A Look Back: 15 Years of Volunteering to Engineer Change

In 2002, eight students and one professor of civil engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder traveled to San Pablo, Belize, to work with the community to create a clean water system. Dr. Bernard Amadei quickly recognized that San Pablo’s need for engineering expertise was not isolated, and shortly after the group returned he formed Engineers Without Borders USA. The goal was to partner with communities to meet their basic human needs while equipping leaders to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.

Fast-forward to 2017. Engineers Without Borders USA has grown from a handful of students to thousands of student and professional members. These members thrive in almost 300 chapters across the United States and have engineered change in 43 countries across the globe, impacting more than half a million lives.

“Engineering with Soul”

Dave Cook, the past president of EWB-USA’s Board of Directors, has been a volunteer with the organization since the beginning. He muses on the early days: “Fifteen years ago EWB-USA didn’t have full-time staff or a full-time executive director. It started with a young group of entrepreneurial, empathetic people that wanted to use their technical degrees and training to do good in the world.”

“One thing that hasn’t changed,” Cook says, “is engineering with soul. I, like many, still believe in Bernard Amadei’s ethos and why this organization was originally founded. Engineers, scientists and other professionals should all be able to work in harmony to deliver technical skills that are so hard to come by in the developing world.”

“I hope the ethos never changes. Helping people — either through a project or through education — is a core principle for me.”

A few things that have changed since EWB-USA’s early years is its programing. In 2014, the prolific International Community Program expanded into two new programs that offer even more opportunities to volunteer both here at home and abroad. EWB-USA’s Engineering Service Corps offers the expertise of our most seasoned volunteers to organizations in the international development sector. The Community Engineering Corps, also launched in 2014, brings underserved communities and volunteer engineers together to advance local infrastructure solutions in the United States.

Cook offered a final charge for EWB-USA’s great minds tackling great challenges: “The work we do is not easy. Just stick with your passion. Drive change. Be compassionate and empathetic to those around you. Trust that the people within communities where you work are equals. Don’t give up. Make our profession proud.”

Be a Part of EWB-USA’s Future

Passionate. Empathetic. Changemakers. These are the words we use to describe EWB-USA’s growing community. Our pace is matched by the breadth of volunteer opportunities we offer. If you have the motivation to build a better world with us, then we will find the right fit for your skills and interests!

As we wrap up National Volunteer Week, we invite you to be a part of EWB-USA’s future volunteer story! Your actions influence and inspire change in others. Contribute to the narrative that has led thousands to use their talents to impact over half a million lives to date by:

  • Volunteering with us! Take the first step toward being part of a movement for good.
  • Contributing to the powerful conversation on the importance of volunteerism over at The Water Cooler, EWB-USA’s social hub.
  • Following us on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep up with stories of how we’re engineering change across the globe.
About the Author
Engineers Without Borders USA builds a better world through engineering projects that empower communities to meet their basic human needs and equip leaders to solve the world’s most pressing challenges.