By Holden Sandal
In the summer of 2017, three Whatcom students traveled to Kenya as part of the volunteer relief organization Engineers without Borders.
Ross Hunnicutt, Irene Mahoney and Roderick Kimball traveled to the small town of Kiritiri in the Eastern part of Kenya.
A rural community of mostly self-sufficient farmers, the main problem in the region is lack of water.
Both Mahoney and Hunnicutt said that both were encouraged to join Engineers without Borders (EWB) by their engineering professor at Whatcom, Eric Davishal. .
“I’ve been really meaning to take the time to thank him, I couldn’t have done it without him,” Mahoney said.
Craig Mueller, the Project Engineer for the group in Kenya, has had previous experience in the region with the Peace Corps.
The region’s water situation has had a drastic change in the last 15 years since Mueller was there.
“Only about 40% of the population of Kiritiri, has access to the running water system, that’s when it’s even working,” Mueller said.
“The rest of the villagers have to find alternative methods of getting water. Most of the people in Kiritiri and from the surrounding areas getting their water from different types of collections sites.”
“Most of the people who come to these sites travel up to 12 miles both ways, mostly on foot, just to get the water and bring it back, this job falls upon the women or girls in the house, so that means there is little if no time for school,” Mueller said.
In June 2016 after hearing about EWB’s work in Ghana the people of Kiritiri, who know Muller from previous experiences in the area, asked for help with their water problems.
The Maragwa Umoja Self Help Group needed assistance with a poorly constructed Dam. In August, of 2017 Muller, along with a survey team including, Mahoney, Kimball and Hunnicutt went to Kiritiri.
Mueller, 10 local laborers and six masons constructed the dam, by hand in three weeks.
The survey team’s job was to get rainfall data, landscape demographics, etc.
The team, would go around to the local water collection sites and collect data on the sites as well as from the people in the area.
“These water collection sites are very social places, like their version of a coffee shop,” Kimball said.
The team had limited equipment to do their surveys, a metal pole and string were their most used tools.
“At the Airport, TSA took away Ross’s grandfather’s wooden tape measure and we had to buy a crappy rollup one which only lasted about three trips,” Mahoney said.
Both Mahoney, Kimball, and Hunnicutt have said that they had a different perception of how things were going to be in Kenya.
“I learned a lot from our experience in Kenya, these people have a lot to teach us, and we can teach them as well. We both have skills to bring to the table,” Hunnicutt said.
Both Kimball, Mahoney, and Hunnicutt want to continue work with EWB, whether abroad or closer to home.
“I would like to see some more projects domestically, I know that the organization is trying to have more local projects, but I would also love to go to central or South America,” Kimball said.
Both Mahoney and Hunnicutt said that if anyone wants to get involved with EWB to go to their monthly meetings and fundraisers. The next fundraiser will be at Aslan Brewery in Bellingham on Dec. 8th.