A Dream Come True: A Hard Hat, a Passport, and EWB
Lisa Dukes is living her dream while keeping her hard hat on. Working with Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA), Lisa, a Tetra Tech engineer based in Washington state, quickly realized her dream of using her professional skills to help communities in need.
Lisa joined Tetra Tech in 1999, then partnered with EWB-USA in 2008. EWB-USA facilitates the involvement of engineering students and professional engineers in charity work around the world. Its global scope and sustainable models align perfectly with Tetra Tech’s vision of providing clear solutions in a complex world.
Working alongside Brian Peters, Lisa established the EWB-USA Mid-Columbia Professional Chapter (EWB-MC) in eastern Washington State, and quickly realized her dream of helping the people EWB terms “the other 90 percent."
“An article about Doctors Without Borders inspired me to look for an organization that would let me help people as an engineer,” Lisa says. “That’s how I found EWB.”
Lisa and Brian quickly started recruiting members for EWB-MC chapter from Tetra Tech’s Richland, Washington, office and engaging other local engineers eager to start a relationship with a community in need. EWB-USA posts projects on their website, but encourages members to find and submit their own projects. In Lisa’s case, the project found her. The nonprofit organization Beth’s Girls reached out to Lisa’s chapter and asked them to help build a high school in Lumwana West, Zambia.
Situated south of the equator, Zambia sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet above sea level and has an arid climate. The closest high school to Lumwana is a boarding school 54 miles away, which costs $407 per child annually. According to African Economic Outlook, 67 percent of the Zambian population lives in extreme poverty, living on less than $1 a day. Lumwana’s distance from neighboring municipalities also hinders the community’s ability to increase the education level of its children without a high school in close proximity. The community’s young girls are disproportionately affected, as they are the least likely to be sent to the far-off boarding school. Families who can afford to send their children opt to send their sons.
The EWB-MC project will help build a high school so all students have the opportunity to continue their education and to eventually attend a university.
“[EWB-USA] will only consider projects that benefit the entire community, [the project…] can’t only benefit one group,” said Lisa. The high school will accept students regardless of gender and will work to close the literacy and education gaps between boys and girls.
The high school will be constructed to the standards of Zambia’s Ministry of Education. Of the school’s three classrooms, one will be a dedicated math lab, and another will be a science lab.
Once the EWB-MC chapter accepted the project, they started to raise funds. Lisa applied to Tetra Tech’s annual EWB-USA Grant Program, which supports EWB projects in which Tetra Tech employees are involved. The grant program is open to all Tetra Tech employees who are members of an active EWB-USA chapter. The EWB-MC chapter received a $4,500 grant for the project from Tetra Tech’s grant program. Tetra Tech later chose to continue supporting the Lumwana West project, making it the Charity of the Year for 2012, successfully raising an additional $11,210 from worldwide employee donations.
A primary objective of EWB-USA is to engage the local community and to enlist their support for the project after the EWB-USA engineers have departed. The Lumwana community is deeply involved in the project and community members are contributing their knowledge of brick making and other labor skills. Community members have made all the bricks needed to build the walls of the school to the standards required by EWB-USA. Tetra Tech’s funds are also providing the community with valuable tools. For example, Tetra Tech’s funds contributed to the purchase of a concrete mixer for the construction of the high school. A minor permitting issue delayed the project’s completion, but has not stopped it. Thanks to the dedication of Lumwana community members and EWB-MC volunteers, the project’s construction is continuing; they are now in the process of purchasing the remaining concrete so the walls can be completed and the roof put in place. A new completion date will be set to ensure the 700 students in Lumwana are on track to continue their education.
Once the school is completed, Beth’s Girls will be working with World Vision for school funding and to build homes for the teachers in Lumwana. Zambia’s Ministry of Education will also be contributing funds. The Beth’s Girls foundation will also focus on encouraging relationships between American teachers and teachers of the Lumwana high school. In addition, because of the commitment that EWB-USA makes to the communities it serves, the project will be monitored by Lisa and her team for five years following its completion.
Tetra Tech fosters the personal development of its employees and encourages employees to take on worthwhile causes. The EWB-MC professional chapter is an example of the success our people achieve when they do what they love and are encouraged to do it. Tetra Tech’s support for EWB both in the United States and Canada is continually repaid by the benefit to the communities we help, our employees, and the EWB organization, which allows engineers like Lisa to support a new generation of engineers in our common goal to make our world a better place.