Pratt & Whitney engineer Michael Reiter recently travelled to Guatemala with Engineers Without Borders to help a small community improve its water resources.
"I have been involved with professional chapters of Engineers Without Borders for six years, but I had never gone on a trip," said Reiter. "This year, I decided to try something new."
Engineers Without Borders, a nonprofit humanitarian organization, supports community-driven development programs to implement sustainable engineering projects. Reiter recently spent 13 days using his engineering skills to help the people of Guachtu'uq, a small community in northern Guatemala, where accessibility to water is a top concern.
As part of the program, Reiter mentored four students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, who worked on the project with him.
"It was a very rewarding experience mentoring the students," said Reiter. "They were very excited to be a part of the project and always worked hard to make sure everything was well-executed."
According to Reiter, most families in Guachtu'uq spend a significant portion of their day carrying buckets of water to their homes just to obtain water for basic needs. Engineers Without Borders has been working with the community of Guachthu'uq for three years. The organization made two trips to assess the needs of the community and establish a relationship with the people of Guachthu'uq. In January 2013, Engineers Without Borders visited the community and installed rainwater storage tanks at two homes in a pilot installation to test their design.
From May 3 to May 15, Reiter and the Engineers Without Borders team reviewed the water tanks installed in January. Reiter and the students also assessed 10 more homes for another trip slated in May 2014. The assessment included taking measurements of roof areas, seeking out potential tank locations and determining roof elevations to ensure the water can flow downhill.
Reiter plans to go back to the village next year and install additional rainwater storage tanks in the community.
"The people I met in Guachtu'uq are hardworking, family oriented and a joy to be around. They aren't asking for handouts, and they have been living with this water situation for decades," said Reiter. "But we can help them. I want to help them, and they deserve our help."