A flight to Lima followed by a precarious 28-hour ride over mountain roads landed five students in the remote town of Chirimoto, Peru this January. The group – a contingent from the BU Engineers Without Borders chapter – visited the town to assess the needs of its residents and how the students’ engineering knowledge might help improve living conditions there.
“We all went into it not knowing what to expect, but it was really successful. As an assessment trip it really served its purpose because it opened our eyes to what the real possibilities are and gave us a new perspective on potential areas to work in,” said Julia Delogu (AME ’09).
This is the first project for the BU chapter of this national non-profit organization. Formed in October 2006, the chapter worked to meet fundraising goals throughout the fall 2007 semester for its initial trip to Chirimoto, a remote village in northern Peru that has yet to fully recover from devastating floods that struck the area three decades ago. Typically, EWB chapters visit an area at least twice for a project: first going on an assessment trip, then, six to eight months later, implementing the project.
Chapter President Chris Spring (AME ’08) and group members Delogu, Paulo Belfiore (BME ’09), graduate student Emily Johnson (SPH ’08) and Ramona Georgescu (ECE ’07) made the two-week journey accompanied by Luis Chavez, a doctoral candidate in Romance Languages, who is from Chirimoto.
To test the feasibility of installing a water purification system or providing solar power, the students performed basic water quality tests on rivers that provide the town’s drinking water and measured solar radiation using a pyronometer. The EWB members also wanted to ensure that their project would fill a real need for the townspeople, so they talked to residents in a town meeting, a women’s meeting and individual interviews.
Since returning to Boston, the group has begun evaluating this information and is considering some new ideas brought up in conversations with Chirimoto residents, such as helping the town’s coffee growers further process their beans to get a better price for them.
Just before departing, the group also met with a regional government official.
“If we’re able to implement a project that proves beneficial, such as a water purification system, they would be interested in using our design and our research to implement the system in other parts of the region, which we’re really happy about,” said Spring.
The group will research potential projects and consult experts this spring, to decide what project will most benefit Chirimoto. The students will continue fundraising and plan the project’s logistics in anticipation of a return trip to Chirimoto this summer.
“I really just hope that it provides hope. Just by our going there, we kind of planted the seed that there’s someone who cares. I hope that whatever project we do can help as many people as possible,” said Delogu. “And we’re going to do it with them, with their help. I think whatever we do, everyone’s going to be appreciative and say, ‘OK, what else can we do together?’”