Engineers Without Borders: Learning the Importance of Community

I am not one to usually go outside of my comfort zone, but this year I was determined to change that. Joining the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) club at Hope College seemed like a great place to start. By working to provide clean water to Bondo, Kenya, I would be able to satisfy my desire to help people while also applying engineering skills. This participation in EWB had a significant impact on me, which I was not entirely expecting.

EWB Travel Team (left to right): Rebekah Ludema (’22), Cameron Maloney (’23), Dale Nowicki, Nick Frank, Brianna Rucinski (’23), Caroline Burkhardt (’22), Chris Rexroth (’22), Krista Nelson (’21)

Even the best plans change during a pandemic

Six students, including myself, and two mentors planned on traveling to Bondo, Kenya in March 2020. The goal of the trip was to install a well in the community. On March 12th we started the trip to Africa with a 3 hour drive to Chicago O’Hare airport. While at the check-in counter, we received a call that Hope College and EWB-USA were restricting travel due to COVID-19.  We returned back to campus, disappointed in our inability to travel to the community.  We did continue to manage the project remotely and a new well was installed by the end of the month.

I am proud of the community for continuing the work to complete the new well. The videos and pictures that we were sent during the construction were inspiring and helped overcome the disappointment of not traveling. Seeing the joy on the community members’ faces while using the well made me grateful for the mission of EWB. It became very clear to me how much a group of people can accomplish if they work together.

Drilling the borehole for the well in Bondo, Kenya
Bondo community members using the new well

But lessons learned last forever

When I joined Engineers Without Borders I was not planning on being part of the travel team. But through the support of friends and family, I made the decision to go further out of my comfort zone than I ever had before. I learned how important it is to lean on those around you and also support them in their own endeavors. Such a supportive community enabled significant personal growth for me and I am grateful for that. 

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