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Engineers Without Borders breaks cultural boundaries, builds wells in Cameroon

Sana Haider, Kate Hart, and Lydia Whittington

Issue date: 9/3/10 Section: Focus
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Lydia Whittington and Chris Reichle interact with local children in the small village of Batoula, Cameroon, where they spent the summer building wells to enhance the quality of life.
Lydia Whittington and Chris Reichle interact with local children in the small village of Batoula, Cameroon, where they spent the summer building wells to enhance the quality of life.
[Click to enlarge]
This summer, Case Western Reserve University students Noah Garfinkle, Stephen Fleming, Lydia Whittington, Kate Hart, Sana Haider, and Robin Wilson teamed up with seven professionals from the Central Ohio chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and traveled to Batoula, Cameroon with the specific purpose of building two wells in the community. Our journey was exciting, adventurous, and all too short. We came with a purpose, and although our plans were sometimes thwarted by misinformation, politics, and Africa time, we managed to persevere and our trip was a success.

Cameroon is different from any place in the U.S. It is alien yet welcoming, diverse yet homogeneous. Cameroon has over 200 different ethnic groups, but they are all united as Cameroonians. Our group certainly stood out.

We stayed in Yaounde, the capital, for a few days. The streets bustled with the chaotic rumblings of a large city, but the city is scooped out of a jungle filled with congested cars that follow no discernible traffic laws (concrete barriers are merely a suggestion and traffic lights are deemed unnecessary). Energetic vendors buzz along the streets trying to entice customers. Whenever our car was stationary, or even stalling in traffic, it became a miniature mall as hordes of children with goods to sell crowded at the windows.

Yaounde may be a city, but it's also wild. It is a rainforest with the verve of bright flowers and the vibrant greens of plants swollen with fruit - growing unrestrained along paved streets and tall buildings. The chaos of cars running pell-mell in a city devoid of street signs can be disorienting, to say the least. The city itself is sliced into quarters that can be properly navigated only by local residents. Cameroonians of all ages, some dressed in traditional clothes and others in Western styles, balance prodigious loads on their heads as they dodge effortlessly through the crowds.
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Issue Summary

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Opinion

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  • Editorial: Permanent solutions necessary to protect student safety
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Focus

  • Distractions
  • Engineers Without Borders breaks cultural boundaries, builds wells in Cameroon
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