Karibu! Welcome!

Since 2004, EWB@ MSU's professional and student volunteers have worked with community members in Khwisero, Kenya to provide water and sanitation infrastructure at the district's 58 primary schools, making it easier for Khwisero's children to avoid waterborne disease and get an education.

In that time, the group has grown from a small club to one of MSU's premier student organizations, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund seven borehole wells, six composting latrines and a biogas latrine that serve thousands of community members.

Thank you for joining us as we continue to work hand-in-hand with local partners to make a difference in one small part of our world. As Western Kenya's limited internet access allows, we will update this blog while in-country with the successes, stories and lessons provided by our work.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Team Member Check-In: Eric, Project Manager

Hello! Karibu! My name is Eric Dietrich (Or jina langu ni Eric Dietrich, to use the full extent of my rather limited Swahili). I’m a sophomore in MSU’s Civil Engineering program, originally from Portland, Ore., and the trip’s project manager.

To provide a bit of background about myself, I’ve been involved in EWB since last fall and spent a month in Khwisero as part of Team 1 this past summer. In other parts of my life, I’m a member of the campus’s swing-dancing club, involved with the University Honors Program and serve as the news editor for The Exponent, MSU’s student newspaper.

As you may have gathered from our other posts, the purpose of this trip is twofold: to collect the technical data we’ll need to create a final design for the water distribution pipeline next spring, and to also lay the social groundwork for the community’s involvement in both construction next summer and the system’s long-term operation and maintenance.

Neither of those tasks will be easy. We’ll spend the next month working in a foreign culture where things as simple as holding a conversation or catching a bus become challenging. Our to-do list ranges from meeting with government officials to surveying the proposed route to facilitating community listening sessions. And, furthermore, we’ll be operating on what our past travel teams like to call “Kenya time,” where everything we set out to do in Khwisero takes twice as long as planned.

Regardless, I have every confidence our team of four will rise to the occasion. My three team members are easily among the most talented students on campus, and the combination of skills I have the pleasure of traveling to Africa alongside is nothing short of amazing.

That isn’t too say we won’t have our rough moments, of course; much of what we’re setting out to do is to learn from our inevitable mistakes. Over the course of our project’s history, the most important lesson we’ve learned is to approach our task with a sense of humility, and we plan to continue that tradition.

Before I sign off, I should take the time to recognize the extraordinary effort that my fellow EWB members have put into making this trip possible. This fall alone, our 50-odd members have quite literally put thousands of hours into our project—as we’ve prepared to travel, our peers have supported us almost every way imaginable, from simply attending planning meetings to sacrificing a Friday evening to fundraise by running a coat check and valet parking for an event at the SUB.

Without that dedication, we wouldn’t be headed to Kenya this Christmas. And, without similar dedication over the past five years, our student-run organization wouldn’t be in a position where we could even consider attempting a project as complex as the distribution pipeline will be.

So, my heartfelt thanks to those fellow EWBers who are reading this from back home, and those of you in the greater Bozeman community who have supported us with your donations and wisdom. You make this possible.

And, to those of you who aren’t (yet) involved in our effort—my thanks for taking the time to follow it. We’ll do our best to make it worth seeing through to the end.

Asante sana,

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