After rehabilitating three wells and installing a new one, the Carroll College chapter of Engineers Without Borders is nearing the end of its five-year project in Kawango, Uganda.
The project was expected to take five years by making a trip once per year, according to Tony Szpilka, a Carroll professor and Engineers Without Borders adviser. The first Kawango trip was in May 2016 and the group has returned each year since.
This year, the group traveled to Uganda in January to install a new well to provide water to the Holy Trinity School, which is run by Father Julius Bwowe. Szpilka said this came after a few years spent rehabilitating other wells in the village to provide clean water for its people.
The new well was left with a hand pump, which Szpilka said will remain until Engineers Without Borders can return in 2020 and build a solar-powered tank pump, completing the five-year project. This design is largely what students will work on prior to their next trip. Szpilka said much of the design work is done while in Helena, and it is approved by the main Engineers Without Borders office in Denver.
"I think there is a lot of progress. We are so grateful to the EWB students," Bwowe said during his annual trip to Helena recently.
For several years, Bwowe has maintained a strong relationship with the Helena community and the Cathedral of Saint Helena. He originally traveled to Helena in 2007 to tell the story of the "great need" in places like Kawango.
The end of the well project won't spell the end of the relationship between Engineers Without Borders and Bwowe. Szpilka said the group will find another project after this one is completed.
"The relationship has been cemented," Bwowe said. "Each year I come there is growth, and more people come to Uganda. Beyond just EWB students. Human life is all about relationships."
Bwowe leads a church parish in nearby Kampala, Uganda, which is around a two- or three-hour drive from Kawango. He also runs the Holy Trinity School in Kawango, which is largely how Engineers Without Borders got involved.
"I've always said that Helena is my home away from home," Bwowe said. "They have always embraced me and made room for me."
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Bwowe said he founded the Kawango school as a sustainable way of improving the psyche and spiritual health of the population. The school currently has more than 400 students and plans to expand.
A building that will be used as a computer lab was recently constructed on the school grounds, and a science lab is now being built. However, for these to be fully functional, Bwowe will need to complete his dream project, which is bringing electricity to the village. In the meantime, the new building will act as a regular classroom.
The Uganda government offers some options for electricity, but they could take years. Bwowe said this is one of many obstacles facing the village. He hopes to possibly raise money to fund the project through The Julius Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2014 that does fundraising for Bwowe's church and the Engineers Without Borders work in Kawango.
Tom Kaiserski, Julius Foundation president, said the foundation funded the installation and rehabilitation of the wells in Kawango. The Engineers Without Borders students have also been fundraising and writing grant applications in support of the electricity project.
"These students feel a real sense of ownership with this project," said Carroll President John Cech. "They ask the question: 'What kind of impact can we have in the world?'"
In mid-August, Carroll held a dinner to raise money for the Julius Foundation. According to Cech, at least 100 attended.
"It was a big cross-section of the Helena community who came to help a village across the world," Cech said.
Kaiserski said Cech was instrumental in pushing the project forward. Shortly after he became president, Cech found out about the project and immediately began promoting it to raise awareness of what the students were doing.
In the future, Cech hopes to further the relationship that Helena has with Uganda. He said they are currently planning talks with the Uganda Martyrs University, a Roman Catholic college in Nkozi, Uganda, about possible student exchanges or other partnerships.