When I first heard the words “Engineers Without Borders”
By Keicha Muriel
Rowan University Student Chapter
When I first heard the words “Engineers Without Borders” I did not know what the organization was about, I did not even know what an engineer was! Of course, this was even before I started my first semester in college. I was introduced to Engineers Without Border-Rowan University Chapter when one of the students involved gave a talk about a project in Thailand. Since that moment I knew that someday I was going to travel to a developing country and witness the application of my skills and desire to help others.
It was not until sophomore year that I decided to step up and contacted the president of the EWB chapter at Rowan and expressed my great desire to be part of them. Since that moment, I have been actively involved in the organization, from making flyers to fundraising, from local service projects to selling pizza. However, my ‘real’ experience came at the end of that year when I had been given the opportunity to be part of a watwr distribution and treatment project in La Ceiba, a small community in the west region of El Salvador.Working in a project in El Salvador gave me the chance of speaking my native language, Spanish. Also, I could apply what I had learned in the classrooms, and more importantly, to truly build an emotional connection with women, men and children that share and follow a single goal, better their community’s life. As many other EWB’ers say: “This was an eye-opening experience”. I also share that feeling; however, the fact that I lived, ate, felt, saw and shared the need of the people in La Ceiba for clean water opened not only my eyes, but my mind and heart. I was able to realize how many things we take for granted and we, as a developed society, make of our lives a routine; simply because we have all the basics a human needs to survive.
While in La Ceiba, I learned to appreciate everything, the people, their hospitality, their food, their smiles, the kids running all around the team, their coffee in the morning, and even the weather! It goes beyond a simple ‘project’ because EWB builds profound connections with the communities, the impact it has in the students’ lives is a remark that stay with them forever, even when the project is completed.
After our first assessment trip to El Salvador, I was in charge of coordinating many of the tasks that involved writing, reading and speaking in Spanish (so you can imagine how long the list was…) and I enjoyed every single moment. The project continued all thorough and in March 2008 the team traveled for a second assessment trip as well as educational purposes and the presentation of design alternatives. Today, we are currently working on the design revision and expect implementation to occur this coming winter.
Not all end there as far as my involvement with EWB. I had also been chosen as the Rowan Chapter President for the academic year 2008-2009. During that year I had the opportunity to expand my horizons to regional and national activities in a great way. EWB was not only an organization for me, but it was and still is a driving force in my life. I knew that every effort, every meeting and every single task I took upon was a step further into helping other communities in need.
Today, I plan to continue traveling and invest my talent, desire and life for helping other with a greater need. Although I have had this always in my heart, the involvement with EWB increased my knowledge greatly as well as it gave me the tools necessary to continue this amazing work…
Keicha Muriel is one of four Northeast Regional Scholarship winners for EWB International Spring 2009 Conference.