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Days 19-20

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Tuesday, August 2 and Wednesday, August 3 Hola amigos! Have no fear, engineering is here! As some may know, this year Northern Without Borders included a small team of engineering students. It has been a pleasure thus far to be included in this amazing experience! Although this trip is medical-oriented, our small group of engineering buds has had some adventures of our own! Our task is a little more abstract, since engineering problems can be so vast, complicated, and time-consuming. This week, we are just trying to do what we can to help. We are also researching ways to help the Dominicans with their engineering needs.

Allow me (this is Ben by the way) to go back in time to Monday, if that is in accordance with blog law. In Week 2, our team had an encounter with a priest called Father Christian, who informed them about some latrines he was helping to construct in the area. He seemed to be very interested in the concept of compost toilets and what could be done to improve the current system. Now, back to this week. He came and picked us up in the morning in his pickup truck and we drove to a remote village to see some of these latrines being constructed. From this we hoped to learn more about the preparation/work that comprises these projects and possibly come up with some ideas to improve the system. The drive was gorgeous-blue skies and majestic green mountains surrounded us, and friendly Dominicans waved at us. I gave them the peace symbol, like the cheesy American I am.

When we arrived at the village, there was a government worker that was building a latrine. Father Christian hopped in along with our translator, Bartolo, to help out. We saw the many steps to construct one of these and it was very, very intriguing! I could probably type out all of the steps to do this but I don’t want to bore. I will say it was neat to see them use a bottle of water as level in the absence of an actual level. One of the funniest parts was when they were covering the hole. They needed two sheets of sheet metal, but they only had one. Instead, they used a campaign poster of a Dominican Presidente hopeful and laid it on there! I’m guessing they are not voting for him. Another fun part of this experience was when the Dominicans got tired of mixing cement and asked us if anyone wanted to help mix. I grabbed a shovel and hopped in! When I was done I got a “muy bien” out of Bartolo-very good! A lady wearing a “I Love Jesus” lanyard gave us pop and some food that I will describe as a mix between cookies and biscuits. It was a very caring and loving gesture. Despite what little they have, the people are always hospitable and cheerful. You can tell that they just live in the moment and with what they have, which I find very admirable and inspiring.

Afterwards, Father Christian walked us down the road to see the frame of the latrine being built. The technology may be lacking, but those guys had their work down to a science and worked efficiently. I could tell they have done this many times. When it was all done, Father Christian drove us back to town and that was pretty much it! Overall, it was a good day of getting our feet wet in seeing what engineering solutions are feasible in this area.

—Ben Ankrom
Sophomore, Civil Engineering
Circleville, Ohio

Wednesday, August 3 Hi, this is Marc, our lone electrical engineer. Today we started out by going on a tour of the clinic by the guesthouse. They plan on building a new clinic, so we looked at the current clinic's layout to see if we could help with ideas for the new building. We saw right away that parts of the concrete foundation had cracks in it. Also, the clinic had more medicine for its pharmacy than it could hold, so the new building would need a larger area for storage. During our tour, we learned a lot about health care in the Dominican Republic. The clinic here has limits on how much aid it can provide. It often does not have doctors around to do operations for people. Also, the clinic is located in a flood region so it is not eligible for people to use their health insurance.

After finishing at the clinic, Dan gave us a list of things to do before the tropical storm may hit tonight. We had to clean up debris on the street by the guesthouse because it floods very badly. Last time a tropical storm hit, the garbage and dirt filled the drains, adding to the flooding!

To solve the problem of the garbage overrunning the storm drains, we spent the rest of the morning designing cages that we could put over the drains, increasing the surface area of them. At lunchtime the people here were gracious enough to cook us a hot meal rather than the sandwiches we normally have. Yum! After lunch I helped Dr. Reid fix a ceiling fan light in one of the bedrooms. After some debugging, we realized that the problem was with the switch, not the circuits, so unfortunately there was no way we could fix it.

By then the civil engineers had finished with their designs and began construction of the cages. We found tons of spare metal wire lying around, which we used. I helped build the smaller cage. When we were just about done, a guy came over, wondering what we were doing. He wasn’t making any sense and didn’t listen to what I was telling him. Then he started to pull apart the drain. I went and got a translator and got him to settle down.

At about two, people started to arrive back from their clinics. Dan had ordered a truck load of sand to put in bags in front of doors to stop the rain flooding that would happen later.  After a bunch of heavy lifting, we were ready for the storm.

That about sums up our engineering experiences for the day. Keep checking up on our blog!

—Marc Anderson
Sophomore, Electrical Engineering
Napoleon, Ohio