Opportunities to serve

May 2013 » Service Opportunities
Bridges to Prosperity teaches communities how to build footbridges over impassable rivers to help eliminate poverty caused by isolation from health care, education, and market opportunities.
Photo: Bridges to Prosperity

Following is a list of organizations that may offer opportunities for civil engineers and geomatics professionals to apply their knowledge, skills, and experience in short- and long-term projects serving poor or developing areas around the world, or to support aid efforts related to civil engineering. The list provides basic information gleaned from each organization's website. Those seeking service opportunities or desiring to support such activities should contact the appropriate organizations directly for additional information.

The Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (www.aidg.org) helps individuals and communities get affordable and environmentally sound access to electricity, sanitation, and clean water through a combination of business incubation, education, and outreach. The goal of AIDG's Business Incubation Program is to create independent locally owned enterprises that can serve the needs of impoverished communities using appropriate technology. Currently the program focuses on business creation in energy, water, and sanitation. Future arenas under consideration include communications, housing, transportation, and agricultural processing.

Architecture for Humanity (www.architectureforhumanity.org) is a nonprofit design services firm that taps a network of more than 50,000 professionals willing to lend time and expertise to help those who would not otherwise be able to afford their services to bring design, construction, and development services where they are most critically needed. The organization developed the Open Architecture Network and after five years merged it with the Worldchanging platform (www.openarchitecturenetwork.org). The online network allows architects, designers, builders, and their clients to share architectural plans and drawings – including CAD files – in an open-source model that can be freely downloaded by all.

ASCE Disaster Assistance Volunteer Program (http://ciasce.asce.org/ASCEDisasterAssistanceVolunteerProgram.html) is an effort by the American Society of Civil Engineers' Committee on Critical Infrastructure to develop a directory of members interested and available to participate in disaster management activities (planning, preparedness, response, and recovery) in the event of natural and man-made disasters requiring engineers for planning, damage assessment, and rebuilding efforts. The directory may be made available upon request to qualified parties including local, state, and federal agencies.

Bridges to Prosperity (www.bridgestoprosperity.org) teaches communities how to build footbridges over impassable rivers, in partnership with organizations and professionals. State-of-the-art technologies are fused with local construction techniques to develop locally appropriate bridge designs and material alternatives. Project sites also are considered training grounds to help local communities eliminate poverty caused by isolation from health care, education, and market opportunities.

Bridging the Gap Africa (www.bridgingthegapafrica.org), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, works with marginalized groups of people in sub-Saharan Africa to build bridges that provide people with safe crossings of dangerous rivers, gullies, and ravines that threaten their safety, limit their access to education and health care, and restrict economic opportunity. Using materials that are accessible in Kenya, the organization works with community leaders to involve local men and women in gathering sand and rock for the bridge footings and in raising their portion of the cost to build their footbridge. Then, utilizing local labor and volunteers, Bridging the Gap Africa provides technical expertise and financial assistance to design and construct a safe and secure pedestrian footbridge.

El Porvenir (EP; www.elporvenir.org) is an international non-profit organization that assists people in rural communities in Nicaragua to improve their living standards through sustainable development in clean water, sanitation, reforestation, and health education. EP has 20 years of experience helping rural Nicaraguan communities build appropriate technology (wells, latrines, community washing stations, and fuel efficient stoves), as well as providing communities with the tools they need to manage their water, sanitation, and forestry resources. Service groups spend the majority of their time (one to two weeks) working alongside villagers on sustainable development projects.

Engineering Ministries International (EMI; www.emiusa.org) is a non-profit Christian development organization that designs facilities that serve the poor in developing countries, including hospitals, orphanages, schools, and clean water projects. To produce its designs, EMI blends its team of in-house project managers with volunteer architects, engineers, land surveyors, and construction managers recruited from around the world. Volunteers donate their time and travel costs. Since 1982, EMI has worked on more than 1,000 relief and development projects in more than 90 countries.

Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW; www.eswusa.org) mobilizes students and professionals through education, technical projects, and collaborative action to impact local and global sustainability challenges. Boasting 33 chapters predominately at universities across the United States, as well as a network of more than 4,000 individuals interested in sustainability, ESW is involved in sustainability promotion and development activities on university campuses and in projects across the world.

Engineers Without Borders (EWB; www.ewb-usa.org) is a non-profit humanitarian organization that partners with developing communities worldwide to improve their quality of life. This partnership involves implementation of sustainable engineering projects while involving and training internationally responsible engineers and engineering students. EWB-USA, with more than 12,000 members, is involved in more than 350 projects – including water, renewable energy, and sanitation – in more than 45 developing countries. These projects are completed in partnership with local communities and non-governmental organizations.

GISCorps (www.giscorps.org) is an Urban and Regional Information Systems Association program that coordinates short-term, volunteer-based GIS services to underprivileged communities. GISCorps seeks to help improve life quality by supporting humanitarian relief, enhancing environmental analysis, encouraging/fostering economic development, supporting community planning and development, strengthening local capacity by adopting and using information technology, and supporting health- and education-related activities through the effective use of spatial information technologies.

Global Water (www.globalwater.org) is a volunteer-based, international, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit humanitarian organization focused on providing safe water supplies, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and related health programs for rural villagers in developing countries. Global Water's Rural Outreach Water Supply Program works with local, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in a developing country to identify suitable water projects and to provide specialty water-related equipment, technical expertise, and partial funding. Global Water may assemble Water and Technical Emergency Response (WATER) Teams to perform project work during emergency events such as natural disasters.

Habitat for Humanity (www.habitat.org) is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. The organization invites people of all backgrounds, races, and religions to build houses together in partnership with families in need. Habitat for Humanity has built more than 600,000 houses around the world, providing more than 3 million people with safe, decent, affordable shelter.

Lifewater International (www.lifewater.org) is a Christian, not-for-profit development organization that believes all people should have safe water for life. With a focus on sustainability, Lifewater helps communities gain safe water, adequate sanitation, effective hygiene, and the skills they need to pass on these resources to future generations. The organization has been working in more than 40 countries around the world for more than 30 years. Current projects are focused on Africa and Central and Southeast Asia.

National Engineering Projects in Community Service (http://epicsnational.ecn.purdue.edu), founded at Purdue University in 1995, is a program in which teams of undergraduate students design, build, and deploy systems to solve engineering-based problems for local community service and education organizations. Projects are in four broad areas: human services, access and abilities, education and outreach, and the environment. Teams of eight to 18 students are advised by faculty, staff, and engineers from local industry.

Pure Water for the World (www.purewaterfortheworld.org) provides sustainable safe drinking water filtration systems, latrines, and hygiene education to families and communities in developing countries. Pure Water is currently most active in the El Paraiso district of southern Honduras, and throughout Haiti. Its program includes educating people about what it takes to protect clean, safe drinking water so that it does not become contaminated and then implementing the purification method that best meets the needs of the people or community.

Water For People (www.water4people.org) assists people in developing countries to improve quality of life by supporting development of locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education programs. Water For People has been designated by the American Water Works Association as its charity of choice and is endorsed by the Water Environment Federation, the Water Quality Association, the National Association of Water Companies, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, and other sectors of the North American water community, including manufacturing and consulting engineering companies. The World Water Corps is Water For People's volunteer program. World Water Corps volunteers engage in activities such as mapping to provide baseline data for development, monitoring the functionality of past projects, and evaluating overall program effectiveness.

Water Missions International (WMI; www.watermissions.org) is a nonprofit Christian engineering ministry providing sustainable safe water solutions to people in developing countries and disasters. WMI has completed water projects in 49 countries and currently has full-time staff working in nine countries: Indonesia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Mexico, Haiti, Belize, Peru, and Honduras. According to WMI, it is "committed to designing solutions that are low cost, rugged, and easily operated and maintained. These solutions will be applied in some of the most remote places on the earth and maintained by some of the most marginalized people. The solutions we design and the projects we implement must be sustainable."

Are you involved with or aware of other national or international organizations that offer service opportunities for civil engineers? If so, please e-mail a brief description of the organization to Bob Drake, editor, at bdrake@zweigwhite.com.


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