Some professions have an ability to provide a unique insight into life that can transform a career into a lifelong vocation, not just a job that pays the bills every month. I’d certainly rank the engineering professions into this category.
The transformation often takes place at university, where engineering undergraduates start to become exposed to the power and potential of their chosen profession through initiatives like Global Brigades.
Global Brigades is the world’s largest student-led global health and sustainable development organisation. Its mission is “to empower volunteers and under-resourced communities to resolve global health and economic disparities and inspire all involved to collaboratively work towards an equal world.
The Global Brigades tackle issues such as medicine, public health, architecture, dental, environmental, microfinance and others. One area in particular where chemical engineers are involved is in the provision of clean and safe water.
Imperial College London has set up their own Water Brigade chapter and have been supporting three projects in the Ekumfi district (Central Region) in Ghana.
Around 86 volunteers from Imperial have helped to construct water systems in rural communities in Ghana. Other volunteer engineers are also helping to create new designs for future systems.
Imperial are not the only ones involved in helping the Srafa Aboano region of Ghana. A total of 23 universities across the world have been involved in building over 50 Household Rainwater Harvesters (HRHs) including several IChemE accredited universities – Manchester University, University College London, Queens University Belfast, and Birmingham University.
The two main water challenges in the Ekumfi district are water access and water quality. Where piped water is not available, rainwater is the most culturally accepted form of drinking water. When rainwater is not available, community members will often go to rivers or small dug out ponds for water. It is not uncommon for diarrhea, bilharzia, cholera, skin rash and other water related diseases and infections to break out in the villages.
HRH’s can provide families with year-round access to clean drinking and cooking water. And during the three to four month dry season the 50 or so tanks are the ideal size to provide the 260 homes and 1,900 people in Srafa Aboano with an affordable water solution until the rains return.
All this is life-saving work and a good way to keep life in perspective.
Don’t forget to read Chemical Engineering Matters to discover how our profession is making a difference in many other areas including health, food and energy.