I’m still thinking in Spanish. Feebly – I was easily the worst Spanish speaker on the trip. It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that my time in the Dominican Republic has come to an end. As I write this I'm sitting on a plane hurtling back home, getting further from the DR with each passing minute. The flight attendant’s voice resounds on the overhead telling everybody to take their seats. And I realize she was speaking in English. There’s no further need for strained listening and hastily racking my brain for half-learned Spanish vocab words.
I went into this trip naively believing we were addressing a simple issue. El Cajuil had numerous households that had to go without water on a daily basis due to the insufficient supply being fed into their current system. Surely, the solution would be simply to tap into a second source to increase the water supply. While this may be a project we pursue, the reality of El Cajuil’s situation is in fact for more complex. Half of the engineering challenge we face will be not just increasing water supply, but designing a system that makes better use of the water already available.
The Princeton team:
Alex Byrnes (’18), Corinne Lowe (’17), Eric Qiu (’18), and Kristy Yeung (’18)
Ray Behrens (our expert surveyor) and Nolan Perreira (our expert in water testing and systems).
El Cajuil is a 600 person community in the Dajabon Province of the Dominican Republic along the Haitain border. We work most directly with the Maximiliano Vargas Comite de Acueducto (the water committee responsible for maintaining their current water distribution system).
The trip is several days away. There are still a million things to do. Pack my bags. Finalize water testing details. Reorganize the schedule of tasks to accommodate a trip to the surveying store. The list goes on. As one of two project managers for the Dominican Republic Team of Princeton’s Engineers Without Borders, I’ve discovered organizing a development project (in this case the preliminary assessment and design phase) is anything but trivial.
With just a little over 1 week away, project managers Corrine Lowe and Alex Byrnes along with team members Eric Qiu and Kristy Yeung are pumped and ready for the DR. Check out the blog during the trip for regular updates!
We spent the first several days of our pre-assessment trip visiting different communities that our NGO partner organization identified as potential candidates for an EWB project partnership. Our days were immersion experiences, spent in the communities, since we were seeking to truly understand the character of each community and the scope of their infrastructural difficulties.
I can safely say that my closest experience with the high intensity decision making of board room executives took place while covered in mosquito bites in the rural northwest province of Dajabón in the Dominican Republic.
Engineers Without Borders draws from a branch of studies rooted in empirical observation, methodological analysis, and precise implementation. After all, engineering is about taking the facts we know to be true and applying them logically to real life problems. But the challenge of any engineering problem is that our work can only be as good as our underlying assumptions: shoddy baseline estimates or incorrect equations, even implemented perfectly, will still result in the wrong answer.