A group of eight engineering students, two faculty members and two MU alums decided against traditional spring break trips in favor of a more charitable, alternative spring break venture.
As part of Engineers Without Borders, the MU chapter traveled to Majé de Chimán, Panama, as part of their continued efforts to provide a reliable water distribution, filtration and storage system for the community there. The trip was an excellent example of the multitude of Mizzou students who spend their spring break assisting charitable endeavors, whether through student organizations or the Mizzou Alternative Breaks program.
The team began working on the project back in 2013 and went out on their second assessment trip in August of 2015. The eastern Panama town has dealt with ongoing water distribution and quality-of-water issues.
“This community applied to national headquarters because they don’t have a clean water source,” Chapter President Kennedy Tunks said.
Although the project isn’t estimated for completion for another four months, MU’s Engineers Without Borders headed to Panama for the last week in March, where they met with community members and began implementation.
“The first thing we had was a big community meeting with everybody in the village, and we talked about what we wanted to do there,” Tunks said.
Discussions began surrounding intake port locations and pipeline work, and they settled on a solution.
“We decided that some people needed to go to the source,” she continued. “So, six people on our trip and three community members hiked nine kilometers up to a water fall and took data with GPS, took pictures and examined the water sources.”
Meanwhile, the group that didn’t participate in the hike and examination focused on the line connection into the break tanks. They sat down with the community members that would be in charge of it and explained all the details for maintaining it.
“When we left, they were still clearing the path in the jungle,” Tunks said. “Actually, the piping didn’t even get there when we were there because things work a little differently in Panama.”
The truck that was supposed to deliver the piping is typically used for plantains. And because they hadn’t sold all of their plantains, they weren’t able to deliver the pipework yet.
“We’re still in contact with them, getting updates about how it’s going,” she said. “I mean, we got to spend a lot of time getting to know the community members, building that relationship with them. We’re going to have to keep going back, making sure it’s working and going well for them.”
With the finish line still months away, the team will travel back to help with construction.