Aaron Gordon just returned from an internship in Haiti with Clemson Engineers for Developing Counties (CEDC). He worked as a project manager for all projects funded by the Episcopal Diocese of Upstate South Carolina (EDUSC). These projects were Civil Engineering focused and included everything from water systems to school renovations to solar panel installations.
Before embarking on the internship Aaron had a general idea about the direction his life was heading, but it wasn’t until he arrived in Haiti and started working that he realized how much he loved what he was doing. The experience allowed him to really delve into civil engineering projects and international development in such an immersive and engaging manner that he almost forgot that he had to come back to school to finish his degree. Aaron stated “Now that I am back at Clemson, I have a renewed sense of purpose and meaning for my classes in addition to a newfound drive to pursue some sort of international engineering service work during my career. I know that when I start applying for internships next summer, graduate schools after graduation, and job opportunities down the road that I will be able to speak extensively and confidently about this study abroad experience. Its pertinence and importance in my life will never dwindle. There are parts of the world where 1 in 6 people have access to clean water. What do you personally think is the importance of new and improved water filtration technology?”
Currently, there is no sustainable way to filter water. No matter the treatment (sediment filters, chlorine, UV, etc.), it will always need maintenance and replacement at some point. This is a major issue because even if we had the money and resources to construct water treatment and delivery systems to every community, they would not last. The chlorine would run out, the UV lamp would burn up, or the filters would get clogged or dirty leaving the community without clean water again in a relatively short period of time.
In order to combat this problem Aaron spent a lot of time in Haiti working on community development so they would take responsibility for their own clean water both financially and operationally. A Haitian team manages the water to ensure that clean water is delivered by our system 24/7. Currently, we are working on creating methods so the community members can start paying for these maintenance costs. Thus, these water systems will still be around in a year, five years, or ten years.
A second way to combat this problem is by researching new and improved water filtration technologies that allow these communities to spend less money for their water or decrease maintenance costs in order to promote sustainability of these systems. Additionally, Haiti is a tough place to transport things like UV lamps, solar panels, erosion chlorinators, and sand filters. Easily built and maintained water filters could make a huge difference by reaching the more remote communities.
This is an exciting time for CEDC as projects continue to roll in and the intern program expands. We are beginning to explore a few options outside of Haiti but right now, Haiti has a huge need (especially with cholera) and is so close geographically that it cannot (and should not) be ignored.
If you would like to read more about Aaron’s adventures, please visit his blog at http://aginhaiti.blogspot.com/ for more information about specific projects.