When a major earthquake jolted Central America in January 2001, it left many Guatemalans wondering how they would rebuild their destroyed adobe homes. More than four years later, residents of Jerez are finding their answer in the hands of seven engineering students from the University of Missouri-Rolla.
Members of UMR’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) student chapter will leave July 2 and spend eight days working in Jerez, Guatemala, which is about a mile from the El Salvador border. The students will work with CONRED (Coordinadora Nacional para la Reduccion de Desastres), the government’s emergency management agency, and engineering students from the Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala to help homeowners rebuild their homes.
“Many of the poor communities are just now beginning to see relief supplies to rebuild their homes,” says project manager Derek Stringer of Lee’s Summit, Mo., a senior in mechanical engineering. “The government is providing citizens with the materials to build small, two-bedroom homes. The homeowner is supposed to supply the labor for their homes, but there is an obvious problem with this since they receive no training. Several homes have been built – but incorrectly.”
The UMR students anticipate their biggest challenge may be with communication, not construction. “The people we will work with are of Mayan descent,” Stringer explains. “They speak some Spanish but mostly use their native language, Ixcan. We are working on a book of cartoons that shows them how to build their homes and may be used as a reference after we are gone.”
Dr. Rick Stephenson, EWB’s faculty advisor and professor of civil engineering, and David Hoffman, a research engineer at UMR, will travel with the students and provide guidance. The seven UMR students participating in the project are:
– Lindsey N. Campbell of Parma, Mo., a junior in ceramic engineering
– Dan S. Daegling of Arnold, Mo., a junior in civil engineering
– Natalie R. Gorman of Pleasant Hill, Mo., a junior in ceramic engineering
– Kurt S. Haslag of Loose Creek, Mo., a junior in civil engineering
– Mariel Rocio Quevedo-Torres of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, a graduate student in civil engineering
– Derek Stringer of Lee’s Summit, Mo., a senior in mechanical engineering
– Dawn E. Walker of St. Louis, a senior in ceramic engineering.
The UMR EWB chapter was formed last semester. Similar to the more established Doctors Without Borders, EWB works to improve the lives of people around the world by building infrastructure such as water systems and other engineering endeavors.