This month, we caught up with one of our overseas volunteers, Jules Scott-Hansen. Read on to find out how she got involved with EWB and her volunteer experience.
“I'm a civil engineer but since starting my graduate job at WSP (formerly Opus) five years ago, I've been working in the water and environmental field. I got involved with EWB when I was at uni and it was clear to me from early on that this was an organisation with very similar values to mine - and in a way, gave me a reason and motivation to keep at the engineering studies.
It's always been a dream of mine to head out on a volunteering placement and when the opportunity came up to do a project in Kiribati, I jumped on it. The project is a joint partnership between EWBNZ and VSA. VSA have other volunteers in Kiribati so it's great to have their support and company. I'm working within the Ministry of Infrastructure and Sustainable Energy (MISE) on implementing a trial of solar distillation technology. Basically the idea is to install six trial sites and monitor them over the next year to assess how suitable they are for the local context. Solar distillation technology has many advantages including being low-tech, low-maintenance and suitable for remote, off-grid locations. However, even if the technology is good in theory, it's still really important to see how it works practically in the community as people's use and engagement with the system is a critical factor.
It's a great project and a great learning opportunity for me - the challenges usually aren't very far apart but the solutions also seem to come relatively easy, you just have to be a bit entrepreneurial and trust in the process! Kiribati is an interesting place to live for a while - the country faces lots of similar challenges with other underdeveloped nations but the added complication of climate change and sea level rise feels pretty tangible on an atoll where the highest point is only 3 m above sea level. Aside from that, Kiribati is a beautiful place with equally beautiful and friendly people. The way of life here is pretty relaxed which doesn't always help project targets and deadlines, but it certainly seems to make people pretty happy and it's hard to not let the attitude rub off on you.
I think EWBNZ is in a really exciting time where they are scaling up their efforts and placements like these are a great opportunity for people to get involved with work that is interesting, challenging and rewarding. I am really grateful for the opportunity to undertake this project on behalf of EWBNZ and hopefully there will be plenty more in the future so that EWBNZ can keep doing what they do best - providing engineering knowledge to empower people to a live of better opportunity.”
Jules's mahi is made possible by the amazing support of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and VSA!