Since 2002, Engineers without Borders USA (EWB-USA) has provided pro bono engineering and technical assistance to communities in need around the world.
Now, the non-profit, humanitarian organization has teamed up with the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Water Works Association to offer their combined expertise a little closer to home—to underserved communities within the United States.
The groups formally launched the Community Engineering Corps (CEC) in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 21, and it was clear that this program has a lot of enthusiasm and excitement behind it.
Randall Over, president of ASCE, said, “Working under the guidance of experienced engineers, this initiative will provide young civil engineers unique opportunities to gain valuable hands-on experience in the field, while giving back and making a tangible difference in the lives of those living in underserved communities here in the U.S.”
Nicole Regobert, a construction automation support analyst with Bechtel, and a relatively recent graduate, said that going to Zambia with Engineers without Borders a few years ago was “life changing.”
When Regobert got a job transfer to Bechtel’s Houston office a few years later, she talked to her colleagues about EWB there, and the interest was overwhelming, she said. She found out about the pilot projects being launched by the newly formed alliance among EWB-USA, ASCE and AWWA, and became a project leader for one of the teams.
One of CEC’s pilot projects has involved helping design a new community center for the Spirit Lake Tribe of Benson County, N.D. Over the past 20 years, the tribe has lost hundreds of homes and farms and suffered extensive damage to road, sewage and power infrastructure due to flooding from Devil’s Lake. The community was declared a disaster area in 2013.
Over the past year, CEC volunteers have provided their expertise to help the community get back on its feet.
Frank Black Cloud, a member of the Spirit Lake Tribe, said, “For so long, we felt abandoned by both the federal and state governments. Twenty years of continuous flooding can break a community down….Through [the program’s] help, we now have some hope for a better future.”
Other CEC pilot projects include designing a sanitation system for a Navaho Indian tribe in Black Mesa, Ariz., and developing a public green space in the heart of a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans neighborhood.
According to EWB-USA’s domestic program director, Peter Waugh, the success of the pilot projects “convinced us that [CEC] is a viable program and that we should go full-scale on this.”
With Bechtel and a host of other major firms fully engaged, it is clear that the program has the potential to do a world of good, and it is something where the engineering community can make a huge difference. For more information,click here.