On March 14th, five student members of Hope College’s Engineers Without Borders chapter (Kayty Ihara, Andrew Caris, Matthew Dickerson, Owen Donahoe, and myself, Jenny Pedersen) began a 10 day trip to Bondo, Kenya. We were accompanied by two mentors Nick Frank and Joe VanBennekom. The purpose of the trip was to monitor wells and a rain catchment system that were installed by the chapter in a rural community in Kenya during the summer of 2017.
The team arrived in Nairobi on March 15th at 9pm and stayed at St. Paul’s University overnight. On the 16th we took the 8 hour journey to Bondo. Upon arrival we met Charles, a Kenyan native that was kind enough to let all seven of our chapter members stay on his property. During the week, we spent time in the Bondo community conducting surveys about water accessibility, usage, and storage practices. We also collected water quality samples from the wells and the rain catchment system to verify the systems were still functioning properly and providing clean water to the community. All of the water quality tests showed that the water is clean and suitable for drinking!
Something I learned during this trip is how much we take water for granted, I always knew we use a lot of water in the US but it really hit home when I saw the journey that people take just to get water. Additionally, I learned how important it is to be grateful and generous. The community members were so welcoming and willing to give what little they had. It was an extremely eye opening experience to see the joy and gratitude that the local Kenyan culture displayed, even for small blessings. To be immersed in a different culture was an amazing experience that helped me gain perspective on my own life. It was a great reminder of how present God is and how he provides no matter who or where you are, and that you can either let a situation define you or let your faith define you!
I believe this trip will impact my life going forward as an engineer by reminding me of what goals are important to work toward. For me, that is ultimately helping others through my engineering practice and giving every person I meet the love and respect they deserve. Not only does this trip remind me to count my blessings and be thankful for whatever my future career may hold, but it also reminds me to appreciate the different kinds of people I will interact with in the workplace. To students considering trips like this, I would say GO! If it is with Engineers Without Borders, or even an immersion trip, I think it is so important to experience different cultures to try to truly understand what fuels them!