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Building Sustainable Communities
As the global population grows toward 9 billion by 2050, it has become increasingly important to address solutions for water, energy, infrastructure, and environmental challenges in a holistic, sustainable manner. In our strategic markets, the CH2M Foundation supports nonprofit, community-based organizations that provide access to clean water, develop sustainable communities, or protect or enhance our planet through environmental stewardship.
Recognizing the power of infrastructure to transform communities, the CH2M Foundation provides financial grants, skills-based volunteers, and leadership via technical advisory committees to Bridges to Prosperity. Over the past 2 years, more than 30 employee volunteers from around the world have partnered with Bridges to Prosperity to construct pedestrian suspension bridges in Panama, Rwanda, and Nicaragua, collectively providing more than 2,000 community members with safe crossing to access schools, health clinics, and commercial markets. Learn more about this robust partnership in “Supporting Sustainable Communities and Infrastructure in Rwanda.”
Engineers Without Borders is building a better world through engineering projects that empower communities to meet their basic human needs and equip leaders to solve the world’s most pressing challenges. As the first corporate partner of Engineers Without Borders, beginning in 2004, the CH2M Foundation provides an annual US$100,000 grant to support Engineers Without Borders’ operating programs, helping to bring basic infrastructure solutions to developing communities in 39 countries. This work has affected more than 2.5 million lives by providing access to clean water; building bridges that link communities to education, health care facilities, and markets; and providing energy to power schools and health clinics. In 2014, we partnered to help the organization further develop its Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning program to measure the long-term sustainability of projects, an initiative that we continue to support.
Since the CH2M Foundation launched the Engineers Without Borders travel grant program in 2006, the foundation has awarded 150 grants, totaling nearly US$600,000 supporting employee travel to assist on projects in 25 countries. More than 120 U.S. employees are members of local chapters implementing projects or mentoring university students. Employees have also served on Engineers Without Borders’ board and corporate leadership council. Several of our employees have volunteered their time and talents on Engineers Without Borders projects, including:
- A mechanical engineer from Houston, Texas, received a travel grant from the CH2M Foundation to travel to Nicaragua as a mentor for the Rice University Engineers Without Borders chapter. The goals of the trip were to install a pump in a newly drilled well, build a concrete foundation on a large hill for a holding tank, construct piping from the well to the tank, install level switches in the tank to control the pump, and construct distribution piping from the tank to 7 locations in the community of 250 residents. Side by side with community members of all ages, the students carried water buckets and sacks of dry material up a steep slope, wearing flip-flops and still carrying more. Most commonly the challenges were overcome with abundant labor, but sometimes the solution involved ingenuity. Either way, the sheer will of the community members to ensure a successful outcome ultimately made the project possible.
- Stephen Clark, a project manager from Hartford, Connecticut, has been working with Engineers Without Borders’ Washington, D.C., professional chapter for the past 4 years to help a small rural community in northwest Cameroon to improve its infrastructure. During the dry season, small streams used as water sources often run dry, so Stephen and his volunteer colleagues developed a four-phase plan to construct a collection system from a spring source and convey it to the local water system through a pipeline, a storage tank, and, ultimately, to taps in the center of town and at a government school. In January 2015, his team of 4 Engineers Without Borders members left on the 3‑day trip to reach the community of Mangi. Over the next 2 weeks, with help from community residents who carried sand for a mile on their heads, Stephen was able to complete construction of the collection system and spring box. The initial flow readings coming from the spring were greater than expected, even though it was during the height of the dry season. The project is far from complete, but the first trip showed the community’s commitment to the project. Not only did they commit to labor, but they were also able to raise 5 percent of the construction cost.
- Jessie Spruill was an environmental engineering student at Georgia Tech who interned with CH2M in summer 2014. After graduating, Jessie became a full-time engineer in the Atlanta office. As an engineering student, Jessie learned about mass balances, fluid mechanics, integrals, and thermodynamic properties, but rarely did she have the opportunity to practice real-world engineering. When she first heard about Engineers Without Borders, she knew it was a unique opportunity to gain real-life experience managing an engineering project. Since May 2013, she has managed the Engineers Without Borders – Georgia Tech Uganda program, implementing a solar-powered, gravity-fed water distribution system that will provide 1,200 people with potable water. As project manager, her duties included creating budgets, managing the project team, and defining the scope of work. All of these experiences provided her with a competitive advantage among her peers when searching for careers. Says Jessie, “I know that the skills I acquired as Engineers Without Borders project manager made me a desirable candidate as a new hire with CH2M, and I look forward to progressing my new career.”
Born of the vision of water technology leaders at CH2M and Black & Veatch and the AWWA, Water For People helps people around the world gain and keep access to clean water. Water For People’s goal is simple: provide complete water coverage for every family, every school, and every clinic in the nine countries where they work, bringing everyone together to make a difference.
We continue to be a significant sponsor of Water For People. In August, former CH2M engineer, Eleanor Allen, joined Water For People as its CEO. The next month, Water For People presented Senior Vice President and Corporate Director Elisa Speranza, who visited Rwanda on behalf of Water for People in 2013, with the Robert W. Hite Outstanding Leadership Award, for her passion and enthusiasm in advancing Water For People’s mission.
In addition, in our 2015 annual workplace giving campaign, CH2M employees raised more than US$220,000, bringing us a total of US$2 million raised to enable Water For People’s mission.