The University of Southern California chapter of “Engineers Without Borders” (EWB- USC) was formed in the fall of 2006. Within six months of its charter approval, the chapter obtained, assessed, and began raising funds for a water project in the village of La Estanzuela, Honduras.
La Estanzuela, a village about two hours north of Tegucipalpa, the country’s capital, was home to nearly 300 people with no access to running water. Their water source, a nearby river, is contaminated and young children make a long trek carrying big buckets to deliver their household's supply of the vital liquid.
“The water tested positive for coliform bacteria, so we made it our goal to come up with a PVC distribution site and a storage tank,” said the project manager, Liana Ching, in an interview with Viterbi Magazine.
While visiting La Estanzuela on their first assessment trip, the club members realized that there was a second village with similar challenges: they had the same water source but no distribution system. A solution for both towns soon emerged: by installing a water system upstream – away from the pollution – La Estanzuela and Corral de Piedra could get the clean water its residents needed. Each community planned to have a 10,000-gallon storage tank with a chlorination system through tablets commonly found in Honduras.
As students, we designed and built a water pump delivery system to fill a 10,000- gallon tank, which is now connected to many of the homes in this village. Following the implementation, team members went on a post-implementation assessment trip in 2009 to interview the people of La Estanzuela and checked the functionality of the water pump and tank. They were very happy to see that the system was still working efficiently.
A club member involved in the La Estanzuela project once said, “The most rewarding experience I had in Honduras was the meeting we held with the residents of the village in their community center. We were able to speak to them about updates we had on the project. One by one, everyone stood up and spoke to us about how grateful they were for our hard work. It was heart-warming to see how appreciative they were. The whole experience was an eye-opening one, and made me realize how lucky I am to have access to something as basic as clean water.”
Unfortunately, due to safety concerns our chapter was unable to pick up another project with the community of La Estanzuela. Since then, however, our club has collaborated on playground designs in the Coachella Valley and bridge restoration projects at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park.
Today, we are incredibly proud to have two active international projects in Kenya and Guatemala.