On October 17, the Sunday Forum presented opportunities for Beth Am members to give a hand up, not a mere hand out, to undeveloped communities throughout the Third World. Speakers from the local chapter of Engineers Without Borders , Water 1st, and Pangea shared common visions with Beth Am members.
Poverty, disease, and child mortality are preventible when development efforts, beginning with basics, are rooted in the needs of the impoverished communities, as identified by those communities. When members of those communities are involved in identifying and building infrastructure, the infrastructure and projects can be sustainable. To best accomplish local development, Water 1st, Engineers Without Borders and Pangea all find that the active involvement and empowerment of women as community leaders is essential to successful and sustainable projects.
Both Water 1st and Engineers Without Borders (EWB) identified water and sanitation projects that they have worked to help develop. Kirk Anderson from Water 1st stressed the importance of access to clean water and development of basic sanitation is a common building block. EWB and Water 1st have worked with villagers from Bangladesh to East Africa to Central America to develop access to clean water and construction of sanitation systems, and to provide community education. With clean water, health improves, productivity improves, agricultural output and village economies improve. Children are freed from spending up to six hours a day to gather water and can then spend that time in school.
Pangea and Engineers Without Borders have worked with indigenous communities to go on to develop technological systems and business development models. Carmen Cejudo of Engineers Without Borders identified one project to locally produce biodiesel fuel for emergency responders in Jamaica. Pangea’s Allan Paulson described Pangea’s work with a women owned soap factory in Kenya, owned and operated by women who are victims of the AIDS crisis. The women have been assisted with the initial development of the facility to make soap, and later with marketing and financial management practices as the enterprise progressed.
Anyone interested in learning more, or in lending a hand, is encouraged to seek out any of these groups on their websites, shown in the lead paragraph, above.