Students hope to bring clean water to Ugandan village in Engineers Without Borders project

February 5, 2010

By Denise Brehm
Civil & Environmental Engineering

MIT students recently established a campus chapter of Engineers Without Borders and adopted their first project: providing electricity and clean water to a health clinic in southern Uganda. But in typical MIT student fashion, the MIT Engineers Without Borders group plans to expand the stated mission of the project to include improvements to the drinking water quality and distribution system for the entire village, if they can raise the necessary money.

“The mission of Engineers Without Borders is to improve the lives of the community. It didn’t seem right for us to improve the clinic’s water source without improving water for the entire community,” said Rebecca Gianotti, a doctoral student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering who is head of the project’s water team.

The Engeye Health Clinic, located in the village of Ddegeya, serves about 5,000 people living in the area. A U.S. physician, Stephanie Van Dyke, working with Ugandan John Kalule, established the clinic in 2007. Engeye is now a joint U.S.-Ugandan nongovernmental organization staffed by Ugandans — two full-time nurses, a doctor who makes the four-hour trip from the capital city of Kampala once a week, and clinic manager Kalule. It operates without running water, with just enough solar energy to power a couple of light bulbs, and no overnight capacity. But for the local people, it represents the only medical care available