As each day goes by, our world continues to grow into a global community. We can no longer ignore what is going on in China, Africa, or even in the next state. The biggest challenge of globalization is its effect on the poor and uneducated. They are the first to be taken advantage of and the last to benefit. In fact, so many people have been left behind that our global community seems to be more of a curse than a blessing.
I have joined the ranks of BYU’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB), a chapter of EWB—USA, to reverse the negative effects of globalization through capacity building. According to Henry J. Hatch, a member of the Advisory Committee of EWB—USA, capacity building is, “the building (or strengthening) of human, institutional and infrastructure capacity to help societies develop secure, stable and sustainable economies, governments and other institutions.” He suggests this can be accomplished “through mentoring, training, education, physical projects, the infusion of financial and other resources, and most importantly, the motivation and inspiration of people to improve their lives.”
The number of people dying from AIDS worldwide increased to 2.9 million in 2006, and prevention measures are failing to keep pace with the growth of the epidemic.
For those who have clearly been ignored or forgotten, EWB—USA is working to help them obtain their share of the progress that has been made toward a better life. In other words, EWB is dedicated to capacity building in community-based projects. In April, our chapter left for Cuzco, Peru, to implement a five-fold community project. I have been preparing for this project for over a year now, and I am just about ready to “go forth to serve.” This spring our plan is to:
1. Make clean water accessible to the community.
2. Provide a storage system so water can be accessible throughout the yearly drought.
3. Get the smoke out of the kitchens by making cheap, efficient stoves.
4. Provide means by which water may be heated for bathing and washing.
5. Teach the community about the importance of hygiene and provide hygiene kits for each family.
In 2005, more than 15 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS.
The beauty of this project is that we are working with the locals and their local humanitarian organization in all of our preparations. When we arrive to execute our plans, the community will be actively engaged in every aspect. We are facilitators rather than implementers, because we are helping the community find innovative solutions to their problems, which they may then act on. Our goal is to leave Cuzco having made friends with those from whom we have also learned. Our hope is that our friends will look at the work that they did with us and say, “Look at what we have accomplished! Let’s show our neighbors.”
International development projects like ours walk the fine line of being a blessing or a nuisance. They may easily be a pointless effort if the big picture is not realized. The “Santa Claus” mentality (when people come to expect or be dependant on the services of a nonprofit organization) may be avoided by looking beyond the quick fixes to what really matters.
“People don’t really think they can ask the question: Why? Culturally or even religiously people ascribe to the idea that that’s just the way it is. When I was in the Philippines, we talked to a woman about a free service for her child to have a cleft lip healed. . . . She said, ‘Why?’ I had never imagined that somebody wouldn’t want that. She said, “This is the way God made my baby. Why should I change that?’ . . . We don’t want to initiate change unless people want it, but how do you help people to want it?”
“Literacy, Gender, and Education: Crossing Borders and Respecting Boundaries,” 22 Sep 2006, Tiffany Zenith Ivins, international program officer, World Education
The more I study about development, the more I realize that the big picture is all about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He taught, “As ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land,” and He taught that the greatest commandment was first to love God and second to love your neighbor as yourself. He also taught through King Benjamin “that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
In serving the people of Peru, I want to help them get a glimpse of their capabilities. If I can help them understand what they are capable of through their faith and continuing education, I can hardly imagine the wonders they will accomplish. In essence, I feel that the future of development rests in our hands. We have been given so much, and it is our responsibility to give just as much to the rest of the world. Only through consistent, Christlike service will the people of the world lift themselves out of poverty and thereby be placed in a position to do the same for others.
Richards is a mechanical engineering major, with graduation expected in April 2010.
1. Hatch, Henry J. “About Us,” 2004, http://ewb-usa.org accessed 24 March 2008.
2. 2 Nephi 1:30
3. Matt. 22:37–39
4. Mosiah 2:17