, until the team was able to run electricity from town to the Calcha side of the river. They borrowed a small cement mixer and were able to mix concrete for part of the project.

McGrattan said a typical day included rising for breakfast at around 7:30 a.m., arriving at the work site at 8:30 or 9 and working till lunch at noon. Then after a siesta break, work would resume at 2 p.m. and last until 6.

Nathalie DeNey on bridge
EWB-Cornell/Provided Nathalie DeNey ’18, bridge team lead for the Engineers Without Borders-Cornell chapter, puts her handprint on the side of one of the bridge towers. The completed bridge is in the background.

Both DeNey and McGrattan said one of the biggest highlights of the project was installing the crossbeams onto the tensioned cables, prior to attaching the decking boards to the structure. Being suspended approximately 16 feet above the river, kicking crossbeams out onto the cables, “was amazing,” DeNey said.

“We put people in harnesses, and we got to kick the beams across,” DeNey said. “We’re just holding onto the handrail cable, walking out across on one of the walkway cables.”

“You’ve been digging these holes, mixing concrete for so long,” McGrattan said. “And then actually getting to put the wood out on the bridge and have it actually become a bridge, it was just very exciting.”

Both women said the most off-hours fun they had was on the Fourth of July. The group painted their faces red, white and blue and had a bonfire and s’mores. Their cook also did her best to make them feel at home, with her version of hamburgers.

“That was really nice,” McGrattan said. “It was nice to get a feel for home after being there for a few weeks.”

Hoping to return

EWB-Cornell is returning to Bolivia next year for a water project, but neither DeNey nor McGrattan is planning on making that trip. They do, however, hope to get back to Calcha one day and see how their bridge has affected their new friends.

“The structure should be there for decades to come,” DeNey said. “And as we were finishing it, we were all talking about how cool it would be to come down in 10 years and see the bridge, see firsthand how it’s impacted the people there.”

Beadle said he’s impressed by student groups’ willingness to sacrifice a portion of their summer break to do meaningful work thousands of miles from home. And as most college groups spend just a week or two, he said, Cornell’s team deserves particular praise for devoting two months to their project.

“I always tell people that, as cynical as we get about kids these days, this generation is just so much more engaged and willing to do things that our generation just didn’t or couldn’t,” he said. “And to take eight weeks out of your summer, you’re not getting paid for it … it says an awful lot that they’re willing to do that.”

Get to know Bolivia: Oruro: City of Devil Dancers

Posted on: March 8, 2016

Click for official website
Click picture for official website

Legend says that in an abandoned mine entrance,  in a mountain in Oruro, lived a thief named Anselmo Selarmino (Nina Nina or Chiru Chiru) who stole from the wealthy to distribute among the poor. In one of his nights out he was mortally wounded by a worker whom he intended to rob.

The Chiru Chiru diabla song on youtube
Click pic for Chiru Chiru diablada song on youtube

In his agony, he was taken by a virginal woman to his home in the mine. The next day, the miners where shocked to find the beautiful image of the Virgen de la Candelaria guarding the bed of the poor dead thief.

The miners, at the discovery of the Virgin, decided to reverence her for three days a year in February, wearing devil disguises, because the devil, for the Aymara culture, is the watchman of inner earth.

Click for Bolivian Travel Agency
Click pic for Bolivian Ministry of Tourism

Devil miners, motivated by the generosity and grace of the Virgin of the mine, begin at the mines and parade through town bearing gifts of silver, candles and religious ornaments to statue of the Virgin, and imbibe in food and beverages.

This was how the first devotional fraternities were born by the humblest and poorest citizens of the city: Troops of Devils, Morenos and Tobas.

By 1940, many merchants, teachers, and bankers joined the festival and it grew to be the biggest, wildest party in Bolivia.

60 second video.
60 second video.

Oruro 4It’s February 14, 2015, 8 am and stands at Civic Avenue start to fill.

Many tourists, foreign and domestic arrived the night before and many others are on their way from every corner of Bolivia.

In a few hours the city will be filled with thousands of dancers with stunning costumes, majestic masks and rhythms and the energy of The Andes.

The city of the Chiru Chiru, the thief, his legacy will be remembered for next three days with joy and dancing and celebration.


Highlighted Project: “Tacachia: When at first you don’t succeed”

Posted on: March 8, 2016

What happens when a newly completed water system breaks down? For EIA and our partner EWB-S&T, we ‘figure it out’!

Tacachia has approximately 90 residents whose only water source comes from the Chacajawira River. In 2014, the community, EWB-S&T and EIA built a water distribution system which served each home. However, the river water they were collecting needed filtration. The partners decided to collect water from a spring which was over 2kms away.  

Community building pipeline
Community building pipeline

The community, EWB-S&T and EIA developed a plan that the 2015 work trip would dig trenches and install pipes from the collection pool to the tank location. They would install a large water tank and connect the pipeline and water distribution system to the tank. The water tank will collect water overnight to provide increased amounts of water during the day. This is particularly important during the ‘dry season’ when the spring produces significantly less water.

Carlos Ernesto Aguillera, EIA Project Manager, arrived in Tacachia the week before the team with a truckload of pipe, the water tank and all of the connections. He made sure the community knew what the materials were for, and that they were securely cared for by community elders.

“When Ernesto and EWB-S&T arrived in Tacachia in August,

most of the pipe was gone!”

The community had already dug the trench and installed the pipeline. The community was so well organized and committed to the project, they did it themselves. When the team inspected the pipeline they saw some places where the community had gently bent the pipe instead of putting in some angles as the team had planned. But it worked just fine. 

It was a great deal and we were overjoyed” said Dr. Mark Fitch, Mentor for EWB-S&T. “It means that they knew how to put in the pipe, and therefore they know how to maintain it. And there was a general worry that we would have the time to build a 2km pipeline while the team was there. And lo and behold the whole thing was built before we got there!”

Additional trenching was necessary along a treacherous section of the bank of the river. Community members volunteered to construct it so as not put the students at risk. “They clung on to vines and roots protruding from the face of the embankment as if they were repelling and built a path wide enough for the pipe” Fitch said. “It was amazing to watch them.”

20 seconds of pullingClick for 20 seconds of pulling

The community and team leveled and compressed the dirt foundation for the tank on a hill overlooking the village. They pushed and pulled the tank to its location, made the connections and the water quickly filled the tank. Everything was completed and everyone was happy. But this is Bolivia, and things go wrong.

Either the weight of the tank caused it to shift, twisting the connections and creating leaks, or a small leak developed first and it eroded the foundation causing the tank to shift. Whichever, by December the system was broken and not working. But the community knew to contact the EIA offices in La Paz. Ernesto went out to Tacachia and realized what had happened.

Using a little engineering creativity, he and the community bypassed the tank and connected the pipeline directly into the water system as a temporary fix. There is plenty of water during the rainy season. When EWB-S&T returns in 2016, they will reset and connect the tank so that it will be prepared to work during the dry season.

Dr. Fitch: “The great thing we have in working with EIA is that the project continues throughout the year. In other countries where we work, our partner NGOs primarily just help us with travel instead of assisting the community and the project. Therefore (with EIA) we can make progress with the project and the community throughout the year and know they are there if there is a problem. They seem to always just be a ‘Skype’ away.”

The Tacachia project is moving from the implementation into the sustainability phase this year. EIA will stay in contact with the community and make sure all works well.

And EWB-S&T? Dr. Fitch: “We’re already working on a 502 for our next project with EIA in Bolivia!”

UMCOR Announces $50,000 grant to EIA for 2016

Posted on: December 19, 2015

The United Methodist Committee on Relief announced yesterday it has approved a $50,000 grant to Engineers in Action for 2016. This grant will go to help fund EIA’s costs related to restoring the Juckucha River in Potosi Bolivia and finding alternative water sources for three “downstream” villages: Aripalca, Calcha and Yulo, in partnership with EWB Chapters at Florida Univ, Univ of Minn., and Cornell Univ. Watch for more on this later.

Two worlds on one island

Posted on: December 18, 2015

It seems that whenever there is a major disaster in the world, EIA’s Executive Director, Rod Beadle, is there. He has served as a water, sanitation, and hygiene specialist in the aftermath of numerous disasters in the developing world including the Haiti Cholera Outbreak, Pakistan’s Indus River Flooding, Horn of Africa Drought, Sierra Leone Choloera Outbreak, and the Philippines Tsunami.
Rod in Zorzor_ Liberia 2014
In 2014 when the whole world was living in extreme fear of the Ebola disease and people were being evacuated, Rod was on a helicopter in Liberia flying to the center of the region where the Ebola epidemic first broke out to build a medical clinic.
Samos Refugee Detention Center
Last Sunday, Dec 13, Rod left for the Greek Island of Samos to volunteer with an international relief organization to support water, sanitation and hygiene provisions for refugee transit camps. The refugees are crossing over to the island as they flee war and strife in their homelands in places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and North Africa. He will even spend Christmas there, working to provide families with basic necessities that we take for granted like clean water, adequate shelter, and safe sanitation facilities. He truly believes “Clean Water Shouldn’t be a Luxury!”
When others run away in fear from conflict and disaster; when they turn away from victims from other countries; Rod runs toward them to do all that he can to help! That’s why I invited Rod to consider becoming our new Executive Director.
Follow Rod’s blog to see pictures and hear his thoughts during December at: