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Lorena Sanchez was born in Caracas, Venezuela from a Venezuelan mother and Cuban father. In Venezuela she lived in Caracas, Maracaibo, and Puerto Ordaz where she noticed one thing all of these cities had in common: poverty. Virtually every city in Venezuela had mountains filled with poor people who lived in little shacks they had made themselves. Constantly there were children in the streets begging for food.

In 1998, when Lorena was eight years old, her family fled from Venezuela due to political instability. So she moved with her family to a suburb of Miami where she lived until she was 18 years old. When she finished high school, Lorena went to Florida State University (FSU) to study Mechanical Engineering. On her last year of undergrad an opportunity presented itself to work on a senior design project at the Federal University of Parana in Curitiba, Brazil. Returning to South America once again, Lorena saw the poverty that exists there but with much older and educated eyes. What struck her odd about the poor people in Brazil is that sure they were poor, but they were all quite happy. All the Brazilians wanted to do was dance Samba, share times together, and celebrate life. After learning a lot from the happy Brazilian culture Lorena went back to the United States with new visions and ideas about poor people in developing countries.

Upon returning to the United States, Lorena finished her Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and went on to pursue a Master’s degree in the same field. During her Master’s studies, Lorena found time to join Engineers Without Borders (EWB) despite also working as a Teaching Assistant in Thermodynamics and Fluids. The EWB FSU chapter had just began investigating a project to do in Panama since there is an FSU-Panama campus there. Lorena, being a native Spanish speaker, was invited to join the organization on their first assessment trip where they visited seven different indigenous communities and performed water testing at each location. In Panama, Lorena visited the Kuna Islands in San Blas where she saw the most extreme level of poverty she had ever seen. Despite the fact that the Kuna people lived on nothing more than fish, coconuts, and rice, they were still happy people with a rich culture of their own. It was this trip to Panama that finished putting everything in perspective and made Lorena decide to help poor people in her future in whichever best way she could.

Lorena is now focusing most of her efforts towards her bamboo project as she believes  bamboo could serve as a  very sustainable building material for a variety of engineering projects in both developed and developing countries.

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