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Students to Showcase Their Humanitarian Projects in Africa and India

Posted 12/03/2009
Posted by Marcia Hughes

University of Hartford students who have been working on international humanitarian projects in Kenya and India are holding a Showcase event to highlight what has been accomplished so far and to help raise money for future trips that will continue to move these projects forward. The Showcase, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Thursday, Dec. 3, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., in the North Cafe in the Gengras Student Union building, at the University of Hartford, 200 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford.

In Kenya, the University of Hartford, together with partners from Brown University and the University of Rhode Island, have been working with the Africa Center for Engineering Social Solutions (ACESS) to help residents of western Kenya's Lake Region address such issues as water purification, sustainable agriculture, and women's safety.

Meanwhile, 19 students and faculty members are preparing for a January trip to the village of Abheypur, India, where the University's work has been steadily expanding. The project, which began three years ago with an assessment visit by one faculty member and one student from the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA), now includes students and faculty from CETA, the Hartford Art School, the Center for Social Research, and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Stop by to see posters, presentations, and displays, and talk with students about their work in India and Kenya. Refreshments will be served. There is a suggested donation of $5 for students and $15 for all other attendees, with all proceeds benefiting the India and Kenya projects.

During previous trips to Abheypur, engineering students and faculty, led by the University's Engineers Without Borders student chapter, installed a solar-powered well and water storage system, installed a pipeline bringing water to another part of the village, and constructed a rooftop rainwater harvesting system. Hartford Art School students implemented a graphic educational campaign and painted a mural to instill in Abheypur's residents important values associated with their new water source: cleanliness, sharing, and respect.

With the January 2010 trip, the Abheypur project will enter a new phase. Taking part in the project will be students majoring in philosophy, sociology, biology, chemistry, international studies, visual communication design, engineering, and architecture. They will be accompanies by five faculty members.

Engineering students will work to address the problem of standing "gray water" — waste water from things like laundry and dish washing — by constructing a drainage system. They will also look into ways of re-using the gray water for irrigation.

Hartford Art School students will expand their "Water4India" sanitation campaign, developing teaching tools for primary school teachers. In addition, two Hartford Art School students who will not be traveling to India have been working on a graphic educational campaign for Abheypur students on the prevention of alcohol abuse, and three former students who traveled to India last year are working on a campaign addressing gender equality.

Also, students and faculty will work with villagers on sociological and governance issues to develop a water management structure that will give residents a sense of ownership and enable them to sustain their new water sources over the long term.

An assessment team from the Center for Social Research will continue working to evaluate what has been accomplished so far and what still needs to be done. Students will also be working to map all the wells in the village, analyze the chemical make-up of the water, and document all of the activities through photography and a blog.

This past summer, a group of faculty, students, and recent graduates from across the University traveled to western Kenya, using a variety of disciplines — including engineering, art, and sociology — to empower residents with the tools to change their lives. To read more about the Kenya project, please visit TheKenyaProject.

For more information, visit the websites for the Engineers Without Borders student chapter, EngineersWithoutBorders, and Design Global Change, the organization of Hartford Art School students who are working on the India and Kenya projects, designforglobalchange.