Project Beginnings

I first found out about Engineers without Borders (EWB) while I was looking into the founding team at Catapult Design. The founding team had all met through their EWB volunteer work. Inspired by the individuals in the founding team, I was eager to become an engineer for humanity too. Unfortunately, Willamette didn’t have a local chapter.

Three years later, I was admitted into Columbia University. On the day of the club fair, I went to the table for EWB. Unfortunately, there was a shirtless student tabling then. His name, Evan Spotte-Smith. I would soon realize he would be my close classmate for the next two years.

In mid-September, I attended an introductory session detailing the three programs EWB had at Columbia: Ghana, Uganda, & Morocco. Although I felt that Uganda had the most interesting program, the meeting time for Morocco was the only one that fit into my schedule.

On September 24th, 2017, I attended the first meeting for Columbia University’s EWB Morocco Chapter. The meeting was opened by then co-presidents, Kristen & Anne. There was perhaps 20 students in the room, divided into groups. I somehow found myself in the piping group, led by a senior named Francesco Zampetti. Francesco explained to me the project, the context, and the challenges. As he was talking, I couldn’t but notice the need and longing for hope in his eyes. Perhaps it was the growing anxiety that he was graduating and the project had stagnated for the past two years. We talked well past the meeting end time.

The project started near the end of 2014, after the completion of the bridge project. The community living in water scarcity is located in Ait Bayoud, Morocco. Students had tried to install 1.4 km of steel pipes and a DC borewell pump, however, a significant amount of steel pipes were leaking. The proposed pipeline was around six kilometers long. Francesco and Dev were the only members left in the piping team. Unfortunately Francsco was graduating and Dev, knew very little about the project and her attendance was not consistent. Completion was nowhere in sight.

I went home that evening, thinking about the three options I had: Ghana, Uganda, and Morocco. At the time, I thought pipes were extremely boring. I didn’t want to get involved in a project with pipes. But I also remembered how I felt when I was at the meeting. I enjoyed the casual and friendly environment that Kristen & Anne fostered, and I didn’t want to let Francesco down. Somewhere within me, I saw the Morocco program as an opportunity where I could contribute.

With that, I began my journey.