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UM’s Engineers Without Borders serves a need in West Africa town

As long as there is a need for service in the world there will be students who will travel across the globe to help.

The University of Mississippi’s Engineers Without Borders team is preparing for its fifth trip to Togo, in West Africa, to continue to mission.

“Humans have a desire to help others by doing what they’re good at,” Cris Surbeck said.

Surbeck is an associate professor in the department of civil engineering at Ole Miss who helps head up the team that focuses on bringing clean water to Africa.

“The most important thing is that EWB-Ole Miss is helping improve people’s lives in a very disadvantaged area of Togo,” she said.

EWB-Ole Miss has gone on four trips to Togo in the past. The fifth trip will be in  January. The upcoming trip is the second planning trip for the construction of a deep water well and water supply system. The system will be for a children’s hospital and for a public tap stand.

The first trip in August 2012 involved five students and three faculty members. Six attendees were from the school of engineering and two were from the journalism school. It was a planning stage for the construction in Hedome Village, a rural village in Togo that was lacking a safe school building.

During the subsequent trips in 2013 and 2014, the team planned and built a three-classroom school building for the village.

Surbeck said the most important aspect of the efforts is that EWB-Ole Miss is helping improve people’s lives in a very disadvantaged area of Togo.

“EWB-Ole Miss can contribute by planning and implementing projects that require engineering knowledge. These projects make a huge difference in improving people’s lives,” she said.

Right now, the group of students is raising funds through its Ole Miss Ignite page, where people can donate, so they can make the trip.

“These trips don’t happen easily,” Surbeck said. “It takes a huge amount of work to plan them and then do a good job while in Togo.”

The next trip will have five students and three faculty traveling to Togo. A gift of $2,450 would cover all expenses for the entire trip for one EWB-Ole Miss team member. A gift as small as $10 would cover a meal, so every donation counts.

Surbeck said as an educator she can affirm these projects are changing the college students’ outlooks on life and the world around them.

“When our college students use their engineering skills for humanitarian efforts, they become better citizens and professionals,” Surbeck said.