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Engineers Without Borders & Volunteer West Africa Partnership Goes Live!
Engineers Without Borders & Volunteer West Africa Partnership Goes Live!
Engineers Without Borders & Volunteer West Africa Partnership Goes Live!
Engineers Without Borders & Volunteer West Africa Partnership Goes Live!
Engineers Without Borders & Volunteer West Africa Partnership Goes Live!

Engineers Without Borders & Volunteer West Africa Partnership Goes Live!

Date Posted: 09/08/2015
VWA is pleased to announce the launch of our partnership with the fantastic student-led humanitarian engineering NGO: Engineers Without Borders (EWB). Read all about it here from the perspective of EWB members and current VWA volunteers Elaine, Jake and Andrew.
Akwaaba! (Welcome!)

We are a team of three students from Engineers Without Borders (EWB) based at the University of Bath. EWB started a partnership with VWA Volunteer West Africa earlier this year, 2015, and so now we are delighted to be spending 8 weeks at the VWA compound in Ghana to research and help develop a water harvesting system to feed the VWA daycare & nursery centre for vulnerable children. 

We are all engineering students: Jake, who has just finished his second year studying Chemical Engineering; Elaine, who has just finished her final year studying Civil Engineering, and Andrew, who has just finished his fourth year studying Integrated Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.

This is the first year of the EWB-VWA partnership. So the focus of our visit is to develop the water harvesting system at the VWA compound. This system will hopefully be implemented in January 2016. The visit will also comprise a 5-day visit to the Opeikuma community - one of VWA's partner communities - where there have been concerns with the existing water borehole systems. We hope that the partnership will continue for the next 5 years, with yearly visits from teams from EWB Bath to support VWA in the engineering components of their development projects.

We arrived into Accra last Friday and have just finished our first week at the Volunteer West Africa compound. Having met with Matt and Inusah (VWA's Director and Project Manager respectively), we started work on our project on Monday, when we spent a few days visiting local water systems, meeting with local authorities and water institutes, in order to gain as much information and guidance as possible as to which systems are most appropriate in the local area. It was great to start the project with meeting local people and learning about what technology they have used that has and hasn't worked. Our visit to the Water Research Institute in Accra was particularly helpful, as we were able to talk to researchers who had piloted some rainwater harvesting schemes in the villages near the VWA compound, which we therefore then visited on Thursday. We concluded the week with the decision that rainwater harvesting was, as suspected, the best solution to pursue, due to the extensive and expensive filtration techniques required for boreholes due to the salty water (the VWA compound is only 50m from the beach!).
   
We then spent our first weekend settling in and getting to know the local area. Our first experience of public transport was on the day we arrived, when we used taxis and 'tro-tros' (local public transport minibuses) to travel to the local shopping centre and villages to buy food and set up local SIM cards for our phones. The roads were definitely a shock at first, with a lot of dust and potholes which means no journey is dull! The weekend was very relaxed, which was needed after a long day travelling to Ghana, with visits to a local church, the beach and Big Milly's: the local reggae bar and beach restaurant!

We are really enjoying our time in Ghana and at the Volunteer West Africa compound so far everyone has been really friendly and welcoming, and the VWA has helped us adjust to the new culture. Even the four VWA dogs have welcomed us as family and have taken a particular shining to Jake! We have also enjoyed sampling and learning how to cook local foods with Regina, the VWA cook. Yesterday's masterpiece was boiled yam and a stew that we would describe best as tomato and spinach stew with scrambled egg! Unfortunately, we are still very sensitive to the spice and seem to consume litres of water between us with every meal! One of the things that has been new to us is drinking water out of plastic sachets ('Pure Water') which you drink by biting a hole in the corner. This has been easier for some of us to get used to than others: Elaine still seems to spill a lot of it down her front & Andrew all over the table! As you would imagine there's no washing machine here and so this week we all tried hand-washing for the first time! We're not convinced that the clothes are any cleaner, but hopefully we'll improve over the next 7 weeks! The weather has been really pleasant so far! Being the end of the rainy season, it has been cool (well, hotter than the UK!) and there's a nice breeze from the sea.

We're really looking forward to making progress with the project over the next few weeks, being part of the VWA team as the children return from holiday, and building a long-lasting partnership!

Elaine, Jake & Andrew.
Author: Engineers Without Borders

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