Giving Back Globally

Its always great to connect our students to opportunities that allow them to travel abroad, immerse themselves in different cultures and practice their construction skills. Over winter break, a group of students traveled to Peru while another group traveled to Rwanda.

One group of students traveled to Lima, which lies in the heart of Peru. They visited numerous historical sites that boasted large and intricate structures which are highly impressive given the time in history that they were built. In Arequipa, they visited the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. The Monastery showed how life was like for the sisters. The nuns had beds under arcs to protect themselves in times of earthquakes. They were able to observe how these individuals received naturally supplied water from the river at higher elevation through an ancient well that used to work with a pipeline.

During the last six days of the trip the student group worked on a community center, a school, a playground and rebuilding houses that were destroyed by the heavy rains last year. “We [student group] had fun and learned hands on about various types of construction with the help of Dr. McCoy, Walid Thabet and two professors along with their architectural students from the Universidad De Piura,” Construction Engineering and Management student Raj Tanawade said. At the end of trip the group was able to present all of their hard work back to the community.

The second group of students, consisting of engineering students across all majors, traveled to Rilima, Rwanda. Rilima was desperate for a waste infrastructure. Only a few individuals had pit latrines but the majority were not that fortunate. The purpose of this trip was to build three composting latrines for the community. This project was sponsored by Brooke Baugher, a master’s student at Virginia Tech studying civil engineering. Together the student group designed the latrines at Virginia Tech and constructed their design in Rilima.

This experience helped the student group enhance their knowledge of both design and construction processes along with improving their ability to work with global clients. “The most rewarding part of the trip for me was the celebration we had on the last night after we had completed construction. We celebrated with the local masons and workers who had made enormous contributions to the project,” Civil Engineering student Andrew Manion said.

These experiences allowed the students to collaborate internationally and help communities in need.