Personal, Technical, and Cultural Challenges - Nick Fontaine

In 2006, a team of American aid workers with Engineers Without Borders traveled to a coastal Village in Andhra Pradesh, India, where the aquifer was stressed and wells were producing contaminated water. Their mission was to find a clean water source and construct a 1.5 km water distribution system.  While their objective was clear and straightforward, the team was confronted with challenges early and often, many of which they never could have prepared for.  Some problems experienced were technical in nature (a contaminated water supply, lack of appropriate materials, last minute design changes), and some were cultural (damaged relations due to a translator’s community lecture, the local NGO partner’s misunderstanding of community dynamics, and the need for the Team to question their technical expertise in order to work in local conditions).

Many of the problems had clear solutions, while others are still being worked through today, two years later.  In this talk, the speaker will describe the model of aid as it was practiced, elaborate on the challenges faced by the team, describe methods employed to overcome the problems, and share photos, anecdotes, and the perspective he took from this changing experience.

Biography - Nick Fontaine:

A resident of Dorchester, MA, Nick Fontaine holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst.  His professional experience has largely been in the area of master planning and asset management for municipal water and sanitation agencies.  Nick’s resume in Humanitarian Aid has been developing with Engineers Without Borders since he helped establish the San Diego Professional Chapter in 2005.  After working on a potable water project in Andhra Pradesh, India, Nick switched his focus to the development of the Professional Chapter by becoming the Chapter’s President in 2007.