U of I Students Work with Bolivian Families to Improve Sanitation in Community
September 13, 2023
MOSCOW, Idaho — University of Idaho College of Engineering students recently helped Bolivian families improve sanitation in their community as part of an overseas humanitarian effort funded by Idaho donors.
Representing the U of I’s Humanitarian Engineering Corps (HEC), five students traveled to the remote community of Challcha in the Andes Mountains, eight hours from the Bolivian capital city of Sucre.
Students work directly with community members to identify potential infrastructure projects to meet community needs. The team built privacy shelters and septic systems for a toilet and shower.
All building materials are funded through donations from Moscow and other Idaho communities to the student club. U of I students fundraise year-round to cover travel costs and to hire professional engineers and construction workers who are also on site.
Mike Lowry, civil engineering associate professor who also traveled to Challcha, said community members help with construction, developing background knowledge to maintain the facility after the project is complete.
“The travel is tough and the work is incredibly hard,” Lowry said. “Having an engineer’s problem-solving mindset is part of what is needed, but this experience really drives home the importance of communication and teamwork with the people we serve. Our students gain a deep understanding of the professional skills our society and industry demand through this once in a lifetime experience.”
Mechanical engineering junior Jasmeen Manshahia said developing relationships with the families made the experience unique from a traditional internship or out-of-the-classroom experience.
“We stayed next to a single mother of four,” the international student from India said. “Interacting with her every day, we were able to truly understand her needs, the challenges she faces every day, and the problem we needed to solve. You don't get that deep understanding in an internship or a regular client scenario. It makes you remember what engineering truly is. It’s helping people.”
Manshahia traveled with fellow students Ian Finnigan, a computer engineering senior from Idaho Falls; Olivia Haener, civil engineering junior from Boise; and Matthew Troxel, a civil engineering senior from Parma, Idaho. Harrison Bashaw, a recent civil engineering graduate, was also on the trip.
Since 2012, U of I students have traveled to Bolivia to support efforts to improve access to clean water and sanitation. This is done in partnership with Engineers in Action, an international nonprofit organization focused on the development of sustainable systems and infrastructure for underserved communities.
The team recently completed a series of projects spanning five years for the community of Carani in Bolivia, building a gravity-fed water supply system to replace the dilapidated municipal system.
Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Humanitarian Engineering Corps (HEC) Faculty Advisor
Communications and Marketing Strategist
University of Idaho College of Engineering
About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at uidaho.edu.