ORIGIN: Starting the Conversation

Engineers Without Borders – Bolivia

11.27.18 by Adrian Martin
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As many of you are aware, I recently traveled to Bolivia to participate in a humanitarian mission with the University of Tulsa student chapter of Engineers Without Borders.  In fact I’ve only been back in Tulsa for 15 hours as I’m writing this! Needless to say, it was an incredibly exciting and valuable experience.

Our mission was to build two combination shower and pit latrines in the Aymaran village of Machacamarca-Micacuni. The Aymarans are an indigenous people that pre-dated and were members of the Inca Empire prior to the Spanish arrival. Spanish is their second language! The two sites that were chosen by the community elders were for the Mamani and Jhordi families.  Mamani was chosen because Marcos Mamani had done most of the coordination with our in-country NGO, Fundacion Ingenieros En Accion (engineersinaction.org), while the Jhordi site was selected according to the most dire need in the community. Ascencia Jhordi is recently a widow raising two daughters. The village is located at -15.722694, -68.804411 at approximately 11,000 feet above sea level.

We successfully implemented the two facilities each consisting of a 4.5m^2 slab on grade, a 3m deep by 1m diameter stone reinforced bleed pit, clay tile masonry walls that were between 1.75m and 2m tall with wood beam and metal deck roofs. We mixed approximately 5 yd^3 of concrete and mortar by hand using the “Volcano” method (which is a quite a trip). We were on site for seven days of the 11 day trip, and we completed the build in just six days and some change. A large part of the last day was spent packing and attending a community meal in appreciation of our work. We spent one day each in La Paz (elev. ~13,000 ft) on the way in and out, and we passed over the continental divide at 14,600 ft. The rapid altitude acclimatization was pretty rough on all of us, but we were able to overcome the symptoms and do a good work for this community.

FIEA works with groups other than Engineers Without Borders to implement rural infrastructure projects throughout Bolivia. Our project manager, Ricardo Condori, mentioned to me that they have as many as 20 projects that require volunteer participation, and they regularly fill only about three of those slots. If you are an engineer and something like this interests you, please let me know and I’ll get in touch with FIEA and help you work out the arrangements.


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Adrian Martin, PE


Adrian received his Bachelor of Architectural Engineering degree from Oklahoma State University and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Oklahoma and Texas. Adrian’s design experience…

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