Jan 6, 2010

Some Reading for While We Are in the Air - Sadie

I find it amazing that I am leaving for the airport in just under an hour and yet we are not going to arrive in India until Friday. Our travel time is exceedingly long because we are going to be in the air for a total of fourteen staggering hours. We have a three-hour lay-over in Abu Dhabi and there is, of course, the time change… so now is the perfect time for a post explaining what this trip is really all about. I’m giving you all some light reading “for the plane,” so to speak. Unfortunately, the task of summarizing everything EWB has accomplished over the past five years and encompassing everything we hope to achieve with this trip is nearly impossible. It is especially hard for me because I just got involved with the project a few months ago. Some faculty advisors have been involved since the beginning and a few engineering students have been part of EWB for at least a couple of years. However, I will recap past trips and sum up our goals for this trip as best as I can. And once we are in India, what we do should become clearer—to both you and me—as we post videos and written posts from other engineering, sociology and art students and teachers who actually know what they are talking about (as apposed to me, who is just good at sounding like I know what I’m talking about).

The following table is a very brief synopsis of all past trips by both the Engineers Without Borders Hartford Professionals Chapter and University of Hartford Student Chapter over the past five years:
Our goals for the January 2010 trip are to follow-up on all of the previous water projects and to continue to set up a community water management plan so that all of these water systems are sustainable. The EWB team is also going to perform a detailed assessment of the greywater that accumulates on the main roads. For those of you out of the loop, greywater is waste water generated from domestic activities such as washing dishes, cleaning clothes and bathing. Since there is essentially no sewage system in the village, it collects in the roads, providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes that possibly carry malaria and also serves as a source of nasty waterborne diseases. Because the water has already been used once, it cannot be purified enough to become drinking water again, but our hope is that we can purify it enough to be used for irrigation, which would lessen the strain on the potable water supply. If through the assessment we discover that it is feasible, we will design and develop a soak pit that can be implemented by the villagers and the EWB team during the next trip in March 2010.

Other goals for this trip include assessing the water demand throughout the village by mapping the private and public wells to estimate the total shortage of clean water left to be filled. We are also going to research local techniques for reducing irrigation water consumption without reducing crop yield for village farmers. We think that the majority of the water is being consumed for irrigation instead of its intended use as drinking water. Therefore, if we can somehow reduce the amount of water farmers are using for their crops, it will provide more drinking water for the villagers. Finally, we are going to work with the Navjyoti, the local women’s empowerment group, on the design requirements for a modern adobe home for future trips to hopefully provide less expensive and more reliable housing for the villagers. The faculty advisor for the engineering aspect of the trip is Dr. David Pines and the students working with him are the president of EWB, Clay Pipkin; project leader, Amy Waraksa; and Jessica Barringer and Sarah Shahin, fellow engineering students. Working with them will be Keith Viccaro, a Biology-Chemistry student, who will be running field tests for any foreign substances in the water. For more information on EWB visit http://uhaweb.hartford.edu/cee/ewb/.

For a number of years Marcia Hughes, a sociology professor, has been traveling with the EWB team assessing the impact that EWB has had on Abheypur. So far she has done so by interviewing several families and teachers throughout the village, using a technique studied and developed by Catherine Owens called the Contextual Interaction Theory. Marcia will be working with two students, Daniel Luedke and Ellen Skoczenski, during this trip.

Design for a Global Change linked up with EWB last January and has been working with the Navjyoti and the local high school’s Head Master on a Visual Communication Education Campaign. In 2009, Natacha Poggio, a graphic design professor, and five students from the Hartford Art School designed and painted a mural at the village school near the earliest well pump tanks to teach students and villagers the importance of cleanliness and how to respect and share the water. This year, Natacha and two new students, Chris Siharath and Christa Tubach, are expanding their campaign for better sanitation by providing teaching tools for the primary school teachers. They also want to start an awareness campaign that will target high school boys, teaching them about the dangers of alcohol consumption. Along with this, they are also working on a gender equality campaign for the girls and young women of Abheypur. For much more information on this side of the project, please visit http://designforglobalchange.org/.

Essentially, with this visit we are hoping to further provide water to the villagers and begin to ensure that the Navjoti and village officials can maintain the clean water supply themselves. Along with the work by Design for a Global Change to improve some of their social norms through graphic design and public art, we are trying to improve the villagers’ quality of life and lessen their poverty. All of our efforts during this trip are to ensure that one day we can let the villagers completely control the water systems themselves, and that our trips to Abheypur will no longer be necessary.

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