In 2011 ESWB started a partnership with Bridges To Community (BTC) to develop a series of projects that address the needs of developing communities in Nicaragua.
This year, ESWB will be supporting UVA’s fourth summer traveling to Nicaragua. We will be returning to the community of Rosa Grade in Siuna for the third year in a row to continue our work with the community chocolate factory in the region. We will be partnering with Bridges to Community, an NGO that works extensively in Nicaragua, furthering our already strong connection with them. Our time will be shared between our projects and BTC’s goals. Throughout the school year we will refine our projects and apply for grants to fund our travels.
2013-2014 Project Team
- Angela Liu
- Brittany Major
- Wilson Ruotolo
- Ben Matthews
- Kit Guncheon
- Brendan Kelley
In 2013 we continued our partnership with Bridges to Community, an NGO based in Siuna. Our group assisted the residents of Rosa Grande in their endeavor to expand their local chocolate factory into an international business. Using our engineering background, we helped the factory reach international health code standards and regulations. Furthermore, we analyzed successful business techniques employed by small entrepreneurial businesses in the U.S. and helped the community implement them with their chocolate business. When we were not working at the factory, we built latrines, small bridges, and other minor projects.
Five ESWB students utilized sustainable methods to alleviate problems in the rural community of Rosa Grande, in the first year of a five year project. Building on the work of the 2011 team this research group worked to identify the expressed needs of the community using innovative information gathering techniques. These included Photovoice, water testing, and GIS mapping to identify and address significant issues in the community.
In the Photovoice Project, the team distributed cameras to a diverse group of community members with directions to capture images of problems in their community. The Photovoice method allows a window into the community without creating an invasive and paternalistic environment, and will guide BTC’s future projects in the area.
The research team conducted Water Testing at several water sources in and around the local community. Results acquired measuring pH, turbidity, E. Coli., and general coliform will shape future water projects in Rosa Grande, by analyzing the quality of potential water sources.
The team also used GIS Mapping to plot hundreds significant pints of interest around the community. An interactive map was developed with complete water testing data, photos, and site plans that were collected during their stay.
Photovoice: Involved a creative process of gathering diverse ideas and perspectives on community-based development. Community voices were amplified, allowing community leadership, BTC staff, and student researchers to gain a better understanding of the community’s needs and priorities. The participatory research process allowed participants to gain directly from data that was collected.
Water Testing: Quality of water sources was tested and integrated into plans for the future water system. Results were translated and shared with community members and leadership to foster a better understanding of water quality in the community.
GIS Data: Research was compiled and disseminated to the community in the form of an interactive electronic GIS map.
We were published in the Vol. 8, No. 1 issue of the International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering!
The main goal of the ESWB students traveling to Nicaragua in 2011 was to establish a relationship with Bridges to Community and to test out a unique needs identification methodology called Photovoice.
Seven ESWB students planned to identify sustainable methods of defining and addressing needs in a previously unknown community. Recognizing the most common failure of development projects—a breakdown in communication between the local community and the development agency—the research team pursued innovative information-gathering techniques, such as Photovoice, water testing, and GIS mapping, to determine significant issues in the community of Fonseca (a small suburb of Siuna).
The team distributed digital cameras to households in the community, with directions to capture images of common problems in their lives and in the community. This Photovoice method allowed a window into the lives of the Fonseca community, without creating an invasive or paternalistic environment, and will guide BTC’s future projects in the area.
Additionally, the research team implemented water-quality testing at several water sources in and around the local community. The team also used GPS tracking units to plot water testing points, and other significant points of interest around the community. With this the team developed an interactive GIS map, complete with water testing data, photos, and site plans collected during their stay in Fonseca. BTC is using this tool to guide their construction of a water piping system for households in Fonseca.
Check out this video about our Nicaragua project and come to the Project Pitch Night on 9/9 to learn how you can take part!
The Nicaragua Team is set to fly to Managua, Nicaragua on July 29th! However, they still need a little help with the funding. Please support our team by donating here. They will appreciate it greatly!
ESWB has continued its partnership with the NGO Bridges to Community, and another team will be traveling to Siuna, Nicaragua to work with the Rosa Grande community. We have already been working hard in preparation for the trip: applying for research and travel grants, investigating community needs, and planning the trip. We plan to work with a locally founded chocolate factory to create value in the community of Rosa Grande, in terms of entrepreneurship skills and community empowerment, increased economic well-being and income, and reforestation and sustainable agricultural practices.
Last year (Dec. 2011) UVa banned undergraduate travel to Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. We were frustrated and upset that Nicaragua was grouped into this ban for no apparent reason. We successfully got an exemption after a lot of hard work and submission of a 17 page report, and were allowed to travel to Nicaragua this past summer (2012). We wanted other undergraduates to be able to travel to Nicaragua as well considering we had such an incredible experience, and so we sent a letter to the International Studies Office (ISO) Coordinator, Dr. Doane, this past week for consideration of uplifting the ban. Just today, we received unofficial word that the ban will be lifted!!!! An official statement will be made within the next week.