Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Ball is Finally Rolling!

The Ghana team has progressed immensely over the past few weeks. Our beginning days were full of uncertainty about Patriensa and what to expect when we got there. Prior to the reconnaissance trip, the team was more focused on diligently examining our project and allocating the means of getting to the project site. However, all of the progression we had made now seems minuscule, as compared to what was learned over the course of a week in Ghana. While we had a good idea about what was expected of us, nothing had been solidified until the Reconnaissance trip.

Our project and communications managers, accompanied by Patriensa's Queen Mother of Development, Dr. Dorie Gilbert, went to the village during spring break and came back with our solidified project scope.

Our project manager was lucky enough to get in touch with a local man, Mr. Nana Yaw Kwakye, who has been an educator in different countries and specializes in well construction and maintenance. He has successfully implemented 35 mechanized water systems in various Ghanaian communities, so we decided that his design will be what we finally choose to stick to. This is because Mr. Kwakye's system establishes a design that satisfies some of our most important design standards of being cost and time efficient, sustainable and feasible to complete by the traveling team members. Mr. Kwakye's team will have completed the dug well and 10ft. cement tower by the time the team arrives this summer, but there is still plenty of work to be done digging trenches for the distribution system, laying PVC pipe, installing a 3,500L tank and providing education for the community about sanitation and the benefits of us having more accessible water. A long-term goal was also set to create an avenue for the school to sell sachet bags of water, using the water from our system, to gain money to buy necessities like books and paper.

This is an example of what our finished system will look like, Photo from a site that Mr. Kwakye helped oversee.

The School

In addition to finalizing our design, the team has also recently identified the 4 students who will be traveling this summer. Their duties will include digging the trenches, constructing the PVC pipe system and establishing a good reputation within the community, so that future PUC projects will be welcomed by everyone in the village. It is imperative, at least at this stage, that these traveling team members respect and honor the customs within their community. In order to prepare for any cultural disparities, our team has taken the initiative in talking with students and local Ghanaians who are familiar with the area, and we have developed an understanding of the level of respect that each student should maintain throughout the duration of their stay. Ghanaian culture is very different from that of the U.S. and for a traveler to go culturally unprepared, could result in problems that would otherwise have been prevented had they taken into account that Western civilization is much more industrialized, whereas Ghanaians work very hard for everything they own.

The most exciting recent news is that Afren, an oil and gas company based in Côte d’Ivoire, has opted to invest $14,880 towards our project! These means that the only costs left will be plane tickets and food, but hopefully the grant letters will help cover some of the cost.
We also had our final SLAB presentation today, and it was evident that this team is sufficiently prepared for the project that we proposed 7 months ago. So, even from our small beginnings as pioneers of PUC, the Ghana team has successfully proposed, designed and raised the funds for an international engineering project that will be implemented this June. It was truly an exciting day to see that Projects for Under-served Communities has the ability to deliver what all of us hoped it would, which is the ability to provide international philanthropic experience, while allowing us to be taking an engineering class that is actually fun! Lots of students at UT get to take Art or Theater as a elective, but as an engineer we don't get that kind of flexibility. Where can we explore our talents or come up with enterprising ideas? I feel that Projects for Underserved Communities offers these choices, and that it should be an established class in the Cockrell School.
The year is just about over and now is the time for refining everything. Updates will be posted as new information gets to us!

For more pictures visit:

To see our SLAB Presentation: