Texas A&M’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) has begun a new project to help build latrines in Matyazo, a rural community in northwestern Rwanda.
Engineers Without Borders USA is an international program of engineers who volunteer in communities around the globe to help meet basic human needs, according to their website. The A&M chapter of EWB was founded in 2005.
EWB began their current Rwanda Project about a year ago when they reached out to EWB-USA and discovered the need for basic sanitation in Matyazo, biomedical engineering sophomore and co-project lead Ruby Ross said.
“The project is a sanitation project in a rural community … that has requested 500 latrines for the poorest households in the community,” Ross said. “What we have been doing this past year was designing a few different options so that whenever we traveled to the country, we were able to meet with the community members and see exactly what they wanted and needed from these latrines.”
During this past Christmas break, three current students and two professional mentors from EWB traveled to Rwanda to complete the assessment phase of their new project, Ross said. The chapter plans to send another team in January 2021 for the implementation phase, where they will be teaching local community members how to build the latrines to suit their individual needs.
Ross said the goal of the next trip is to share the skills required to construct them with the community members. They will have the community members build the latrines themselves with tools and materials available in Rwanda so they can continue to do sanitation work in the future, Ross said.
“We have such a focus on this assessment trip where we go in and really try to figure out what the central needs are of the community,” Ross said. “[We want] to do something that’s sustainable not just for a few years, but something that the community can keep doing even whenever we’re not there years and years from now.”
Civil engineering senior Bertrand Ndizeye is a member of the A&M EWB chapter and a Rwandan native. Ndizeye said he came to the United States through the U.S. Department of State’s Diversity Immigrant Visa Program and transferred in the fall of 2017 to A&M, where he discovered EWB at MSC Open House.
“I knew I wanted to join that organization because growing up I had heard about Doctors Without Borders,” Ndizeye said, referencing the international non-profit organization similar to EWB that provides humanitarian medical aid around the world.
“As someone who wanted to be a civil engineering student, it was the right thing to join because it aligned with my civil engineering career, which is a people-serving profession,” Ndizeye said.
Ndizeye said he had the opportunity to share information about his native country to his fellow chapter members when they first adopted the Rwanda Project.
“It is exciting for me, not only just to serve, but to serve in my home country,” Ndizeye said. “I’m excited to see the impact our work will have on that community … during the implementation trip, and to share the culture and history of my country with the whole team.”
Ross said A&M’s chapter of EWB is starting up a new monthly event of all-day community service projects every last Saturday of the month. She said this follows the Rwandan tradition of “umuganda,” which translates to “community work” in English, that began after the Rwandan genocide to help rebuild the country.
“Umuganda is a nation-wide service day,” Ross said. “Here in College Station, we are going to try to have our own sort of umuganda … to do local community service projects and have our own little piece of Rwanda here.”