After arriving in Masaera, the Valpo EWB team found that most of our plans would have to change. Local politics prevented us from proceeding with assessing drinking water options to implement next year and doing health surveys to determine the potential benefits of implementing a clean water program. Instead, the students observed and provided technical counsel to projects that the villagers were undertaking on their own. The hope was that the work completed last year on the drop box at Junction 1 would provide lessons and guidance for the work the villagers were doing this year. It was a frantic two days with 300-350 villagers working in 8 locations along the top mile of the canal. The Valpo EWB team did their best, however, each local foreman or “fundi” used his own concrete mix design and his way of doing things. While there were many positives, the outcome of this knowledge transfer assessment was fairly disappointing. The Valpo EWB team reviewed each work site, documented the GPS location of the repairs, methods used at each location and compiled a list of suggested changes for future work.
The Valpo EWB team met with a series of local officials to determine what work would be allowed. The team then formulated a plan that would allow us to collect useful data for a potential trip next year without causing political problems for our local advocates. The revised implementation approach was taken and many of the original goals were achieved through an alternate approach. This is one of the challenges that exists to working across borders and ultimately a good learning environment for the student team.
I was originally going to write that the Valpo EWB students were all going be become good leaders in their respective professions. Upon reflection, I believe they are already leaders and are developing into great leaders.
-Robert J. Andrews P.E.