MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University engineering students are serving local and international communities with water accessibility problems through an initiative called Engineers Without Borders.
Engineers Without Borders is a community service group of students through the WVU Statler College of Engineering with ideas similar to Doctors Without Borders.
The group works to identify communities needing fresh and affordable water and travels to those communities to make it happen.
“I mean clean water is a basic human right,” said Ahmed Haque, recent graduate of WVU and former president of Engineers Without Borders on WAJR-Clarksburg’s “The Gary Bowden Show.”
Haque says a lot of the reason students join may be for the opportunity to travel internationally, but stay to help those in need.
“You might see that as face value just a chance to hop on a plane and travel to a place you’ve never been before, but I think once you become a member of the organization or become even just any volunteer in the University community, you realize that it’s not about the travel,” he said. “First and foremost, it’s about the work.”
Members of the organization perform manual labor such as clearing brush blocking access to water, cleaning water tanks and removing rust, painting water tanks and testing quality of water.
They have traveled internationally, vising Fiji, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Uganda.
In fact, a five-year-long water accessibility project put in place by the group supplies more than 2,500 people in Uganda with clean water via water pipelines and sanitation clinics.
“We really wanted to see what could we do translating those experiences, that information that we had abroad or from other aspects, other projects into a local water project,” Haque said.
According to Haque, West Virginia has at least 13 communities with abandoned water sytems. One of those communities is Printer, a Boone County town which has been on a boil water advisory for nearly a decade.
“We had the great experience with that community,” Haque said. “We were able to communicate those results, those findings with other engineers at the Statler college, with the legislature, undergraduate research day at the Capitol.”
The organization has also done work in McComas in Mercer County.
“For them it’s not an issue of the quality of the water it’s an issue of the financial means so we are trying to see what can we do to do the manual labor for them so they can reserve their financial resources and allocate that for the maintenance of that,” Haque said.
Currently, the WVU Engineers Without Borders group is made up of about 90 members and continues to grow.
Haque says, although he is moving on to medical school, the new group is eager and he is confident that they will continue to fulfill the land-grant mission of WVU.