As the world around us faces unprecedented global challenges from resource constraints, climate change, urbanization and population growth; an organization called Engineers Without Borders feel that engineering is the solution.
The group uses engineering as a catalyst to transform the world by being an inspiration, enabling communities to develop their engineering and being an influence.
A group of eight engineers from New Zealand were sent to Samoa to see how well development and engineering could go hand in hand.
“We’re from an organization that’s called Engineers without Borders,” they said.
“The purpose of our trip is to really understand how development and engineering really interact with one another and to really learn about both of them here in Samoa.”
The group are only in the country for a week, but have made the most of the limited time they have had.
“We have been here for about five days so far,” they said.
“We have learnt quite a bit during our stay. We’ve visited a few organizations such as the U.N.D.P., New Zealand High Commission and the Samoa Water Authority.
“Our main learning’s have really been about how engineering and development can go hand in hand. U.N.D.P. has really shown us that there is some really good work going on in Samoa that supports the community.
“We’ve also visited an organization called A.D.R.A. and we were told that they are running a financial literacy programme. I know that’s not engineering but it really brings locals up to speed with financial literacy in terms of using their money wisely.
“The other one is Women in Business which has to do with their work with the local farmers where they see how they can find economical benefits from the local crops.”
“At the end of day, we go around and share about our findings and we also host workshops.”
“So we get our findings together and we find out how we can be more effective with what we do as an organization.”
But all the organizations that were visited had one shared lesson for the visiting group.
“One of the main things that came through for us was that if any organization wanted to implement a project then it would have to be implemented with the people who were going to use it,” they said.
“So we focus on getting the villages involved, consulting with the Matai and then going through the correct Samoan hierarchal sort of procedures to get anything done and respecting the Samoan culture.
“If we were to build a bridge then we can’t just come and build it. With a consultation project we need to know that the community wants that bridge, needs the bridge, will be happy to help you construct that bridge and how they would like it done.”
The visitors also found it interesting that Samoa has a certain level of protection. “One of the things that I was happy to hear about was that foreigners can’t buy land here in Samoa,” they said.
“It’s good to see that Samoa has that level of protection on your legislation that prevents too many overseas people just coming in and building things that they think is good but that don’t fit into your perception of Samoa.
“Your culture and Samoan pride is really high and that’s good because it helps protect the way you guys do things rather than trying to take on board everything that western organizations are trying to give you.
“It maintains Samoa’s identity.”
The visit will also helped the engineers get a feel for the Samoan culture so that when an engineer from the organization is requested, then they will be ready.
“Engineers without Borders can loan an engineer to an organization for up to a year if they would like so all the organizations that we’ve visited here are aware of us,” they said.
“So after meeting with us and building a relationship, if they want an engineer then we can go back to our database in NZ and find one suitable.”
Aside from learning a lot from their trip, the group also found their stay to be quite accommodating.
“It has been quite a comfortable stay for us here,” they said.
“I wouldn’t say that we’ve run into any challenges here but we do have a different perception of development engineering in Samoa.
“Overall everyone has been extremely welcoming - the NZ High Commission, U.N.D.P, A.D.R.A, Red Cross, Samoa Water Authority, YWAM Samoa, S.R.O.S, S.P.R.E.P, W.I.B.D.I have been very accommodating.
“Thank for being so welcoming and we will see again next year.”