Engineers Without Borders (EWB) student chapter has committed to building a foot bridge in Vallecito, Panama starting 2013-2014. In Fall 2012, the EWB student chapter decided it was time to depart from the Dominican Republic, where it had been working with the support of the EWB Kansas City (KC) professional chapter since 2009, because the projects left to be completed were beyond the scope of the students. Over the next two years, only EWB KC professional chapter members will travel to the Dominican to finalize the program. Thus the UMKC EWB student chapter members starting looking for a new program. While there were lots of opportunities in Africa, SCE students decided to stay in the America’s due to logistical costs. After reviewing options, it was decided that Panama would be a good place to pursue a new program as EWB-Panama needed help with building footbridges. Incentives for choosing Panama included one of the EWB mentors being a native of Panama with her mother living in Panama City and a member of EWB-Panama.
During winter break EWB members traveled to Panama to assess five communities EWB-Panama had identified. The students that went on the trip included Chapter President Levon Saiyon, Chapter Vice President Meagan Malloy, Chapter Secretary Jason Regina, Jerome Shin and Sean Micheal. Professional Mentor Patrick Dunlap also accompanied the group. To use the time spent in country effectively, the travelers split into two groups. One group traveled to Vallecito and Caimital. The other group traveled to El Valle, La Zainia and San Jose. Each of the communities were small farming communities, except Caimital, which consisted mostly of trade laborers. Before the communities were surveyed, EWB students spent some time in Panama City. They meet with members of EWB-Panama and formed a bond with Technological University of Panama (UTP). One EWB-Panama member and two students from UTP accompanied the group that surveyed El Valle, La Zainia and San Jose. Two Peace Corp Workers accompanied the other group. Both groups spent five days assessing the communities not only for a feasible footbridge site but also for future projects.
Upon returning to Kansas City, each group drafted a report/presentation of the communities they surveyed. After thoroughly reviewing and evaluating each report/presentation the EWB student chapter decided to start a program in Vallecito. Building a bridge in Vallecito has the potential to affect more than 2000 people. Vallecito is also a very remote community, so a bridge being built by the government or another group is unlikely. EWB student chapters members plan to travel in July and August to do a full assessment of the bridge site and construction is anticipated to start during the next dry season, which begins mid-December 2013.
Story credit Meagan Malloy, UMKC EWB Student Chapter Vice President.
Pictured above (from left to right) is EWB-Panama member Anela Piqueras, UTP student Braulio H, and EWB-UMKC members Jason Regina, Sean Micheal and Levon Saiyon.
Left: shows a landscape view of the hike to Vallecito.