This past May, PEA Survey Project Manager, Mark Dandar, had the opportunity to volunteer with Engineering Ministries International (eMi) at Uganda Christian University in Mukono, Uganda for the second year in a row.
eMi is a non-profit Christian development organization made up of architects, engineers, surveyors and design professionals who donate their skills to help children and families around the world step out of poverty and into a world of hope. This was Mark’s ninth trip with eMi and his third trip to Uganda.
On his first trip, Mark performed a survey to design a master plan for New Hope Uganda’s Kobwin Children’s Centre. The project was to design a center for returning child soldiers (sometimes called returnees). This was in 2005. On this year’s trip, between the two weeks of the practicum, he was able to visit New Hope Uganda and see first hand how they were doing.
Mark described his visit, ”When we first got on the New Hope Uganda site in 2005, we were drawn to a rock outcrop full of monkeys. This became our main spot for setting up our survey instrument to survey the site and became known as Monkey Rock. I tried to revisit this rock, but it had become overgrown with trees and housing units were constructed near it. While there I was told, the monkeys are still there and eating the corn they have planted. Very enjoyable visit. On my way back to Uganda Christian University, we were driving through some wetlands and had to cross a flooded road with rushing water. I took my seat belt off as I didn’t know if we would be carried away. This seemed to be the villager’s local entertainment to watch a Muzungu (loosely translated white guy) and others attempt to cross the flooded waters.”
This year’s survey practicum was similar but also different than last year’s. Last year Mark led a team of five surveyors, two Canadians, an Australian, and two Ugandans, all whom he had never met. This year, he lead a team of Ugandan surveyors.
Mark explained, “Last year I thought about how 30 students could impact the country of Uganda. Upon arriving I learned that one student was from the DR Congo, and three students were from South Sudan. I quickly saw that these students not only could have an impact on Uganda but three African countries. This year I learned that in addition to students from the DR Congo and South Sudan there were also students from Zambia and Burundi, expanding the potential impact to five African countries.”
Mark and team spent two weeks with the students. The students were studying to be civil and environmental engineers. The students had to apply and then be selected for the Practicum out of a group of eighty students. They have completed an Elementary Surveying course, but did not have any hands-on experience with any field equipment. The school does not have any survey equipment. The team did the Survey Practicum using equipment donated by surveyors to eMi, older theodolites, total stations, and levels. Some were operational and they discovered some were not. Through the field and office exercises the students were exposed to safety, notekeeping, pacing, chaining, leveling, traversing, contouring, and data collection software. In addition to training students it was a time of imparting love, hope, joy and faith into the hearts of the 30 students.
One part of their learning experience was to have a contest to see which team could set-up the instruments the fastest. The students were divided into six teams of five. It was run like a relay, each student in the team taking turns. The excitement continued even after a winning team was declared. Mark stated, “It was a pleasure to work with students who were appreciative and excited to learn.”
“Last year the students didn’t understand how Muzungus would leave their home, families, and country and come to Uganda to be with them. Some of the things the students said this year and last were “this is the best class I’ve had, I haven’t seen my classmates smile so much, many souls have been motivated, we wouldn’t have had the chance to put our hands on survey equipment if it wasn’t for the practicum, I wish all the students could attend, we’ve learned how to work as a team.”
Mark concluded, “It was an honor and privilege to be in Uganda with this group of students and Ugandan surveyors. They welcomed me to be a part of their lives for two weeks. It is an experience that will follow me the rest of my days.”
For more information, visit: https://emiworld.org/ | http://newhopeuganda.org/ | http://ucu.ac.ug/