Trinity Students Working to Improve Sanitation Facilities in Tanzania

Project undertaken by Campus Chapter of Engineers Without Borders

The 13,800 members of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) have had a positive impact on the lives of 2.5 million people in 47 countries on five continents. Now a group of Trinity students are aiming to improve the lives of 125 students in Ngaruma Parish in the Marangu village of Tanzania. The village sits in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.

The Trinity chapter was officially recognized by EWB in the spring of 2012 and, after an extensive application process, was awarded its first project in January. That project, to be completed over five years, led a group of Trinity students to travel to Tanzania last summer for what’s known as the assessment phase, and a promise to return again this coming summer to implement the project. The chapter’s faculty adviser is Emilie Dressaire, assistant professor of engineering.

EWBs vision is a world in which communities have the capacity to sustainably meet their basic human needs. Today, according to the nonprofit’s Web site, more than 2 billion people lack access to the most basic things -- clean drinking water, adequate sanitation, reliable passage to local markets and more.

(L-R) Iver Hulleberg '14, Mark Yanagisawa '14, Shea Kusiak '14,
Tarah Sullivan '13, John Lehrkind '13
 To that end, the Trinity group -- which consists of students as well as professional mentors in the fields of engineering, hydrogeology, health care and education – will build safe and sustainable latrines to replace the dangerous pit latrines at a school in Ngaruma that primarily serves students ages 3 to 6, explained Shea Kusiak and Mark Yanagisawa, members of the Class of 2014. The village itself has a population of about 400.

Before the Trinity chapter embarked on their trip, the students and their mentors spent December, January and February coming up with a plan of attack so that they could hit the ground running when they arrived in Tanzania, said Yanagisawa, of Woodbridge, CT. By April, they were making flight reservations and nailing down other details.

It was also necessary to raise about $15,000, which was needed to pay for their travel, hotel, food, supplies and miscellaneous items such as immunizations and a medical kit, said Kusiak, a resident of Longmeadow, MA.

In addition to pitching in with their own money, the group raised funds from a variety of sources, including Laticrete, a manufacturer of globally proved construction solutions for the building industry.

Kusiak and Yanagisawa estimated that this summer’s trip will cost in the neighborhood of $25,000 since phase two will include the actual construction of the latrines. Fundraising will continue to be a major part of the chapter’s planning process as it goes forward, said Kusiak.

During last summer’s trip, the group used the first week to evaluate the community, establish relationships with its inhabitants, understand the school system and locate water sources – all essential elements in completing the project. Translators were also needed since Tanzanians speak Swahili.

What the students learned during the assessment phase was that the preschoolers had to walk down a steep and dangerous cliff to use the latrines, which consisted of four rudimentary stalls that weren’t much more than holes in the ground. As a result, many of the students relieved themselves in the rainforest.

Kusiak said the Trinity students are now writing a document that has “a couple of different designs” for what she called “child-friendly toilets and a wastewater treatment system.” The toilets will not be western-style toilets but rather porcelain bowls that are flush with the ground. The wastewater treatment system will have a septic tank and a leach field, which removes contaminants and impurities from the liquid.

Kusiak and Yanagisawa said the group plans to leave for Tanzania shortly after commencement in May 2014. There are about 20 students in the Trinity chapter of EWB and every student will have an opportunity to be involved, said Kusiak.

EWB is a nonprofit humanitarian organization established to support community-driven development programs worldwide through partnerships that design and implement sustainable engineering projects while creating transformative experiences that enrich global perspectives and create responsible leaders.

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