Photo: Natalia Balcerzak

Crossing borders to improve lives

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By Deven Knill

There isn’t a line they won’t cross.

Ryerson’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a student group that strives to improve the quality of lives in Africa through system changes. They raise awareness on campus by educating students about poverty and how to respond to it through their local initiatives. With fundraising, EWB Ryerson is able to send one student on a venture each summer as part of their Junior Fellowship Program.

“The junior fellowship is an opportunity to spend four months abroad and develop their leadership skills as well as get a broader view of international development,” Mark Eskandar, the global engineering vice president, said.

The annual ventures that students are sent on can vary from water and sanitation to business development services, but it is ultimately based on the selected junior fellow’s interests. They can choose to remain in Canada or go abroad to African countries such as Ghana, Malawi, Zambia and Uganda.

Eskandar said he was a junior fellow himself. This past summer, he traveled to Ghana to venture with Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services at an agricultural college. He helped revise a program for the school that was to be taught to students in the upcoming semesters.

“It’s helped me see a bigger picture and understand a different aspect of universities from a lecturer’s perspective,” Eskandar said

Although the name may be deceiving, Eskandar said he wants to let students know they do not have to be in the engineering program to join. Ryerson’s chapter is affiliated with the ideas of its national office, but also does its best to cater to the interests of the school community.

“The reason why Engineers Without Borders is a really unique organization is because they run very unconventionally,” said Caroline Wojtyla, co-president. “Poverty is something that doesn’t have a straight or easy solution to the problem, so they have very innovative ways of modeling their ideas.”

And EWB Ryerson doesn’t only have projects abroad, some can be seen right on campus.

Currently, they’re working on making Ryerson a certified fair-trade campus. Introducing organic coffee at Oakham House was just the starting point of their two-year plan. EWB Ryerson hopes to have the university officially approved and certified by the end of this school year.

On top of fair-trade, they focus on global engineering and youth engagement by making trips to different high schools. They offer workshops like Water For The World, which are aimed to help students see the importance of water sanitation and what engineering can do to make it better for everyone.

“If anyone is just generally interested in social impact or any sort of humanitarian group and they don’t know where to look at Ryerson — EWB is the place to go,” Eskandar said.

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