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Engineering prosperity in Guatemala

A team of 11 CH2M employees from around the world traveled to Guatemala for the CH2M Foundation's first skills-based volunteer project with Engineers Without Borders.

A team of 11 global colleagues representing a diverse set of engineering disciplines recently had an opportunity to see the impact of projects implemented during the past decade by our three global community partners—Bridges to Prosperity, multiple Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapters and Water For People—in the small community of Nueva Providencia, Guatemala. 

Building on the success of past skills-based volunteer team projects, the CH2M Foundation expanded our partnership with EWB through its recently launched Engineering Service Corps—a more sophisticated and technical form of pro-bono engineering services than its bread and butter International Community Programs—to provide engineering consulting to two communities in Guatemala.

Our team served as the pilot for EWB in recruiting corporate teams to provide engineering consulting for these technically challenging projects—allowing volunteers to leverage the skillsets they use every day for a community that needs support but does not have the financial resources or breadth of local expertise to advance the projects to the next level.

“I’ve had a passion for EWB for several years and have loved traveling to Uganda with my professional chapter to work alongside the community on water problems,” shared CH2Mer Erin Cummings. “With the new Engineering Service Corps I can continue to support EWB, while having the opportunity to leverage my technical skills in a unique way to solve more complex infrastructure challenges.”

Helping Nueva Providencia sustain its prosperity

In Nueva Providencia, a small community of approximately 200 residents in 66 homes, the team conducted an impact analysis of previously completed EWB projects. The goal was to share lessons learned for future teams and to identify quick-fix and long-term recommendations for the Alcalde (local city council) regarding the community’s water and electrical systems. The impact analysis included: 

  • More than 20 in-home interviews with the community residents 
  • Water quality testing
  • Detailed examination of the solar and hydropower electrical systems

The team quickly discovered that the challenges presented were often the result of immense opportunity resulting from the implementation of the original projects. For instance, the electrical system was designed to power street lights and a single lightbulb and outlet in each home. With the bridge now providing safe, year-round access to commerce and jobs, the community is thriving. Families are now in an economic position to purchase blenders and even televisions, causing unintended overloading of the electrical system, particularly during peak evening hours.

“Bringing new and miraculous technology into peoples’ lives—be it bridges, water, or electricity—can always be a first step,” shared team member Eric Schulz. “The real finesse comes in helping them live with it, sustain it, and determine how make it work for them.”

Clean energy for Joyabaj

In the larger municipality of Joyabaj, the team was tasked with completing a feasibility study and economic analysis for the recommissioning of a hydro dam that was operational until the national grid reached the city in 1993. Our engineers conducted structural, geotechnical, electrical and hydrology assessments of the dam, canal, forebay, penstock, powerhouse and tailrace. They then developed feasibility, cost, and economic analysis for two different options, refurbishment and replacement. The Mayor and utility will use the analysis to make informed decisions on the next steps for bringing this power source back online to support the community of 20,000 people.

“I am a geotechnical engineer and have been involved in the design and evaluation of many dams and water holding structures,” said team member Nason McCullough. “It was my great honor to be able to use my skills and experience to assist in these evaluations so that these communities can take steps forward with improvements, such that someday they will be afforded the benefits of having civil infrastructure that provide clean water, abundant electricity and transportation facilities.”

Thanks to the volunteer team for its dedication to these projects and communities.

Learn more about this project and the team through the team member’s blog posts at: www.ch2mhillblogs.com/foundation/category/blog/ewb

To learn more about the CH2M Foundation and the positive impact it’s having in communities around the world, visit www.ch2mfoundation.org.

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