Opens Windows on World
Guelph student spends summer working in Indonesia
A Frisbee. That's the one item Clinton Reynolds
told the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) selection committee
he'd take overseas if he were picked for a volunteer internship
in a developing country. The Guelph student ended up packing
two Frisbees, which he says helped as icebreakers with boys
in the Indonesian village where he worked this summer.
Reynolds, now in his third year of environmental engineering
at Guelph, used his first trip abroad to help design a demonstration
system in solid-waste management. He lived and worked in
the village of Jogjakarta, about an hour's plane flight
from the capital, Jakarta.
He was one of about nine Canadian students who travelled
to developing countries this summer under a new EWB internship
program called Operation 21. The program is intended to
send a member from each of the organization's 21 Canadian
chapters to overseas destinations each summer to help with
international development projects.
"I've always been interested in world issues, but
to tell the truth, I didn't know much about international
development," says Reynolds.
While in Indonesia, he helped design and build a solid-waste
management system as a demonstration site for villagers.
After researching such things as what kinds of waste were
produced and who normally handles waste disposal in typical
households, he devised a system to separate paper and plastic
and to collect material for composting.
With about 60 per cent of household waste consisting of
organic materials, composting turned out to be a key component
of the system. Ordinarily, people burn their refuse or dump
it. He designed a three-bin system that could handle about
20 cubic metres of waste at a time, producing compost within
Systems like this are scarce in Indonesia, the world's
third-most populous country. Some 100 million people live
on the main island of Java alone.
Reynolds also worked on organic farming practices intended
to help farmers develop sustainable agriculture. "The
biggest environmental problem I saw in Indonesia was not
technology but environmental awareness," he says.
Back in Canada, he's determined to apply what he learned,
perhaps in another international development project.
Modelled after the humanitarian organization Doctors Without
Borders, the Engineers Without Borders program in Canada
began in 2000. There are about 3,700 members across the
country. The charity organization's goal is to teach engineers
and engineering students about international development.
During the past two years, more than 60 young Canadian
engineers have visited 20 countries to help with projects
in water and sanitation, agriculture and food processing,
energy, and information and communications technology.
Reynolds joined the U of G chapter last year. He is vice-president,
research and projects, for the chapter, which began in 2001.
Biological engineering student Jason Pearman is this year's
co-president (external) for the Guelph chapter. He says
a key lesson for Canadian students placed through this summer's
program is that "just providing technology is not the
answer. Many sociopolitical factors must also be addressed.
Clinton's experience has definitely reaffirmed the importance
EWB places on capacity building through appropriate technology."