WASHINGTON (March 3, 2009) – For most of their peers, spring break means vacationing by the beach, but for more than a dozen Howard students the March recess means rolling up their sleeves and making a difference.

The Howard Chapter of Engineers Without Borders will travel a world away from their classrooms to help two communities plagued by HIV/AIDS and violence. They are packing their hard hats, work boots and sketches and are en route to Kenya and Brazil to help those in greatest need.

The EWB-HU contingent departs Washington on March 13 and return on March 23. They will travel to two continents and a cumulative total of 12,000 miles each way.

“This is a community centered service-learning experience focused on sustainable development and improving the quality of life in two developing countries,” said John Tharakan, Ph.D., EWB-HU advisor and professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. “It is unique in that it contributes to the student’s own development while giving back.”

The students and their advisors began crafting the two service missions last fall, which includes a multi-phased effort with the Ribiera community in Salvador, Brazil and the Choimim community of Nandi, Kenya.

Atlanta native Alexandria McBride, president of EWB-HU, is leading her second delegation overseas. Last year, she coordinated the inaugural EWB-HU week of service to Cocle, Panama where they painted, enclosed a structure to provide additional living space, built a vegetable garden and provided a desktop computer for the orphanage.

“We are really excited about the opportunity to dedicate our spring break to service and collaborate with the local people to develop solutions,” McBride said. “As we equip ourselves for the workforce, it is imperative that we are groomed to solve national and global challenges. EWB allows us to do both.”

Kenya Project

To date, approximately 15 million children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The vast majority of children living with AIDS acquire the disease through mother-to-child transmission, which can occur in the womb, during birth or through breastfeeding. According to UNAIDS, approximately 1.3 million Kenyans are living with HIV/AIDS. The disease has not spared Nandi Hills, a small rural community in the Rift Valley region. It is approximately 200 miles from the capital, Nairobi.

In conjunction with Build The Village, an organization that works with indigenous people to build self-sustaining village communities, the Nandi Village project will provide educational, nutritional, psychosocial, and most importantly a home for the HIV/AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in Choimim community. The new developments will house approximately 50 orphans; they are scheduled for completion in December 2010.

During the weeklong mission, students will paint, mix mortar and install glass for a building currently under construction. The plan also includes working at a neighboring school with lessons in water assessment and taking care of the environment.

Brazil Project

Simultaneously, the second delegation will be working in the Afro-Brazilian community of Salvador, Bahia, which has been crippled by violence in low-income areas referred to as favelas or ghettos. Neighboring Saramandaia, also in Bahia, has lost
43 children in six years to senseless killings. At the heart of this community is its culture – local non-governmental organizations are working to use visual art and music to engage young people and keep them away from violence; however, the art space is without a roof and badly in need of repairs. EWB-HU has partnered with the Institute of Culture Brazil Italy Europe (ICBIE) and Projeto Cultural Art Consciente, who will act as the cultural hub for the development of the community.

The multipurpose theatre design and development in Salvador, Brazil will provide the Afro-Brazilian Community access to cultural activities and development activities previously lacking. The 35 x 12 meter space, currently an abandoned area, will be used for film, poetry, capoeira, dance and plays. This area of Brazil in the “low city” has long been excluded and this will provide a center for academic and artistic excellence. Phase one includes site and community assessment, concept designs for a temporary roofing to provide functional use of the space and appropriate technology research.

EWB-HU spearheaded a fundraising campaign, which raised nearly $30,000 to offset the travel cost, food, lodging, and to purchase work materials as well as school supplies. The sponsors include Unilever Foundation, Swinerton Foundation, U.S. Steel, the Office of the Provost as well as the Dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture, and Computer Sciences.

Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 12 schools and colleges. Founded in 1867, students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Since 1998, the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, a Truman Scholar, a Marshall Scholar, 19 Fulbright Scholars and 11 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, call 202-238-2330, or visit the University’s Web site at http://www.Howard.edu.

Engineers Without Borders – USA (EWB-USA) is a non-profit humanitarian organization established to partner with developing communities worldwide in order to improve their quality of life. This partnership involves the implementation of sustainable engineering projects, while involving and training internationally responsible engineers and engineering students.