april 2005 ISSUE

Josh Kjenner

student column

Going the Distance
Misses Fort McMurray


Living in Alberta has plenty of positives. Chief among them would have to be that our province sits on that big fat bag of money we call oil.

Problem is, most of this oil is in the so-called boonies. Many of us, engineers and co-op students alike, end up working many hours away from our homes, friends and mommies.

One student who wouldn't blink at such a move is Kelsey Chegus. Why? Because the last place she was employed was Ghana. Suddenly, Fort Mac doesn't seem quite so far away.

To top things off, her job was about something greater than a pay cheque.


Looking for further information on EWB? Would you like to donate to projects such as the ones mentioned in this article? Visit www.ewb.ca and www.ualaberta.ewb.ca

Engineering for People

Kelsey, a mechanical engineering student in her third year of study, is president of the University of Alberta chapter of Engineers Without Borders. As part of her involvement with the organization, she spent last summer working in Ghana.

EWB was started in 2000 by two students at the University of Waterloo, George Roter and Parker Mitchell, with the goal of promoting human development through access to technology. “EWB is the human side of engineering,” Kelsey says. “It's engineering for people.”

EWB takes a distinct approach to development. “EWB is very much about working with root cause problems,” says Kelsey. The organization is not about importing short-term solutions; it aims to develop solutions on site, with the help of the local population. As Kelsey says, EWB is trying to “learn as much from locals as we are trying to contribute. It's more of a partnership.”

Many who've heard of EWB think of it as an organization devoted solely to placing engineers. Although this is definitely one aim of EWB, its goals extend beyond that.

According to Kelsey, EWB's main focus is “outreach to the engineering faculty, the public, and the Edmonton community in general about international issues.”

EWB aims to create a dialogue about development and ask questions such as, What is development? and, What is the best way to conduct development?

EWB aims to recruit high-quality people and place them in underdeveloped areas where they can aid the local population by expanding their freedoms and empowering them to lead the types of lives that they want to lead.

Messages from Ghana

Kelsey is one of those high-quality people. In Ghana, she split time between Yaakrom and Kumasi, working on the pilot phase of the Kumasi Institute of Technology and Environment's Multifunctional Platform Project. The platform is a diesel engine that can be connected to devices such as grinders and corn mills.

The experience was enlightening. She came to appreciate the magnitude and nature of the problems facing Ghana, and as a result better formulate her opinions on how best to overcome these obstacles.

Culturally, her education was no less significant.

“I got lots of marriage proposals — like every day,” says Kelsey. “You have to get used to being the centre of attention.”

The locals take to calling foreigners “obruni,” and Kelsey, being obviously foreign, was often greeted with this moniker.

“You walk down the street and they'll say obruni, obruni, obruni!” Initially, Kelsey was treated as if she had come to give help. But EWB is more than that. “You want to challenge the idea that you're coming to help them. We're working together.”

Kelsey plans to “for sure” continue working to solve some of the problems facing Africa, specifically with EWB. This will result in her traveling to and living in some places a little farther away than High Level.

Author Credits

University of Alberta
Student Contributor (Engineering)