In two classrooms thousands of miles apart, students in Muchebe, Kenya, and Princeton, New Jersey, are transforming into the engineering leaders of tomorrow.
“We are eager to become engineers so that at one time we will be the ones to change our environment and the entire environment at large,” wrote one pupil from the Muchebe Primary School to his pen pals at the EWB-USA Princeton University Chapter (EWB-USA Princeton)”
The handwritten letter was received by Cecilia Stoner and the other students in the chapter. According to Cecilia, the relationships they have built with the students of Muchebe are just as meaningful as their work to help supply clean, reliable water to the rural Kenyan village.
The pen pal program grew out of a partnership that began in 2012. Together with the residents of Muchebe, EWB-USA Princeton students and mentors expanded the capacity of an existing rainwater catchment system at the Muchebe Primary School. The improved water system increased water capacity for students and nearby residents threefold, and the impact on students has been tremendous. Teachers observed that students complained of far fewer headaches after the expansion of the rainwater system at Muchebe Primary was completed, and students no longer had to leave their classwork to walk down to rivers to quench their thirst with contaminated water. But the impact of the engineering project surpassed meeting just physical needs. Students also started to express aspirations to become engineers when they grow up to help bring positive change to their community.
The students from EWB-USA Princeton have also felt the impact of their partnership with the people of Muchebe. The experiences they gained working alongside the community and the cross-cultural sharing with their pen pals is uniquely preparing them to be tomorrow’s engineering leaders. As Cecilia shared, “EWB-USA has changed my life. I am now a better global citizen.” This increase in cultural awareness and understanding is just one way engineering connects our global society.
The Path Forward
The water system at the Muchebe Primary School was a huge success and currently provides water to the school’s 400 students. But the system’s limited storage capacity, especially during the dry season left the remainder of the 2,000 member community still at risk for contracting diseases. To address this need, EWB-USA Princeton traveled to Muchebe in August 2015 to implement a second rainwater catchment system. The school’s system, proven effective and sustainable, served as the model for the new water system.
While solving the very real problem of access to safe water, EWB-USA empowers the next generation of global citizens. From the classrooms of Muchebe to the hallways of Princeton, these transformative experiences enrich global perspectives and inspire the next generation of changemakers.