The warm weather and lack of students on campus mean that the Spring 2015 semester at Boston University has come to an end, but the news from Engineers Without Borders certainly hasn’t. As summer is now more than halfway through, EWB-BU has invested months of trip preparations, as our travel team is now well immersed in Zambian culture as they advance the water-related projects we are working on with the Naluja Community. This trip is possible due to the collective contributions and commitment of many: all our members, our faculty advisors, our donors, and our NGO partners. As we approach our trip, we have also forged a new and exciting partnership with a local NGO in Zambia’s Southern Province of Kalomo, Simwatachela Sustainable Agricultural and Arts Program, otherwise known as SSAAP.
Early in the Spring semester, our other NGO partner, the Zambia Center for Applied Health Research and Development, or ZCAHRD, informed our team that they would be scaling back their operations in Zambia due to changes in funding. Because of this, while we were still eager to maintain our partnership with ZCAHRD, we realized that an additional NGO partner may be necessary to maintain the level of involvement and communication with our partner community that we hope to have in the next few years as we continue to assess and implement projects. As such, we began looking for a new partner.
The EWB team first made contact with SSAAP through the Boston University Global Health Initiative via Katie Clifford, an additional advisor to our group. At the beginning of February, Clifford put us in touch with one of SSAAP’s representatives, Heather Cumming, who she had known through her days in the Peace Corps. Heather was extremely enthusiastic about EWB’s work, and right away she seemed excited at the possibility of being a part of what we do. Similarly, we found ourselves believing strongly in SSAAP’s mission, especially its focus on community-driven initiatives that lead to local empowerment, improve water access, and sanitation. It was quite evident to us that our organizations would be a great fit for each other.
In order to solidify the partnership, our organization’s president, Donovan, and our webmaster, Blake, flew out to Colorado, where SSAAP is based, over Spring break to talk to Heather in person. The meeting lasted many hours, during details on the partnership were discussed at length. It was an excellent opportunity for our two organizations to form a more personal bond and a more thorough understanding of each other’s responsibilities and expectations, as we gear up to more efficiently work with the Naluja Community. EWB wrote up a Memorandum of Understanding, and it was given to SSAAP for edits. After some negotiation on both sides, the MOU was finalized. In return for EWB’s endorsement and help with their animal rearing program, SSAAP will be assisting us with the collection of data and communication with our partner community. Additionally, ZCAHRD will still play an instrumental role in maintaining community relations and logistical assistance in Zambia, as well as work with SSAAP in different capacities to truly promote collaborative work between all partners.
Our EWB team, comprising of three students - Jacqueline Farnsworth (ME ‘17), Wali Sabuhi (BME ‘17), and Sam DePalma (BME ‘18) - along with two wonderful mentors - Roger Stillwater & Joshua Das - from the Boston Professionals Chapter have now been in Zambia for the past few weeks. They have been able to continue discussions from last year with important community actors, while establishing new ties in the process. Progress certainly seems promising, as the community has demonstrated interest in the projects being assessed. Additionally, the EWB team and SSAAP will be meeting up in Zambia to go into the community and train volunteer on best practices for monitoring and evaluating projects. They will then enjoy a festive night with community members before heading back to Livingstone and eventually to Boston. We see a bright future for these wonderful partnerships and are looking forward to seeing the outcome of these discussions.