So the organization I’ll be going overseas with is Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB), and it is a registered Canadian charity based out of Toronto. It was founded about eleven years ago by two Engineers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, and has since grown into a Canada wide network of about 35 different student and city chapters, along with five different African Sector Teams that are working in four African countries.
Admittedly, the reason I first started volunteering with EWB about four years ago is because I am an Engineer and thus if I wanted to learn about developing world issues, this seemed like the obvious vehicle. Since then, the reasons I’ve stayed involved are really twofold:
- I am continually impressed by the quality of the people who volunteer with this organization. Many of volunteers and staff, both in Canada and overseas, are pretty impressive people, which gives me confidence in the work that we’re doing. Definitely take a look at the blog links I’ve posted to see what some of them are up to…
- The evolution of the organization over the last decade has really indicated a desire to focus in on addressing areas where we can have a discernible and tangible impact in alleviating poverty and helping to improve the livelihoods of our on the ground partners over the long term. As such, I can feel confident that the work I am doing will be worthwhile not just myself, but also for the people in the countries we work in.
So, in terms of the work that Engineers Without Borders does overseas, here are some direct links to each of our sector teams:
- This is the team I’ll be on! Take a look at my Water and Sanitation page for more specifics on this one.
- Basically the volunteers on this team are embedded into the district planning offices in Ghana and are helping them to build up their ability to do project planning, evidence based decision making, effective allocation of resources and coordinating the activities of all the other NGOs in the area.
- Also known as Agricultural Value Chains, this sector team has been in Zambia for a while and is now expanding into Ghana, Malawi, and potentially Kenya and Tanzania! It gets described as ‘getting markets ready for farmers’, and it’s focused on identifying ways of improving the efficiency of all the steps required to take newly harvested crops and then turn them into a finished product that is sold to consumers
- This is the flip side of the Market Access team, in that it is described as ‘getting farmers ready for markets’. What this team does is work directly with farmers and farming cooperatives to promote the idea of farming as a business, rather than just growing enough food to feed one’s own family. By growing excess food that can be sold at a profit, farmers can then use that income to improve their livelihood over the long term.
- Pretty similar to Agriculture in Ghana, except en Francais! Burkina Faso is a former French colony, so the language of business is French. This is thus a francophone sector team, and fluency in French is pretty much mandatory to be part of this team.
There is also a whole bunch of stuff we do in Canada as well, but since this is an overseas blog I’ll leave it there for now.