|The Peruvian adventure|
by Matt Barton
Engineering Co-Op term provides benifits
Armed guards watch over the EMAPA compound in Huacho city every day. With watchful eyes, guns and grenades, they protect a precious Peruvian resource: water. Huacho is located on Peru's western coast, a desert region where rain is scarce and water security is a primary con- cern.
Garrett Schmidt, a U of R engi- neering student, spent over three months in Peru working to improve the water distribution system in the city of Huacho. He applied the knowledge and techniques learned in the classroom to real-world prob- lems.
"I had the pieces of knowledge to put it all together - hydraulic the- ory, Spanish, previous work terms and knowledge about development through Engineers Without Borders. My focus was to contribute to that community," said Schmidt.
The organization World University Service of Canada (WUSC) helped Schmidt get to Peru. WUSC is an organization dedicated to sending Canadian students to places where their talents are needed. The organization has been operating in Peru since 1982, committed to various development projects.
WUSC success at the U of R has led to an expansion of activity on campus that includes information tables and representatives during volunteer week.
Schmidt also worked to raise money to pay for his trip. "I had help from OICD (Office of International Cooperation and Development), the Engineering fac- ulty, the U of R Students' Union (URSU), Regina Engineering Society, my Co-Op fees were waived and my parents gave me their Air Miles," he said.
URSU has a sponsorship pro- gram that grants money to students for various worthy projects.
"I think it's great that we can fund these kinds of projects. It shows students at the U of R are making a difference in the world," said Mike Burton, URSU vice president of operations and finance.
The U of R's Co-Op program details many stories like Schmidt's. Students are finding success and work experience while earning uni- versity credits. "Living and working in Peru pushed my boundaries. It changed my world. I'm more confi- dent. I feel I can do more," said Schmidt.
Schmidt's engineering savvy wasn't the only thing he brought to Peru. "I'm 6'5 and white. Everyone was always staring at me. One night my friend took me to his high school where kids were playing basketball. They kept asking me to dunk,"he said.
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) also offers opportunities to U of R students to get involved with international development work. They were granted official chapter status this year, opening the door for more students to get involved and access the resources of the organiza- tion.
"I've had the opportunity to trav- el to other developing countries such as India and Guatemala. All my experiences highlight how similar humans are. We want the same things: security, education for our kids, a roof over our heads. We have more in common than we think," said Schmidt
Schmidt invited students to get involved with WUSC and EWB. "Get involved, challenge yourself. Learn about other cultures. Make a real impact and open up your world by contributing."
For more information on interna- tional development issues and how to get involved, contact Engineers Without Borders or World University Service Canada. Before going on any international trips be sure to research the country, city and culture you are going to experience. Getting your shots and the proper medication to prevent sickness is also important. WUSC provides information on health services, foreign contacts and has pre-departure classes to help stu- dents get on their way.