Student Group Takes Uganda in Fish Farming Project

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Student Group Takes Uganda in Fish Farming Project

Fordham's Engineers Without Borders recently traveled to Uganda to choose a site for their fish pond project. John Murray

Fordham's Engineers Without Borders recently traveled to Uganda to choose a site for their fish pond project. John Murray

Fordham's Engineers Without Borders recently traveled to Uganda to choose a site for their fish pond project. John Murray

Fordham's Engineers Without Borders recently traveled to Uganda to choose a site for their fish pond project. John Murray

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Fordham's Engineers Without Borders recently traveled to Uganda to choose a site for their fish pond project. John Murray

Fordham’s Engineers Without Borders recently traveled to Uganda to choose a site for their fish pond project. Courtesy of John Murray

By Eddie Mikus

Fordham students often hear the phrases “go forth and set the world on fire” and “cura personalis.” For the members of Engineers Without Borders, however, such idioms are more than just idle talk.

“We really wanted to provide both an opportunity for technical field work and to live the Jesuit mission of men and women for others,” said Grace Bolan, co-president of Fordham’s Engineers Without Borders chapter, in an email.

Founded in 2013 as a chapter of a larger national organization, Engineers Without Borders has offered its students the opportunity to participate in various community service projects.

According to Bolan, Engineers Without Boarders currently has several projects in the works, including a fish farming project with the Omorio Village in Eastern Uganda, STEM workshops and tutoring opportunities with City Squash and, finally, a subway Design Challenge to propose ways to make subway stations more handicap accessible.

The group also recently travelled to Uganda to choose a project site for its first fish pond. In addition, they met with local government officials and signed a partnership agreement. The club is still waiting for the opportunity to build its first model pond and train people to run the project.

Participation in the trip offered its members some valuable real-world experience as engineers.

“These technical engineering projects that EWB works on provide insight into the difference between the textbook cases and real engineering projects,” Boland said. “We have to consider available supplies, community dynamics and potential barriers to sustainable success.”

Bolan also said that she feels the club can provide valuable experience to students who are not engineering majors.

“On our trip we had one of our board members who is an environmental science major with us,” Bolan said. “Having her look at the environmental implications of fish farming is very important. Some local fish farmers were asking us about bringing in fish from across the globe that might be more resistant to disease and would grow quicker. She had the knowledge to tell them the risks of introducing a new species to a foreign environment and the impacts on the ecosystem.”
EWB also incorporates business students working on a business plan, enabling the community to properly allocate money to those working on the Ugandan farm while sustaining growth and savings for necessary repairs.

Christopher Mazzeo, FCRH ‘16 and vice president of the chapter, notes that while the technical skills learned at Fordham are useful in practical settings, such as service trips, they are not everything.

“Even though a solution may seem perfect, it may not be integrated well with the culture of the village one is in,” said Mazzeo. “Thus, it will ultimately fail. This project requires not only engineering, but also many other fields of study such as environmental science and policy and sustainable business in order for it to be successful.”

According to Bolan, service projects will remain an important part of the group’s future plans.

“Our goals for the future of our chapter are to continue in partnership with our current Fish Farming Program with the Omorio Village and look to open new programs with other communities across the world while continue to grow and sustain our new Bronx outreach program,” Boland said.

For Rebecca Borrero, FCRH ’16, being a project leader on the Uganda trip has had an intangible but powerful effect on her life.
“What I will take away from my work with EWB is a sense of what life is really like for people in Omorio, an exponential increase in gratitude for what I have, and a sense of what it really takes to get something like this off the ground.”