There’s an interesting article in JOM Magazine about some Iowa State University students who went on a two week humanitarian project in Mali, Africa. Mali is one of our world’s ten poorest countries, and the students were helping a village work towards establishing the basics – a clean water supply; safe, efficient energy; and more durable housing.
Part of an effort by the humanitarian group Engineers Without Borders, the students experienced an eye opening time that likely taught them as much as they were teaching. The article starts with a student wondering “What did I get myself into?” as they bounced along a dirt road under the hot African sun.
One of the students’ achievements was building a water pump so the local farmers could access clean water for their crops. Before the pump was built, the farmers had to spend up to half a day getting water. Now they have the chance to spend more time farming and even making a little more money.
Making bricks and designing an optimal stove proved to be more difficult than the students originally thought. The village’s current abilities and technology affected the results, and some things will take multiple visits to accomplish.
I keep hearing from travelers to poor countries that the people there seem to be happy. This article again confirms it. During the student’s stay, the villagers partied, showing themselves to be very community-driven. It’s something that too many people in North America have lost during their struggle to improve their economic well being. It’s a feature that makes humanitarian work magnetic.
What a great experience for the students, and program for the Mali villagers.