Engineers Without Borders USA’s Engineering Service Corps (ESC) Project Engineer, Elizabeth Joyce, is a former EWB-USA volunteer who enjoys open-water swimming and playing the banjo. In the office, she focuses her energy on fostering strong partner relationships and managing the implementation of climate change-related projects.
How did you first learn about and get involved with EWB-USA?
I joined the EWB-USA San Francisco Professional Chapter in 2009. During my time with the chapter, I primarily supported a team working with a community in Haiti — first by working on the design and construction of a new medical clinic, and later by serving as the project manager on a project to build two road bridges. In 2017, I volunteered with EWB-USA’s ESC on two long-term volunteer assignments, first in Kosovo for a USAID agricultural program, and then in Ethiopia for a UNHCR clean energy program.
Tell us about your new role here! Who will you interact with and impact the most?
As the ESC Project Engineer, I will be managing the implementation of energy and climate change-related projects within the Engineering Service Corps, working primarily with other ESC staff and our partner organizations and communities.
What part of your job are you most excited about and why?
Oh, that’s difficult to choose.
I’m excited to continue working with EWB-USA’s partner organizations and communities, and to build relationships with organizations and people that are working towards a better future.
I’m excited about being able to implement clean energy and climate mitigation and adaptation related projects, to help our partners prepare for a future under climate change, and to manage their natural resources in sustainable ways.
Finally, I’m very excited about working with EWB-USA volunteers, who are hands-down the most generous and “can-do” people I’ve ever met.
What’s the most unique/interesting/impactful engineering project you have helped implement?
By far, the most interesting engineering project I’ve been a part of was the implementation of an off-grid medical clinic in the Bayonnais Valley in Haiti, with the EWB-USA San Francisco Professional Chapter and our project partner, OFCB Ministries.
Prior to the existence of this clinic, the nearest professional medical services to the valley were a day’s travel away over a bad road that would flood in the rainy season. OFCB planned the clinic for over a decade, even developing a scholarship for local students to go to medical school on condition that they came back to work in the clinic.
Now, the clinic is packed every day with people who can see an affordable doctor or dentist without having to make a two-day trip. It has made a huge difference in the community.
What does “engineering change” mean to you?
The most important part of engineering projects isn’t the technology at all, it’s the people. Engineering projects must be relationship-oriented first and foremost.
Accordingly, engineering change means seeking to build strong relationships in a variety of contexts and environments. It means leaving behind a “technology will fix it” attitude and embracing listening, humility, flexibility, and an open mind. With good relationships, we can better avoid the past pitfalls and failures of traditional aid and international development, and foster true sustainability and empowerment.
How do you spend your free time?
If you had asked me this question a year ago my answer would have been, “volunteering with EWB-USA.” Now, my free time is spent making music and dancing with friends — singing, social dancing and playing the piano and banjo. I also love to get outside and hike, camp, backpack, road bike and open-water swim. I recently moved to the Pacific Northwest, and am looking forward to exploring the beautiful landscape this region has to offer!