This summer, students in the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) completed the elementary school in Chitom, a suburb of Joyabaj, Guatemala – a project proposed to RCM Rotarians by the citizens of Chitom during a Rotary visit in early 2014. This is yet another example of the strong partnership between RCM and EWB, which has resulted in several sustainable projects in the Guatemalan Highlands that improve health, economic access and education.
The RCM Community Trust contributed $5,000 to the project, with Rotarians contributing another $10,000. EWB raised additional funds, provided the student talent and professional guidance.
The school serves a community of mostly Quiche Indians though the sixth grade from the communities of Chitom, Chialamqua, Chiciak, and Las Delicias. Prior, the two teachers and the 61 students met in a cramped, windowless community salon divided into two rooms, without proper access to bathroom facilities with appropriate wastewater management.
The new Chitom School project is a one-story masonry schoolhouse with three classrooms and a kitchen, a masonry retaining wall to separate the schoolhouse from the ball court, bathrooms, an on-site wastewater system consisting of a septic tank and drainage field, and a handwashing station. The goal of the Chitom School project was to provide the community with a high-quality schoolhouse that would provide a more formal learning environment for the students.
EWB-MSOE students and faculty advisors visited Chitom in June 2014 to conduct soil tests and collect topographic survey data. They also held community meetings to assess the economic, social, and technical impacts as well as the viability of the school, and obtained a signed community agreement for the project, receiving commitment not only from the school but also from the Ministry of Education and the municipality of Joyabaj.
The EWB-MSOE team then designed several solutions, identifying the best option with the input of the Chitom community and the national EWB organization. The team of 7 students, a professional mentor, and a faculty member began construction in Chitom in late February and early March, 2015. A group of Rotarians from Milwaukee visited for two days and pitched in “as assigned” and had great fun working togheter.
Construction continued through July 2015 under direction of the local foreman, with all progress monitored by EWB-MSOE. The official inauguration of the Chitom Official Coeducational Rural School was July 31, 2015, with members of the EWB UW-Madison group in attendance.