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News and Updates from our Chapter

04 Aug


This Week on the Farm – Video Blog Episode 2

August 4, 2010 | By |

Video Updates From The Field In Ghana

From EWB Grand River Chapter member Ben, posted July 26th

Hey Everyone ~

Thank you so much for all of the great feedback from last week’s video. It was definitely a boost to my week!

And no, I don’t just do that Ghanaian accent for fun. I remember giving a fairly good closing remark (I thought at least) to a workshop only to be met by a circle of blank stares and unenthusiastic claps when I finished. I asked my boss why and she told me – “Everyone thinks you’re very nice – they just can’t understand anything you say!” Dery’s a bit deaf in the left ear which only compounds the problem. Hence, the thick (da tick) Ghanaian accent.

Episode 2 is now here – delayed due to very slow Internet on Friday. You can watch it .

Also, if anyone is interested in sending a video message or asking some questions that I can share with Dery and the rest of the family they would be very appreciative. He’s interested in what is going on in Canada as well!

28 Jul


This Week on the Farm – Video Blog

July 28, 2010 | By |

Video Updates From The Field (Literally) In Ghana

From EWB Grand River Chapter member Ben, posted July 18th ~

After a long hiatus I’m excited to announce a series of videos about life on the farm in Seripe. I’ll be filming a few short clips each week and uploading them to youtube (yes it’s possible, it just takes about a day).

You’ll have to bear with me – the first episode was completely impromptu and my video editing skills are poor, but I hope you enjoy it!  Check it out on Youtube.

Also, if you have any questions or suggestions of things to film for an episode, I’m taking requests!  This episode doesn’t do a very good job of introducing Dery, the farmer I’m staying with, so I’ll work on a quick intro piece so you get to know him and a bit about where he’s at.

I also took off to Tamale for a week of team meetings and left the camera with Dery, so expect an episode about ploughing as soon as I can get the editing done.

Thanks for reading/watching!

26 Jul


September Chapter Meeting – this Thursday !

July 26, 2010 | By |

Next Grand River Chapter Meeting:  September 16

The first meet-and-greet and planning meeting for Grand River Chapter’s exciting new fall season is scheduled for September 16th at 7 PM.    Anyone considering becoming more involved in the Grand River Professional chapter, or wanting to learn more about Engineers Without Borders in general, is invited to attend.  See you there !

Location:  Rum Runner Pub  @ 1 King St W, Kitchener, Ontario N2G 1A1.

16 Jul


Engineering Ghana

July 16, 2010 | By |

Update From The Field

One of EWB’s African program staff, Grand River chapter’s own Erin Antcliffe, has posted a fascinating new entry in her blog (July 16, 2010) .  You can read it here, or on Erin’s own site “What am I doing here?  Reflections on my role in Ghanaian development.”

Dear Readers:

I haven’t posted for a long time. I know. I didn’t mean to leave you all in the dark. But as time continues to pass, I find myself digging deeper and deeper into Ghanaian life, farming, MoFA, etc. and getting farther and farther away from life in Canada. I was always frustrated as an EWB chapter member in Canada when volunteers in Africa would say they “couldn’t relate” to us in Canada anymore. But now I see what they mean. Have I forgotten what it’s like to live in Canada? To work tirelessly on the other side of the ocean to raise public awareness about development and lobby our government to improve aid? To go to the grocery store and buy food from all over the world? Well honestly… yeah, I kind of have. I mean, if I think hard about it, I can remember what it was like. But the problem is that I have to think hard – it doesn’t just come naturally anymore. I have to actually TRY to relate my experience to what it’s like in Canada. And that mental effort has prevented me several times from writing on my blog.

But no more. I don’t think it’s an adequate excuse. My job isn’t to get lost in Ghana, it’s to experience Ghana and bring those realities to you in Canada and the rest of the world. It’s to see good development, and bad, and be able to share the difference. It’s to evaluate the impact of our work on Ghanaians and to see where we can make improvements.

So I’m back on the blog train. I am aiming to go back to posting at minimum every 2 weeks. I will also try harder to make short snappy posts on things I’m thinking, seeing or reading about – they don’t all have to be epic. I will remember that just because I’m used to seeing women carry 5-ft. tall things on their heads and discussing agric. development projects with district directors doesn’t mean it’s not new to you! And so I’m making an effort to share more of those things with you again.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, feedback or requests, please PLEASE let me know! You can comment on a post or contact me directly through email or the Contact form on this blog. I’m always happy to hear from you and would love to be given more direction on what you want me to write about!

Thanks for reading,   Erin

Though I’m working with Engineers Without Borders, I don’t do much “traditional” engineering. I hope most of you reading this know that already, but if you’re wondering why, check here. However, I have found the opportunity to flex my engineering muscles in a few cases, which I wanted to share with you below.

     My untrusty moto 

This is my moto. It’s a piece of junk. It’s 3 years old and it’s been ridden into the ground by the previous 3 owners. I have had so many problems with it – spark plugs not sparking, horn not honking, tires going flat, brakes squealing, lights breaking. I’ve had to replace the engine block, connector rod, chain & sprocket, rear tire, clutch handle and headlight. It’s a pain in the ass. But on the bright side, I’ve developed an intimate knowledge of this rudimentary two-stroke machine. Ghanaians (especially men) are always surprised when they see me sigh after a failed attempt to start the moto and pull out my tools. They still rush to help, and I’m always grateful, but I’ve learned a lot about fixing my own moto and regularly do it myself. Just give me some coveralls and call me a mechanic!


As I mentioned previously on this blog, I live in a village called Zuo which is about 5 km outside of Tamale. While we’re lucky enough to have lights (electricity), we’re too far away from the city to have flowing water. It’s amazing how much you take this for granted in Canada, where you don’t have to walk far and carry water back every day. As I also previously mentioned, the women here carry amazing amounts of water from the dam every day, neglecting the broken borehole in the middle of the village. Though I try to fetch my own water, I am not nearly as strong as a Ghanaian woman and I am constantly being assisted, which makes me constantly feel guilty.

    Bucket engineering 

Luckily, the rainy season has provided a way to assuage my guilt in the form of – you guessed it – rain! Pure water, falling from the sky – it’s an amazing thing for which I have a new appreciation. I am also lucky enough to live in a place with a Polytank, the huge black plastic water storage tanks which are ubiquitous in Ghana (and you would have seen Kingson, the goaltender for the Black Stars, promoting these monstrosities on TV during the World Cup if you were watching in Ghana!). A rainwater collection system is set up so that the water streams from the roof to the eavestrough and falls into the Polytank. Ingenious! Except it doesn’t work. The Polytank is placed just a bit too close to the house and against a cement something so that it can’t be moved further away (I haven’t identified the purpose of this weird cement structure yet, it’s a mystery). When there is a light rain, it falls gently into the open mouth of the Polytank. But when there is a windy downpour (ie. a LOT of water to fill my tank), the water races off the end of the eavestrough, overshooting the Polytank. It took a few rains and a pitifully low water level in the tank for me to figure this out.

Sooooo last time we had a huge downpour, instead of running inside away from the rain, I ran outside! I was moving buckets here and there to catch the rain, and even standing up on the cement-mystery to catch the water pouring past the Polytank in my bucket and dump it in. Finally, after standing there for a while, wearing only a Ghanaian cloth wrapped around me, soaked to the skin and freezing cold (yum!), I used my engineering skills: I found some rocks and propped my bucket up so it would be stable, but on an angle, where it would catch the water and overflow into the Polytank. Ta-da! In this way I FILLED the tank – I’m set for life! (Or at least until I move out.)

Bonus: I also washed my hair outside in the rain that day, which made me very happy.


    The view from the road 

This last one is not so much about using my engineering skills as it is about pointing out someone else’s lack thereof. After a particularly bad storm last week, I went for a run and noticed something odd flashing at me from the roadside. It looked like a giant sheet of metal was caught in a tree. What??

Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was the roof of the local primary school, folded and bent and leaning up against a tree. It had blown off in the storm like a big aluminum parachute. Whoever built this school did not account for the pressure that builds up from the incredible winds that come in the rainy season. It made me wonder: who had built this school? A donor that didn’t know the weather conditions? A local NGO without enough budget to securely fasten the roof? Or a government employee that didn’t have the capacity to design it properly? I have no idea, but with all the people building schools around here, it must be a common problem.

     The bent school roof 

02 Jul


Afrofest 2010 in Toronto

July 2, 2010 | By |

Discover Africa in the heart of Toronto !

AFROFEST is a free celebration of African music and culture presented by Music Africa and held annually in Queen’s Park in downtown Toronto. This year the festival takes place on the weekend of Saturday July 10th and Sunday July 11th, the final weekend of Africa’s first World Cup of soccer.

Afrofest is a showcase of the richness and diversity of African culture.  It is an event of song, dance, drumming and theatre, featuring world-renowned African music acts as well as dozens of highly-rated African musical groups based in Canada. With a bustling African marketplace, food and craft vendors, artistic displays, a Children’s Village, a drum stage, music workshops, and organized fun and educational activities for youth and children. (All preceding text from the Music Africa website).

When you check out the event details online at Music Africa, be patient, as it can sometimes take a while for their home webpage to load.  If you make it down to this fabulous festival, please pop back here and share your comments.

10 Jun


Call to ACTion

June 10, 2010 | By |

EWB’s advocacy work promotes improvements in aid effectiveness which we, and other experts, believe could seriously contribute to supporting growth in Africa.

In the coming month, EWB is running a large engagement campaign to reach over 60,000 Canadians in the lead up to the G8 summit. We are seeking to promote a more sophisticated message than the traditional “point seven percent”. We are asking Canada to ACT on aid effectiveness – making our aid more: Accountable, Creative, and Transparent.

Over the past two weeks, EWB members have been meeting with MPs, interacting with policy makers, and sharing information with the general public. Hear more about EWB’s Day of Action on Parliament Hill, by watching this week’s EWBBC episode.

One of our goals is to gather 20, 000 signatures from Canadians coast to coast showing wide spread support and political will to make these changes a reality and we would like your help!

Anyone can participate.  The attached signature campaign kit and petition provide  everything necessary to take ACTion in the Grand River Community and help us reach the 20,000 signature goal.

How much time is required to participate?

This is totally up to you, from 3 minuntes to 300, it depends on how many signatures you hope to collect in the next two weeks.  We suggest that you take a few minutes to review the attached campaign kit and become familiar with the issues and the rest is up to you.  Sign the petition yourself, or engage 30 of your closest friends and ask them to sign it as well!

How many signatures should I collect?

Once again, this is up to you.  We encourage you to set your own personal goal based on your own time and other considerations.

From whom should I collect signatures?

The possibilities are endless.  Some suggestions include: friends, family, co-workers, neighbours, and church members.  Although web based tools may be useful in spreading the message, we’ve found through past experience, that signature collection is most successfully done through in person contact.  So print out a sheet and carry it with you.

What is the deadline for submitting signatures?

Hard copies of the signature sheets are due to EWB-Grand River by midnight on Wednesday June 23.  We will be forwarding them on to join thousands of others from across the country before the start of the G8/G20 meetings.

You can submit your signature sheets at the Al Lukas: Live for Africa Concert on June 23, 2010 at the Rude Native in Uptown Waterloo.  If you are unable to attend the concert on June 23, please contact us at to make alternate arrangements.

Hard copies of all Signature Sheets must be submitted to EWB-Grand River by June 23, 2010.

Is there an online petition?

There’s no online petition at the moment. In the past, EWB has had more success with gathering offline signatures. Offline signatures also add more power behind our campaign for decision makers.


How do I learn more about ACT?

In the attached campaign kit, you will find background supporting material that breaks ACT down into a few key areas, outlining:
1) What the ACT campaign is;
2) Why these ideas matter;
3) An analysis of each of the main issues; and
4) Short descriptions and summaries of each of the main points. 

Additional information is also available on the ACT Website.

10 Jun


EWB-Grand River Development Action Camp

June 10, 2010 | By |

Always thought camp was just for kids?   Think again!

Summer is just around the corner, and that means that it’s time for EWB-Grand River’s first ever ‘Development Action Camp’.    This one day event is an opportunity to strengthen our network, understand what we want to focus on in the coming year, and have some fun along the way!

On Saturday June 19, 2010 you are invited to join an interactive and participatory day, where we look back at our activities, events and accomplishments from the past to create a vision and goals for the year ahead.  ‘Campers’ will be engaged in dialogue, experiential learning and idea generation to strengthen and focus our chapter activities.

Just like summer camp, be prepared to get your hands dirty (figuratively, not literally), challenge yourself, learn in a fun environment, and contribute towards a memorable and enriching experience for all.

Desired outcomes:

–      Develop a clear picture of what the chapter has accomplished

–      Determine key focus areas

–      Form goals and objectives to work towards for the upcoming year

–      Clarify and understand chapter leadership roles

–      Get excited about the action you can take!


Date: Saturday June 19, 2010
Time: 8:30am – 5:00pm
Location:  University of Waterloo, J.R. Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall (RCH), Room 207.  Map

Please RSVP using our contact form by Thursday June 17, to confirm your attendance, and receive additional details.  Lunch will be arranged based on RSVP response.

Kit List:
* Paper and writing utensil
* Lawn chair
* Snacks and drinks as required
* Your feedback, ideas and suggestions about the work of EWB-Grand River
* Thinking caps

Weather permitting, several of our sessions will be held outside, please dress appropriately.

Free parking is available in Lot X (North of Columbia St).  Parking is available in lot C for $3. See Map for parking locations.


8:30 – 9:00 Opening
9:00 – 10:00 Reflection: Why EWB? Why Me?
10:00 – 11:00 Thinking Big Picture: GR Vision and Focus Area
11:00 – 12:00 Rock’n  Roles
1:00 – 2:00 Setting the Stage: GR Goals and Activities
2:00 – 3:00 The African Programs Connection – Featuring Ben Best Live From Ghana
3:00 – 4:00 Choose Your Own Adventure: Activity Focus Groups
4:00 – 5:00 My EWB Action Plan

N.B. The day will be capped off with an optional, but highly recommended, pure fun evening to relax, unwind and enjoy each other’s company after our busy camp day.  No, it won’t be a campfire, but something so much more fun and enjoyable that it’ll blow all your socks off (please wear socks).  If you think you are up for the festivities, please indicate so in your rsvp and we’ll forward along the top secret details.

31 May


EWB-GR Presents Al Lukas: Live For Africa

May 31, 2010 | By |

In support of Grand River-EWB’s fundraising efforts for our African programs volunteers this year, we are pleased to announce a great upcoming live music event! Noted local blues musician Al Lukas will be putting on a show for us as we toast our 09/10 year end and send off our volunteers in style. Come join us for an evening of fun, cameradie, good music, and tasty snacks while supporting a great cause.

Al Lukas: Live for Africa

with Special Guest B.B. The King of the Blues Djembe

Wednesday June 23

8-11 pm (music starts at 8:30)

Rude Native Bistro |15 King St. S., Waterloo, ON
Tickets $15 or $20 at the door

Tickets are available from any EWB-GR member or by emailing All proceeds support Engineers Without Borders’ African programs. Donations will also be accepted at the event – charitable receipts are available for donations of $20 or more.

About Al Lukas: At 15, Al Lukas picked up his father’s guitar and never looked back. Some people make music for a living, some people make music for life. Al first jumped onto the music scene in Northern Ontario while playing flat-top guitar for Nothing in the Crib, a Bluegrass/Newgrass band.  Having been a member of the Canada South Blues Society, Mr. Lukas also has a strong following in Southern Ontario. Al is currently touring his second album, Fall & Flight… the album features Al’s original songs which reflect his beliefs:

“The world is living just as we are, and just as we are…it is ever changing….fall or flight, the choice is ours.” In the song Flying, he sings about the need for change; “I’m flying, flying across the land and I’m trying to see the bigger picture, the greater plan”. This song definitely tells a story, asking us not to change who we are, but to become who we are.

Thank you to our sponsor the Rude Native Bistro and Lounge.

For more information please contact

Note: this email address has been updated.  If you had previously contacted us for tickets and did not receive confirmation, please resubmit your request to the above address.

Rude Native Bistro |15 King St. S., Waterloo, ON

Tickets $15 or $20 at the door

All proceeds support Engineers Without Borders’ African programs. Donations will also be accepted at the event – charitable receipts are available for donations of $20 or more. For more information please contact

Thank you to our sponsor the Rude Native Bistro and Lounge. |