Can You Imagine?

Posted on: December 6, 2021

The end of 2021 is in sight and after another year full of challenges we’re going to celebrate! Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing stories from some of our favorite projects of 2021, the amazing EIA team members who brought them to fruition, and introduce you to the people whose lives they changed.

Today we’re headed to Rocafuerte…

Applications Open: Bridge Program Fellows

Posted on: January 28, 2021

Build bridges. Build leaders.

The Engineers in Action Bridge Program is hiring a Fellow (i.e. field intern) to help us empower today’s students to become tomorrow’s global leaders by building pedestrian bridges with underserved communities in Bolivia and eSwatini. The bridges we build over impassable rivers connect rural communities to essential resources and opportunities. The university students who help build those bridges become the leaders our world needs to achieve the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

We’ve worked with more than 700 students from over 30 universities to build 88 bridges serving approximately 150,000 people in 11 countries, and we’re just getting started. Join us, and become part of the best student-powered bridge building network in the world. 

Fellows will be placed for a 6-12 month period. The ideal candidate is a professional with international travel experience and a passion for international development.

Follow these links to view the Job Description and Application Form.

Q & A with Board Member Laura MacDonald, PhD about being an Engineer.

Posted on: September 30, 2020

As a lead up to our October Hour of Happy: So you Want to Be An Engineer, we asked some of our leaders to provide a few reflections for students who are interested in this career path.

Today, we’re sharing reflections from Laura MacDonald, PhD who is an EIA Board Member and the Managing  Director of the Mortenson Center in Global Engineering , Global Engineering Residential Academic Program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Engineering might be for you if…

Engineering might be for you if you enjoy applying math and science skills to a problem while also thinking critically about the context in which that problem exists – what non-technical factors are contributing to this problem? How can a team with diverse skills work together to address it?

What to do right now that can help you prepare?

It helps to be interested in the world around you. Ask questions about why something is the way it is, how something works or doesn’t work.

How did you choose the type of Engineering you specialized in?

 I chose environmental engineering because of my passion for the environment and how humans interact with it.

What is the best thing about being an Engineer?

The best thing about being an engineer is working with others to address the root causes of poverty.

How has your experience with EIA made you a better Engineer?

Serving on the board of EIA has given me the opportunity to support a great organization that’s founded on engineering principles while focused on contributing to global poverty reduction. This opportunity has given me the chance to have a greater impact than I could as just one engineer acting alone.

We’ll see you at 5:00 p.m. Central on October 6th. Live on Facebook!

Board Member A.J. Voth reflects on EIA and the 2020 Fast for Clean Water

Posted on: September 8, 2020

It’s usually a personal connection that brings people into the EIA family. An invitation, a conversation, or an appeal for help solving a problem…

That personal connection for A.J. was Rod Beadle, the former Executive Director of EIA.

Rod knew that A.J. was involved with another international engineering NGO and preparing to visit some projects in Central America when, “he asked me to take a look at EIA and give him an evaluation of how EIA could interface” with projects like the ones he was visiting.

And true to his word, he did.  At 2AM, “just prior to leaving on my trip!”

On A.J.’s arrival in Central America he discovered that each project he was visiting had experienced a significant degree of failure. Those failures were directly related to the team’s inability to communicate with, and provide consistent ongoing training for, each community. 

And that’s when he realized that the services that EIA provided would have been game-changers for both projects. 

Developing the capacity of indigenous engineers and professionals is a central part of the EIA model. Having staff members from the region who speak the languages and are part of the culture ensures that projects meet the most critical needs of a community and empower it to ensure its long-term viability.

“I believe that Engineers In Action has a unique development model among the NGO’s of the world.  The model is based on regional growth and maintaining ongoing communication between volunteer teams from the developed world and the local communities they serve.”

A. J. is trained as a Mechanical Engineer and has long been passionate about using his talents to help others. Says A.J. “I left the corporate world in 2005 determined to make a difference. That’s when my engineering education really began.”

The 10th Annual Fast for Clean Water is approaching, and A.J. has been an enthusiastic participant for 6 of those years. “While the fast is an EIA Fundraising Event, my primary reason for fasting is to introduce more people to Engineers In Action, who we are and what we do and why we are unique. I am committed to seeing the EIA model continue to grow regionally and also begin to spread around the world.”

A. J. is at home in  Saint Charles, IL  and in addition to his board duties, serves on the board’s Education, Fundraising, and Governance Committees.

Engineers AND Health Promoters in Action

Posted on: September 3, 2020

Aleine Heredia Pena, Health Promoter for FIEA Bolivia

Not all of the Engineers in Action team members are engineers. One of the most important non-engineering roles in EIA is that of Health Promoter, a professional on our team who provides information and training about health and sanitation issues to schools, families and communities.

Aleine Heredia Pena, the FIEA Health Educator in Bolivia brings more than 15 years of experience to her work. She finds great satisfaction in getting to know the variety of landscapes, cultures and traditions of her country and the many friendships she’s developed in her travels.

The Health Promoter combines their knowledge of the ways in which people can improve and manage their health with the skills of an educator, coach, trainer and mentor. And on top of all that, Aleine adds, “the most important thing is to be empathetic. Put yourself in the shoes of others to understand them better.”

As they encourage others to learn, Health Promoters often find themselves learning, too. For Aleine this has included learning indigenous languages and dialects and navigating the cultures and customs that are unique to each region and community. Promoters must be flexible, too and ready to respond to unexpected issues that arise during projects. “An interesting experience was working with leaders who were appointed by rural communities very distant from urban centers. In carrying out my monitoring work, I noticed that the participants were not completing reports, so to help them with this part of the project, I had to provide instruction to increase their reading and writing skills.”

In her time with FEIA, Aleine has supported UMCOR projects by providing training in WASH and water treatment issues in homes and schools and supporting project planning through information gathering and assessment with communities and community groups. Her favorite moments on the job have been sharing with EIA volunteers and students who come to Bolivia to carry out implementations of water and sanitation projects and, the personal satisfaction of observing the changes in attitudes and habits in the students, families and communities she has worked with.

Aliene lives in Oruro, the folkloric city of Bolivia where the typical dish is Charquecan, which is made of dehydrated llama meat!  To relax and energize for each new day Aliene likes “to listen to instrumental music especially on saxophone, watch the sun rise, and Zumba.”  Aliene and her Agronomist husband Remberto have two daughters,  Claudia, a Business Administrator and Mariela, who is studying Chemical Engineering. Their family also includes Shado, the dog and Tato, the soft and silent kitten. When asked what is required to be a great Health Promoter, Aliene offers this advice: “Guide and convince, never impose. Have leadership concepts. Provide all participants with the same opportunity to intervene, motivating everyone to do so.”

Want to Build A Bridge?

Posted on: August 14, 2020

With Back to School often comes the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For little ones who think their future might be Engineering, we’ve got a fun bridge building activity to try.

New Education Committee gets to work.

Posted on: August 12, 2020

Julie Allen, Executive Director

This is my favorite time of the year. Colorful school supplies in every shop and the reappearance of bright yellow busses in the morning and afternoon are signals that a brand new adventure is about to begin.

Although I won’t be returning to a traditional classroom this week, through Engineers in Action, I am still facilitating important educational opportunities, for there is teaching and learning in everything we do!

Hundreds of engineering students get premier hands-on experience through EIA Bridge Chapters and  WASH teams. Working professional engineers find different ways to apply their knowledge and use their skills in an entirely new working environment through corporate projects and partnerships. And did you know that EIA trains and mentors local masons and other tradespeople and, through their work in support of our projects, help them move into family-sustaining careers?

Over the summer a new Education Committee was established to expand our impact in these areas, and to utilize our unique competencies to inspire even more engineers to become Engineers in Action! In the weeks to come, we’ll be filling in the exciting details so I encourage you to follow along and be among the first to get involved.

See you soon,

Julie Allen, ExecutiveDirector (and Educator)

P.S. Get in the back-to-school spirit with us on Facebook and our other social media channels where we’re celebrating all things educational this month.

Learning and Serving in Carijana, Bolivia

Posted on: July 23, 2020

Nikita Patel, Pittsburgh Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders

In May of 2019, the University of Pittsburgh Student Chapter of Engineers Without Borders had the opportunity to travel to our partner community in Carijana, Bolivia to perform an assessment trip, the first step in our 5-year partnership with Carijana to address their concerns with their current sanitation system. With the help of our partnering NGO, Engineers in Action (EIA), our team was able to successfully collect all of the necessary data to later propose a solution to the community that we believed best fits their needs.

On the trip, our team met with community leaders and members, tested all water sources to obtain baseline data, surveyed the pre-existing health practices and health beliefs of the community members, assessed the pre-existing sanitation system, created a precise map of the community, and began building a relationship with the community members and leaders. Since then, our team has used this data and continued gathering community input to identify pour-flush latrines as the best option for Carijana. We have moved forward with site selection and modeling of the pour-flush design. We hope to plan another visit to the community, when possible, to begin our implementation.

For me and the other student travel team members from our chapter, this trip was our first ever community visit. Because we were unsure of what to expect, we meticulously planned every morning and afternoon of every day of our trip, creating categorized binders of forms, instructions, and agendas for each travel team member. Though we knew not everything would go according to plan, we decided to plan for as much as we could, and in retrospect, I feel that this decision helped us immensely. Though it was important to keep in mind that our schedule would need to be flexible, delineating the necessary data and establishing approximate time frames for completion of various tasks allowed us to plan our time in the community well.

The experience and helpfulness of everyone at EIA was extremely valuable and helpful to us on the trip. Because for most of us, except our advisor, this was our first experience in-community, we relied heavily on the expertise of our advisor and the EIA project engineer and translator that accompanied us. Their technical advice and cultural understanding of the community was a resource we could count on in-community.

Overall, going on this trip surprised me in a lot of ways. The hospitality and willingness of community members to welcome us into their lives and homes, even as we asked sometimes personal questions about health and sanitation practices, astounded me. The incredible location of the community, nestled in the Andes mountains, provided an unbelievable backdrop everywhere you looked. And most importantly, I was surprised by the vibrancy of such a tight-knit community which we were able to experience through playing daily soccer games, chatting with community leaders who were always willing to assist us, and bringing home backpacks full of delicious oranges gifted to us by the community’s children throughout the day.

Our visit to Carijana, Bolivia, as cliché as it sounds, has been something I have reflected on periodically throughout the past year. Not only were we able to complete this important milestone in our project and establish a relationship with the community, but I think each one of us was personally impacted by this trip in different ways. In the future, I look forward to continuing to work with Carijana, PittEWB, and EIA as we work towards supporting the community’s need for an improved sanitation system.