Students from all programs aim to make a difference in developing countries as part of EWB
Here’s the first thing you should know about Engineers Without Borders (EWB): it’s not just for engineers.
It’s about engineers and non-engineers throughout Canada coming together to tackle some of the world’s complex problems, according to Geordan Vine, president of EWB at Concordia University.
Working towards solving global poverty and creating equal opportunities may sound ambitious for Concordia’s small chapter—but that is part of their charm.
“It’s small, but it’s mighty,” said Jane Stringham, the V.P. of fundraising. “We get a lot done.”
From used electronics sales and trivia night fundraisers to facilitating trips to developing countries, members at EWB are always busy with new projects.
It doesn’t take much to become a member—just drop by for a meeting and you’re part of the team.
“I really like that it’s so flexible and that everyone is always welcome at the meetings,” said Samantha Sieklicki, the V.P. of member learning.
Neither Sieklicki nor Stringham are engineering students. Sieklicki recently made the switch from physics to religious studies and Stringham is working towards a master’s degree in environmental impact assessment.
As the V.P. of member learning, Sieklicki organizes discussions for EWB members on topics such as fair trade and food systems. It’s a chance for members to learn about how and why EWB is making a difference.
“[EWB] is the kind of place where you can ask the hard questions to the CEO around a campfire,” said Vine, as he described one of the EWB retreats he attended last year.
The biggest project that Concordia’s chapter is working on is a certificate program as part of the Global Engineering Initiative. Vine said the program is about challenging students “to think in a global perspective, to think about their responsibility to society.” It is a part of EWB’s work to promote engineering leadership. Concordia aims to launch the program in January.
What sets EWB apart from other NGOs is its focus on creating systemic change. An organization can’t just build a well in a developing village and call it a day, Vine said. “It’s putting a band-aid on the problem of water distribution in small villages,” he said.
Systemic change is essentially the saying about teaching a man to fish so that you feed him for a lifetime, said Vine.
This past summer, Maxime Desharnais, a Concordia engineering student, spent four months in Ghana as part of EWB Canada’s Junior Fellowship Program. Desharnais primarily looked at the changes that could be made to the practice of growing rice through nursing and transplanting to optimize the yield of small farms.
“That’s the kind of thing that is going to change the way that people are living,” Vine said, referring to Maxime’s journey. “They are getting better outputs just from simple changes in technique that they might not have known or developed.”
As an individual chapter, Concordia’s EWB members focus on supporting ventures like Desharnais’ through fundraising.
“There are a lot of students that really find a passion in development, in leadership, in planning,” said Vine. “I think it’s something everyone should strive for.”
For more information, visit concordia.ewb.ca or stop by their samosa sales, held every Thursday at 12 p.m. on the second floor of the Hall building next to The Hive.