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Home    Happenings    December 2002

Happenings in the Keweenaw Peninsula

December 3, 2002

MTU students hold "sit-in" fundraiser for sanitation projects in West Africa

HOUGHTON -- During this first week of December, Michigan Tech students are raising funds that will be used to construct up to 39 latrines in two villages in Cameroon. These engineering students are graduate students in the Peace Corps Master's International program in Civil and Environmental Engineering and student members of the Michigan Water Environment Federation (MWEA).

The fundraising plans include a 50/50 raffle and a 50-hour "sit in" on a commode that is located outside the Memorial Union Building. Students have been accepting pledges for the "sit in" which began at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, December 3.

Peace Corps Masters International students "sit in" on MTU campus Dec. 3 to raise funds for latrines in Cameroon.
In front of the Memorial Union on the Michigan Tech campus on Dec. 3, MTU Peace Corps Masters International graduate students, from left, Jeff Ahrens of Wilmington, Del.; Ed Stewart of Charleston, S.C.; and Lyle Stone of southern Calif. volunteer for the 50-hour "sit-in" to raise funds for latrines in West Africa.

During the fifth hour of the "sit in" Jeff Ahrens of Wilmington, Delaware, called out to students heading for lunch in the MUB, "Help fill the can for Cameroon. Your change from lunch can change the lives of people in Cameroon."

When asked why he wanted to sit on a commode in the middle of the night in below freezing temperatures, Bob Hawley, master's student in civil engineering said, "What's two nights of sitting outside compared to years of better health through sanitation?"

Dr. James Mihelcic, MTU professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering,  is matching the first $500 raised with proceeds obtained from the book Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering.

Can you imagine going through every day of your life wondering about the availability and safety of your water supply?

The United Nations estimates that over 1.2 billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water. They also report that worldwide, polluted water affects the health of 1.2 billion people and contributes to the death of 15 million children under five every year. Coverage with adequate sanitation is even lower with 2.4 billion, or 40%, of the global population lacking access to any type of sanitation equipment.

The World Health Organization further estimates that poor environmental quality contributes to 25 per cent of all preventable ill health in the world today. And when your job performance and feeding your family depends on your health, poor health can be the route of all poverty. To put things into perspective if the world consisted only of Michigan Tech students, this would mean that close to 2,700 Tech students would not have access to sanitation and over 1,300 would not have access to safe drinking water. 

Dan Nover, a master's student in environmental engineering, stated that he was assisting in the project because he considered it a right to have access to safe water and good health in both the developed and under-developed world. Bridget Cannon, president of MWEA, reported that her organization's members were enthusiastic about assisting in this project.

The latrines will be constructed in two villages in the West African country of Cameroon. Cameroon has a population of over 16 million, and is slightly larger in size than California. The sanitation project is being coordinated by Lauren Fry, a master's student in environmental engineering who is performing her graduate research in Cameroon while also serving for two years in the Peace Corps as a water/sanitation engineer. Lauren has been assisting two women's groups (The "Dynamic Women of Lenyong" and group called "To Hope") who want to build ventilated, improved pit latrines in order to prevent hygiene-related diseases. Villagers will contribute to the project by providing unskilled labor and locally available materials such as sand, gravel and wood.

Sign on MTU campus calls attention to Peace Corps latrine project.
A sign in front of Michigan Tech's Memorial Union calls attention to MTU student Lauren Fry's Peace Corps project to build latrines in Cameroon, West Africa. MTU students volunteering for the "sit in" hope to raise enough money to build 39 latrines in two villages.

Lauren has stated that the women involved in this project are very dynamic and have demonstrated their interest and ownership of the project by coming up with their community contribution and assisting in the preparation of a project proposal.

To learn more about this project or find out how you can assist, contact M.E. Housewright or Jason Huart, graduate students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, or Bridget Cannon, president of the student chapter of the Michigan Water Environment Federation.

Visit the Master's International program Web site to learn about their Peace Corps opportunities.

Learn about the activities of MWEA by visiting their Web site.

Visit the Keweenaw Now discussion forums to comment on this article.
 

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