After over a year of fundraising, the Fairfield Rotary Club, in conjunction with Orange Rotary Club, LaPaz Rotary and Rotary International, secured a $37,500 grant to support Fairfield University’s Engineers Without Borders’ (EWB) efforts in Bolivia.
The grant will go towards supplies and materials needed to build a sand filter for a community in Bolivia as part of a program established by Fairfield and University of South Dakota’s chapters of Engineers Without Borders. The sand filter will remove any large debris and toxins from Bolivia’s water so that it will be able to be used to drink. While the project isn’t a difficult process, it is costly, requiring the $37,500 grant to cover the costs.
“Our overarching goal is to provide the community with a safer water supply,” Christopher Calitri ‘16, co-president of Fairfield’s Engineers Without Borders, said.
With University of South Dakota, Fairfield’s EWB has already built chlorinators in Carmen Pampa, Bolivia to purify the water. The two sand filters, which Fairfield’s chapter and University of South Dakota will build, is another stage in their efforts in Bolivia. The Fairfield Rotary Club got involved in the fundraising through Dr. Bruce Berdanier, dean of the School of Engineering, who asked them for help, knowing that one of Rotary International’s missions is to provide safe drinking water and sanitation around the world.
“Our overarching goal is to provide the community with a safer water supply,” Calitri said. According to Dr. Berdanier, the schools have been working with the Bolivian undergraduate university Unidad Académica Campesina – Carmen Pampa and the village of Carmen Pampa to make the drinking water more sanitary for the roughly 700 students attending the school and residents of the village.
“There’s a lot of water there, from snowmelt and rivers coming down the mountains but they didn’t have any water treatment and don’t have any sanitation,“ said Berdanier. He noted that while the school has flushing toilets, the sanitation disposal isn’t adequate. After building the sand filters, the group hopes to install sanitary sewers and wastewater treatment in Carmen Pampa, which could cost upwards of $200,000.
For students, the hands-on experience provides additional learning in the real world. “Through these projects, those involved learn a substantial amount of information that would never be taught in a classroom setting,” Calitri said.
More so, Berdanier and Calitri agree that EWB’s goals reflect on the Jesuit values promoted by Fairfield. “There are a lot of students at Fairfield that are interested in service learning,” Berdanier said. “These types of programs where they can go for a couple weeks and work on a project and see another culture and understand needs in other countries and how you work with them, I think are really important.
According to, Berdanier EWB isn’t just for students in the School of Engineering. “We need people who can write, who can do marketing, fundraising, engineering, people who want to travel and work on projects in other countries.”
Berdanier and Calitri hope that the trip to Bolivia will take place sometime during the spring or summer of 2016.