URF’s approach with Hope Academy has been successful because the organization and its members truly believe in the potential of all students.
“I immediately formed significant bonds with the students at the school and the communities surrounding the school.”
Rich is an engineering students talking about his experience with URF with a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter early this year, 2010.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Eric Hettler <>
Date: Fri, Mar 12, 2010 at 10:36 PM
Subject: Engineers Without Borders and Uganda Rural Fund
My name is Eric Hettler, and I am a member of the University of Minnesota chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-UMN). John Mary Lugemwa asked me to email you regarding URF and their partnership with EWB-UMN. Engineers Without Borders is a national organization with student and professional chapters all over the country. The mission of the organization is supporting community-driven development programs worldwide through the implementation of sustainable engineering projects.
EWB-UMN has been working with Uganda Rural Fund and Hope Integrated Academy (a secondary school located in the Masaka region of Uganda) since 2007. When the school was originally constructed, the only water source for the students was a murky, polluted pond on the other side of a very busy road. John Mary approached our chapter requesting assistance in implementing a sustainable solution to the school’s issues related to water and sanitation. After a year of design and preparation, a group of EWB-UMN students traveled to Uganda and worked with URF to install a rainwater harvesting system. The system provided enough drinking water for up to 250 students. In the future, URF hopes to expand HIA to include up to 500 students, 300 of whom will live on the school grounds. While the implementation of the rain-water harvesting system was important to meet the initial needs of the school and establish trust with the HIA students and the surrounding communities, it was only a near-term solution to their water issues. In the summer of 2009, a group of EWB-UMN students collaborated with URF to install a groundwater distribution system on the school site. The water from the groundwater system will supplement the rainwater harvesting system and provide adequate water for the future build-out of the school.
EWB-UMN plans to have a long-term relationship with the school and URF, and our focus has shifted to working with the communities surrounding the school. In the communities, EWB-UMN is working with URF to address issues regarding water quality, indoor air pollution, agriculture, economic development, and public health. The focus of these projects will be small, household scale implementation to ensure individuals take adequate ownership. Another group of EWB-UMN students is traveling to Uganda in June to begin implementation.
I have been working with Engineers Without Borders for the last five years (three years at Colorado State University and two years at the University of Minnesota), and I consider my experiences with the organization the most valuable of my collegiate education. Not only have I had an opportunity to travel to implement engineering projects, but I also got to interact with some of the most genuine, inviting people I have ever met. I immediately formed significant bonds with the students at the school and the communities surrounding the school. Having a direct interaction with people who have strikingly different backgrounds and histories yet being able to relate with them on such an intimate level has had a positive impact on me that will last a lifetime.
Uganda Rural Fund’s approach with Hope Integrated Academy has been successful because the organization and its members truly believe in the potential of all students. The close personal relationship with the organization and the students and the members of the communities provides an effective, sustainable model for beneficial growth and progress. By providing clean water directly at the school site, EWB-UMN and URF have allowed HIA and its teachers to concentrate on providing a quality education to the motivated, optimistic students. This education will ultimately create opportunities for the students, and they will be able to follow in the footsteps of their role-model and hero, John Mary.
EWB-UMN Uganda Project