Building Haiti's Future
Haiti has seen tragedy in recent years in the wake of a devastating earthquake and epidemic of cholera, but a group of Clemson engineering students is working to revitalize the country. Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries (CEDC) is an organization based around a series of Creative Inquiry projects working to find solutions to sanitation and engineering problems in Haiti. At the same time, students apply hands-on experience to their classroom knowledge.
CEDC has grown from a handful of students in one project in 2009 to several hundred students spanning eight Creative Inquiry projects. The projects involve designing engineering solutions to problems encountered in Haiti, and then sending those solutions to Haiti along with student interns for implementation.
"We basically started in on the water project, oversaw the construction of a new dam, put in two new turbine pumps and built pump houses, laid about 8 miles of piping and built a filter building and installed all the filter equipment at the top of the mountain," said Dr. Jennifer Ogle, who joined CEDC as a faculty adviser and Creative Inquiry mentor in 2012, and has since helped the students send solutions and interns to Haiti.
Students have worked in Haiti's Central Plateau, the area where Haitians living on the coast fled after the 2011 earthquake. Surrounding this region are hundreds of small villages, many of which are in dire need of a clean water source.
"Right now, the majority of the water that these outlying villages use is surface water," explained Ogle, "and because of the lack of sanitation, the surface water has cholera and all sorts of nasty specimens in it. The water is not clean in any way, shape, or form."
Clean, drinkable water is vital for a community to remain healthy and self-sufficient, and the CEDC has been able to provide much of the technology that is needed for the country's villagers. Triage systems, microfilter units and UV sanitation units have been installed to create clean, drinkable water from any source.
CEDC does not send the equipment to Haiti alone, though. Due to a lack of skilled construction labor in Cange, many projects that are sent without any management will not be completed. CEDC sends student interns to Haiti to ensure that the systems get built properly and no corners are cut.
"They know how to read the plans, they know construction techniques, they know scheduling, they know how to pull crews together," said Ogle. "These kids are literally leading Haitian men that are sometimes twice their age, so it's a really interesting dynamic to see how they're working together."
While Ogle and one other industry advisor work with the Creative Inquiry team, they try to remain as hands-off as possible to allow for student direction. Outside of the necessary paperwork that comes with international missions, the students are the real leaders of the clean water initiative.
They come out of the CEDC Creative Inquiries with real world experience, leadership skills and interaction with another culture that will benefit them as they move on within and outside of Clemson.
"There's so much going on, and it's so exciting on a daily basis," said Ogle. "We're also looking at and have taught some English classes at the local vocational school."
Working on international projects is demanding for all involved, but Ogle enjoys the work at the end of the day, and the CEDC students are always up to the challenge.
"I love it-this is one of the most fun things I do at work," Ogle said. "The stresses of paperwork and stuff that has to go on to get there can be stressful and makes me want to quit, but when I sit back and think about what great things the students are doing, it kind of makes it all worth it."