Celebrating One Year of Accomplishments with Community Engineering Corps

A little over one year ago, Engineers Without Borders USA launched the Community Engineering Corps (CE Corps) with ASCE and AWWA to partner with underserved communities here in the United States. In the past year, the three alliance organizations have worked hard to get the initiative up and running by soliciting projects from partner communities, matching enthusiastic project teams with partner communities, staffing our quality control committees, and publicizing the initiative at places like the AWWA National Conference and the Clinton Global Initiative – America Conference. This hard work has paid off! At the start of our second year we have a vibrant, growing alliance.

During the first year we engaged with 20 new communities and 20 new projects. These projects are as varied as:

  • Helping inner city neighborhoods in Camden, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, develop community gardens;
  • Assisting the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota with the structural design of a community building that will be the centerpiece of the new Keya Wakpala sustainable development;
  • Working with homeowners on the Navajo Reservation to install solar heating units on public buildings and private hogans;
  • Serving on a technical advisory committee with the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water in the Salinas River Valley of California.

The work that we are doing with our partner communities is as important and impactful as our international work. But it is around the block – not around the world. Our partner on the Keya Wakpala project said:

“The process of design for this project has been inclusive and respectful of local culture and values. When projects are conducted this way, it makes a lasting impact for all involved. This is not just good design. This is empowerment. This is positive social, economic and environmental change.” – Scott Moore y Medina

The value of a CE Corps partnership goes beyond the community – volunteers are also positively influenced. The EWB-USA City College of New York Chapter’s team lead working on the project said:

“[Working on a CE Corps project] gives you the opportunity to work on real-world engineering projects with experienced professionals and to help underserved communities within our own borders. The impact that you can leave with a domestic community is equally as great as if working internationally, but with less demand on the students to come up with the capital to fund the project, and to deal with the costs and complications of travelling abroad. By cutting down on these aspects, we’re able to put more of our energy into doing what we do best: collaborating with our community partners to design and build sustainable engineering projects.” – Frank Poma

capture-cec2

The EWB-USA City College of New York Chapter project team on site at the Community Engineering Corps project at the Keya Wakpala Community Center in South Dakota

 

Moving Forward

We want to keep going full speed ahead with the CE Corps in 2015 and into the future.  We would like to double the number of community partners and projects and double the number of volunteers that we have in the program. What can you do to help? There are many ways to become involved:

  • Projects – We are looking for new community partners and new projects. If you know of an underserved community, we can help you approach that community to see if they would like to apply for our assistance.
  • Volunteer – Keep an eye on the open projects page so you can engage with a project. If you are an experienced professional, you can also volunteer on our Domestic Application Review Committee (DARC) or the Technical Review Committee (TRC).
  • Financial Investors – Our community partners and volunteers are the hands and feet of this organization, but the CE Corps staff are essential to match project teams and partner communities and to manage the quality control of the projects. If you are a potential financial partner, contact CE Corps Director Peter Waugh at peter.waugh@ewb-usa.org.

Join us in making the CE Corps second year even better than the first!

About the Author
Peter Waugh
Peter Waugh is the Community Engineering Corps Director and Principal Engineer at EWB-USA. Peter has 30 years of experience in water resources, structural engineering and civil engineering. He served in the Peace Corps for two years in the Republic of Seychelles and has worked on EWB-USA projects in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Uganda.