Engineers without Borders (EWB)

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“The fact that you can only do a little is no excuse for doing nothing”

                                               – John le Carre

In the Summer of 2013 I was lucky enough to participate in an assessment trip of the country of Panama with Florida State University’s (FSU) Engineers without Borders (EWB). This trip was an amazing experience that truly opened my eyes to the devastating poverty which some people live in. In one of the rural villages we visited in Panama, I told an older woman who knew of the United States “I just do not understand how people in the US have everything and people here have nothing. I would just like to try and balance things out a little.”

When our EWB-FSU team returned to Florida, the FSU newspaper decided to write an article about our trip. I also wrote a Panama assessment trip summary if you are further interested.

After our assessment trip our EWB-FSU chapter decided to work with a community in Bahia Roja, Bocas del Toro, Panama. There, we teamed up with a local non-profit organization called Give and Surf  and together we are working towards improving the community’s access to safe drinking water. Currently, the project involves making more rainwater catchment systems with the community which provides them with safe drinking water.

Below are some pictures of our trip from places in Panama like Bocas del Toro, the Kuna Islands, San Blas, and others.

Child in front of his home in Bahia Roja, Bocas del Toro

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Walking in the streets of a Kuna Island

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Doc at the largest Kuna Island: Carti Sugdub

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Kuna woman (wearing traditional Kuna clothing) selling fish she caught herself in the ocean

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View of Kuna Island from our boat (beautiful ocean)

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Trash on Kuna Island thrown on side of island to try and expand their land

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Performing water testing with the kids of the Kuna Islands (they were very excited to participate)

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Child in Kuna Islands

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Our visit was hosted by Florida State University Panama: Thank you!

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Simple and portable water testing kit given to us by FSU Panama professor (tested for coliforms and e-coli)

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Another Kuna Island view from our boat (these are very small islands for the amount of people living on them)

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Meeting with the Kuna elders about community needs

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Sign  inside of Kuna community center reads (translated from Spanish): “The village who losses its tradition, loses its soul” “To respect the rights of others is peace”

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Boat ride between Kuna Islands with our Kuna friend and translator (translator from Kuna to Spanish; I then would translate from Spanish to English for our group)

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Helping to build a school in Bahia Roja community, Bocas del Toro

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After our help  building the schools the natives said we should be called “Ingenieros sin músculos” (Engineers without muscles) not “Ingenieros sin Fronteras” (Engineers without Borders) hahahaha!

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I was happy to find a puppy in Bahia Roja, Bocas de Toro

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Family out at sea near Bahia Roja, Bocas del Toro

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Another Kuna Island (we visited 3 Kuna Islands)

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Teaching Panamanian girls, from a rural village, to swim in a nearby river

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Collecting water for testing in Bahia Roha, Bocas de Toro

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Our results from water testing at the villages: all samples are positive for coliforms (they turned blue) and all but one sample were positive for e-coli (they glowed under UV light [not shown])

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The one sample that was negative for e-coli was taken from a rain water catchment system in Bahia Roja, Bocas del Toro. Our Engineers Without Borders chapter decided to pursue a major project with this community and help them implement other similar rainwater catchment systems.