Cleaner drinking water is being delivered to an orphanage and several nearby villages in Thailand, thanks to the efforts of the Villanova chapter of Engineers Without Borders, a nonprofit organization that teams with communities worldwide to improve living standards.
In May, 10 engineering students traveled to Southeast Asia to complete a project that the chapter had taken over from another university in the summer of 2007. The focus of the project was the design and installation of a gravity flow water system.
Last summer, the volunteers had assessed the site and laid two miles of pipes, making it possible for water to be delivered to the orphanage and the village of Baan Bo Mai. This year, under the direction of project manager Ean Mulligan, the group
- constructed a tank
- connected the pipeline to a second village
- created a local distribution network
- improved the water source by adding filtering fabric to keep silt out of the pipeline and a higher retaining wall to produce more pressure for flow
- dug the trenches for a pipeline that would extend to the fields, thus allowing the orphanage to produce more food
According to Sarah Arscott, the president of the Villanova chapters of EWB and the Society of Women Engineers, one reason why the project succeeded is that the local population took ownership of it. "They were eager to learn about what they were helping us build."
The Thai people were not the only ones receiving an education. "They taught us what it means to have compassion and dedication," Arscott said. The students also learned from the faculty advisors who accompanied them: Dr. Bridget Wadzuk (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and James O'Brien (Mechanical Engineering). "Their experience with water systems and with working in impoverished areas proved invaluable."