Engineering students are improving the lives of a Tijuana community by helping with construction projects and creating a canal system to drain rainwater during times of flooding.
In October, six members of Loyola Marymount University’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders traveled to El Florido, Mexico in partnership with the San Diego nonprofit organization, Build a Miracle, to help build a park and assess the need for a rainwater drainage system.
“It’s a way for us students to build upon our coursework,” said Adam Betancourt, a junior mechanical engineering major and president of LMU’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders. “It provides us with an outlet to use all of the skills, the techniques, and the technical lessons we learned in the classroom and build something tangible.”
During their trip to El Florido, students spent several hours making concrete to build stairs and benches for the developing park. In true collaboration, about 60-70 members from Build a Miracle and 30-40 members of the El Florido community worked alongside the engineering students.
Build a Miracle reached out to Engineers Without Borders to help pinpoint the community’s greatest need—a rainwater drainage system. This canal system would help divert water and prevent it from collecting on the main road.
“During heavy downpours, the water floods down the main road, which is very sloped, and it hits all the houses on the side of the road as all the different roads connect together,” said Betancourt. “It’s been causing havoc on all the new houses that they’ve built along this main road.”
One of Betancourt’s most memorable moments in El Florido happened when all the volunteers joined in a meal cooked by the community. During the meal, a mother in the community shared her story of what Engineers Without Borders and Build a Miracle has done for her family.
“She shared how her children and her made it to the community and had a house built for them so now her children are able to live in this house, have shelter, they are able to go to the local school that they built and take classes, and the mother’s able to work in the community’s local kitchen—providing for the whole community. It’s just really life changing—as it was unimaginable for her before,” said Betancourt.
The next step for Engineers Without Borders will be to survey the area—obtaining sloping and rainwater measurements—to begin planning the installation and construction of the rainwater drainage system.
Betancourt believes that helping this community will not only impact the engineers volunteering and the El Florido community, but LMU and the Los Angeles community as well.
“As students we’re able to see the living conditions of our neighbors that are so close, but that have lives that are completely different than ours,” said Betancourt. “We’re able to bring this knowledge back and share it with the campus, with Los Angeles. Hopefully we inspire more people to go down and try to make a difference.”
By partnering with Build a Miracle, Engineers Without Borders plans to help this community for years to come.
The five students that attended alongside Adam Betancourt are junior mechanical engineering majors: Will Hohorst, Spencer Colburn, Jacob Orlita, and the civil engineering majors are: Allyson Davis, junior, and Mirella Davis, freshman.