In January of 2008, CCNY’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) went back to La Nueva Suiza, Honduras to celebrate the success of the water system they designed and helped construct and consider what to do next.
La Nueva Suiza’s Council of Elders scheduled the inauguration of the new facilities for the group’s return. This major village event drew the mayor and the bishop’s representative, the media were out in force, the ladies of the village prepared 500 tamales, and there was plenty of music and good fellowship. “With a backdrop of the dark green forest covering the mountains with red clay roads etched here and there, a view of the sea and the ocean breeze; it was a great day, a blessing for all,” said Mechanical Engineering major, Martin Nolan.
According to Nolan, what the team found most gratifying was the project’s impact on health in La Nueva Suiza. “Whereas 78% of the households reported frequent skin, eye and/or stomach ailments before the system’s implementation,” he reported, “after the system was up and running the response to the same queries was, ‘No, nothing to speak of; they’re kids and kids get sick from time to time.’”
The benefits of the project were far from one-way. At the inauguration ceremony, CCNY EWB member Rebecca Pizarro said, “Our lives have been changed too.” Incoming EWB president Alejandro Perez De Leon remarked, “I have been able to appreciate more what I have and to re-evaluate my priorities.”
In this context, the club reaffirmed its commitment to improving the quality of life in Honduras. Three plans emerged:
In La Nueva Suiza, thanks to the dam and tank, there is more water than the village needs. This overflow is a potential power source, which could bring electricity to the village. “An ME senior design team has adopted it as their project,” says Nolan.
Las Chicas, down the road from La Nueva Suiza, has an aging, molding water tank with no chlorinator, and many homes lack proper latrines and “pilas,” the 25-30 gallon basins essential to domestic water use. “Gray water management is a serious issue,” says Nolan. And, so is the lack of electricity. Two options are being investigated: connecting the town to the nearest distribution pole and an off grid solution.
In Tegucigalpita, a larger community with more resources, the team has already served in a consulting capacity. Its ideas have been successfully implemented, and its credibility is high. “Tegucigalpita needs the big picture, the calculations, and the plan for water usage, conservation and management for the next 10 years,” says Nolan.
The mission in Honduras continues, and as Martin Nolan says, “If you would like to be a part of the experience, CCNY-EWB can use the assistance of professional engineers like our alumni.”