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MSU Engineers Without Borders Wins Grant for El Salvador Project

Published: Wednesday, 27 Apr 2016
Author: Joy M Whitten
Department: Latin American Studies Center

Congratulations to the El Salvador project team of MSU's Engineers Without Borders.  This spring, the team received a $4,000 grant from Boeing through EWB-USA.  The grant will be used to complete the construction of six latrines in a rural community in El Salvador.

The project began in 2011 when a Peace Corps volunteer in El Balsamar, El Salvador identified the need for improved access to sanitation.  Some families in the community have composting latrines but most either have a pit latrine or none at all.  The lack of proper sanitation leaves families more susceptible to diseases carried by flies.  Each latrine costs about $1000.  Beneficiary families contribute to the construction of the latrines or pay for labor to demonstrate their personal investment to the project.  Families are also responsible for maintaining the latrine.  Recipients of the latrines receive an instructional sheet with pictures that describes the proper latrine operation and maintenance. 

In addition to the latrine construction, the EWB team tries to educate children and adults about the importance of handwashing and the basics of germs and bacteria.  Additional background information is available on the team's webpage.  

In May 2012, the MSU chapter completed an assessment trip.  In 2014, the EWB Detroit Professional Chapter (DPC) adopted the project.  In cooperation with and support from MSU, DPC, and GAIA the in-country NGO partner, 24 of the originally planned 30 latrines have been built.  In January 2015, MSU students built three latrines and left funding and supplies for the community to build seven more on their own. 

This past January, the MSU team traveled to monitor and evaluate the 24 latrines to make sure they were being maintained properly and that the composting system was effectively deactivating harmful pathogens. 

The next trip is planned for January 2017 and following construction of the remaining latrines, another monitoring trip will occur to ensure the sustainability of the technology in the community. 

Current student leaders on the team include Edward Clark as the MSU Project Manager, Emily Sullivan and McKinley Brewer as Education Leads, and Matthew Aoun as Technical Lead.  The current professional leaders are Esther Johnson as the Project Leader and Victoria Person as a Traveling Mentor.