EWB-HU pose for a photo outside Washington Dulles Airport before departing for Kenya on May 15, 2012. Photo by Kerry-Ann Hamilton

Today,  the Howard Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-HU) left Washington on a 8,500-mile journey to Kenya with stops in Brussels, Belgium and Bujumbura, Burundi. The group of bright, service-driven and globally competent engineering students is ready to work. The mission is the result of several semesters of planning.  The team will improve the quality and quantity of water in Choimim, Kenya, a rural community 200 miles from the capital, Nairobi.

In 2009, EWB-HU entered a partnership with Build the Village (BTV), a local NGO based in Choimim. BTV houses a school and an orphanage. The main BTV building also transforms as a cafeteria for students, community center for barazas (village meetings), a movie theatre and church on Sunday.

The early EWB-HU and BTV plans were focused on expanding the orphanage. However, conversations and needs assessments with the community showed that water was the greatest need. The initial assessment in March 2009, was followed by a second assessment trip in December 2010 to collect additional data including measurements, water testing, mapping as well as determining the appropriate materials.

Every day since then Team Lead Aleah Holt, a junior chemical engineering major, has been on a mission to harness more water for BTV and provide a filtration solution to improve water quality. After dozens of meetings, conference calls to Kenya and scores of emails, the team is thrilled that implementation is within reach. John Tharakan, Ph.D., a professor of Chemical Engineering, is EWB-HU’s advisor. Brian Stephenson, P.E., adjunct professor in the School of Engineering, is the group’s professional mentor.

Keep following the group’s progress over the next two weeks. It promises to be exciting. Share the link with others, leave comments or like our posts.

Dr. Kerry-Ann Hamilton, director of strategic communications and marketing, is traveling with EWB-HU on their service mission to Kenya. The blog “Water is Life” chronicles the travels and work of the 9-member delegation from Howard University.