Engineering Students to Provide Clean Water to Largest Tent City in Haiti
Tent cities like Onaville, located north of Port Au Prince, sprang up after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure in 2010 and displaced approximately 1.5 million Haitians. Until recently, non-government relief organizations (NGOs) have provided water and other support to these communities.
“The water trucks simply stopped coming [to Onaville]. We don’t know why,” says Marc Compere, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus. Onaville residents are now walking up to several miles a day to retrieve untreated well water, likely contaminated by sewage runoff. Cholera is prevalent, as are a number of other water-borne diseases.
Accompanied by Compere, the students, pictured at right, are traveling to Haiti on Aug. 14-22 and bringing with them a purification system capable of producing 25 gallons of water per minute. The student team has partnered with Nehemiah Vision Ministries, a Haitian NGO, to install the water system at a newly constructed deep well and cistern storage facility in the tent city.
Contributions and sponsors are still being sought for the project, which will cost approximately $30,000 to complete. To support the project visit: www.alumnifidelity.com/projecthaiti.html. For sponsorships, contact Compere at firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to Compere, the living conditions in Haiti are beyond what most Americans can comprehend. “It was terrible the day before the earthquake. After the earthquake it was literally inhumane. Haiti is just now getting back up to terrible.”
The project is the third in a progression of water related engineering efforts in Haiti for Embry-Riddle students. In August 2011, Compere and a group of mechanical engineering students and faculty installed a solar-powered water purification and storage system at an orphanage and school in Chambellan, Haiti. The year prior, students erected a battery-powered purification system at a private school in Chambrun.
Each year the size and scope of the water purification systems have grown. The system installed in 2010 provided one gallon of clean water per minute, says Yung Wong, graduate teaching assistant for the mechanical engineering department and chief engineer for Project Haiti 2012. The 2011 system was built to process four gallons of water per minute. This year’s project is providing exponentially more water, in order to accommodate the tens of thousands of people living in the Onaville camp.
Yung, who was the lead student engineer for the 2011 project as well, says what he witnessed last year in Haiti motivated him to return this August. “The entire time we were there, the orphans drank from the city water line. We had tested that water the first day we got there and found it was full of bacteria. They have no other choice,” he says. “Water is the lifeline to a good life. By being able to provide clean water, we are improving their health and empowering them to have a more prosperous future.”
Kyle Fennesy, the undergraduate student lead for the 2012 project, says he’s excited to do his part to help. “The Haitian people are still struggling to recover from the earthquake, and I don’t want to stand on the sidelines of the recovery efforts,” he says. Fennesy and Yung are among eight students traveling to Haiti to establish the water purification system in Onaville.
While watching the devastation of the earthquake on TV in 2010, Compere says he realized he and his students could contribute to the relief activities. “I noticed one of their biggest needs was clean water, and that’s an engineering problem,” he explains. With support from the university and numerous sponsors, Project Haiti was born.
The project has been a “win, win, win, win, win,” Compere adds. “The students gain a global perspective in addition to applying their engineering knowledge to a real world problem outside of the classroom; the Haitians get a clean and reliable water source; the university gains public awareness for its outstanding engineering programs; the project sponsors benefit from related cause marketing efforts; and I get to do my job—educating students in a technical field, while opening their eyes to the humanitarian side of helping other people.”
Compere plans to perpetuate Project Haiti at Embry-Riddle, each year identifying a new water project for students to design and construct. The majority of students involved in Project Haiti 2012 are enrolled in a clean energy engineering design course he is teaching this summer. For more information, contact Compere at email@example.com.
August 27, 2012 12:05 AM
|Embry-Riddle junior Kyle
Fennesy, 20, works on the solar panels
that are part of the water purification system that students installed in Haiti. (Provided by ERAU)
DAYTONA BEACH — A tent city in Haiti is receiving clean water daily after a group from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University installed a water purification system.
The 10 Embry-Riddle mechanical, civil and aeronautical engineering students and a professor returned this week after spending about six days to help thousands of victims of the 2010 earthquake who are living in tents and surrounding areas of Onaville, Haiti, a displacement camp built northeast of Port-Au-Prince.
This is the third water system Embry-Riddle has delivered to Haiti. Previous recipients were an orphanage last year and a missionary relief camp.
In an unrelated trip, a church in Deltona also recently returned from helping to feed and take other supplies to children in Haiti.
The new water purification system is able to pump 20,000 gallons of clean water every day at a rate of 15 gallons a minute as opposed to last year’s system of 4 gallons a minute.
The Embry-Riddle students and Marc Compere, Embry-Riddle assistant professor of mechanical engineering, shipped the system they designed to Nehemiah Vision Ministries in Haiti. It was then trucked to the tent-city site.
The clean-water system is about 6 feet high and operates on solar power and a diesel generator. Miller-Leaman Inc., a Daytona Beach-based water purification manufacturer, also helped with manufacturing and consulting.
About 50 people were lined up waiting after the students finished putting the system together, according to Embry-Riddle grad student Yung Wong, 22, of Iselin, N.J., the graduate team leader.
|People in Haiti line up to get water from a water purification
system that Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students installed this month. (Provided by ERAU)
“It was continuous. Once we started, there was a lot more people coming,” said Wong, who also went to Haiti last year to install a similar system to an orphanage. “It was a pretty rewarding feeling. It’s amazing to be able to give clean water to people who don’t have access to it.”
He said the pastor of the village compared Embry-Riddle students providing water to people in the desert similar to the story of Moses from the Bible.
The students trained the pastor and a 15-year-old to run the system, which includes tanks that store the water.
Some of the group hopes to return in a couple of months to move the contraption to a permanent housing structure closer to the well.
They also want to bring a second purifier to the tent city next year so more people can be served.
Embry-Riddle junior Kyle Fennesy, 20, of Richmond, Texas, undergraduate team leader for the trip, said he was “touched by the strength of the Haitian people and how much they value clean water. It was very eye-opening to see how easily Americans take water for granted and how easily we are able to focus on our work and education without even a second glance or worry about where our water is coming from.”
Embry-Riddle grad student Shavin Pinto, 23, of Sri Lanka, who was on his first trip, said he thought he would be used to seeing poverty coming from a third-world country. But he was amazed by what he saw.
“We saw kids all around that had no water at all. Water was like gold for them,” Pinto said.
Another area group also recently returned from Haiti.
A team of 14 people from Deltona Alliance Church served food to 500 kids at the Kids Against Hunger feeding center in Arcahaie, Haiti. Church members also took 15 suitcases of school supplies from the church for some of the orphanages and schools. The group also painted classrooms and worked on buildings at Children’s Lifeline, which provides assistance to underdeveloped areas in Haiti and at one of their schools.
Jeff Gryboski, a member of the church who organized the mission trip, has personally been to Haiti about 10 times in the past two years, focusing on rebuilding three churches as part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
Gryboski, who has a home maintenance service and has worked for general contractors, was joined on this trip by his wife, Sherri, and their oldest child, Noah, 11.
“The whole reason I go is because in scripture it tells us you have to love your neighbor as yourself,” Gryboski said.
Gryboski said he has seen progress in the past two years, though it was initially slow, and there are still tent cities, collapsed buildings and “debris is still evident.”
He has taken one or two individuals from the church to Haiti in the past but this was the first team of this size.