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UMaine Student Group Receives Fundraising Boost for Septic Project in Honduras

ORONO, Maine – The University of Maine student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-UMaine) has received a $5,000 grant from the Woodard & Curran Foundation. The funding will be used for EWB-UMaine’s sanitation project in the village of Dulce Vivir in Honduras.

EWB-UMaine is seeking another $11,000 to fund a planned March 2012 trip to Dulce Vivir, where the group is working to implement a student-designed community sanitation system. The poor sanitation conditions in Dulce Vivir limit economic opportunities of its 120 residents and cause environmental and health concerns.

“This $5,000 grant means more than most can imagine,” EWB-UMaine President Dan Gerges said in a news release from the Woodard & Curran Foundation. “The money will be put towards construction materials and supplies. Receiving this grant takes some of the pressure off fundraising, allowing us to focus our efforts on ensuring a safe and effective design. Above all, however, it will help to improve the lives of the people of Dulce Vivir.”

The grant to EWB-UMaine is the first issued by the Woodard & Curran Foundation, which was established in October 2010. EWB-UMaine’s project was chosen from nearly 30 applications received from nonprofit organizations throughout the eastern United States.

“Our committee did an excellent job evaluating each application, and when our review was complete, selection of the Dulce Vivir project was unanimous,” said Bruce Nicholson, chairman of the Woodard & Curran Foundation’s Giving Committee, in the foundation news release.

EWB-UMaine students were last in Dulce Vivir in March 2011 to begin installation of the sanitation system. The group is aiming to finish the current project before the start of the next Honduran rainy season in June 2012.

“Through our project, we are all learning how to use the material we’re studying in class to help people and make a real difference,” said Rita Cooper, who is serving as the project lead and was the EWB-UMaine president last year. “We are very lucky to have such passionate students and great professional mentors who put in time outside of classes and jobs to work together to design and construct this challenging project.”

An EWB-UMaine team of five students and three professional mentors is planning to travel to Dulce Vivir during spring break in February and March, depending on whether fundraising goals are met. The group will implement a septic tank and construction of a raised mound leach field. The $11,000 will go towards materials such as soil, sand, rebar, cement, and timber; construction tools; the plastic septic tanks; travel expenses for the group; and the construction of a small storage shed to protect maintenance equipment from being exposed to weather.

EWB-UMaine, which was founded in 2007 and is made up of students and their professional mentors, has been working for four years with Dulce Vivir residents, consulting with the community on its priorities, collecting information needed for the system design, and developing contacts needed to ensure the project’s success.

On its first trip to Honduras in 2008, the student group designed a drainage system, which has prevented runoff from the surrounding hills from flooding the area. The residents still have problems with their pour-flush latrines, however. Poor soil conditions and a high groundwater table cause the cesspits connected to the latrines to overflow into backyards, especially during the rainy season. The new septic system designed by EWB-UMaine students will eliminate waste in the backyards and clean the water to prevent environmental and health concerns.

To ensure the long-term functionality and sustainability of the project, community members will receive training on how to maintain the system and EWB-UMaine will maintain contact with residents and provide technical support for at least five years.

To learn more or donate to the project, go to or contact any of the people below.

EWB-UMaine is the UMaine chapter of EWB-USA, a nonprofit humanitarian organization established to support community-driven development programs worldwide through partnerships that design and implement sustainable engineering projects.

Contact: Dan Gerges,; Jean MacRae, (207) 581-2137 or; Monica Plante,

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