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University of Oklahoma students to volunteer in El Salvador

University of Oklahoma engineering students and their professors will spend their Thanksgiving break helping to build water systems in El Salvador.
BY LORI JOHNSON Published: November 20, 2013

More than a dozen University of Oklahoma College of Engineering students and professors are giving up their Thanksgiving break to help build water systems in El Salvador.

The students are part of the engineering outreach group Sooners Without Borders, which partners with disadvantaged communities to build economically sustainable engineering projects. The group is working through EcoViva as part of its Community Empowerment Tour.

“Sooners Without Borders helps develop internationally responsible engineering students through cultural and educational opportunities like El Salvador,” said Jim Chamberlain, environmental engineering professor and Sooners Without Borders faculty adviser. “These experiences align with (OU) President (David) Boren's vision of advancing a global perspective in all aspects of OU education.”

Two weeks before the trip, Chamberlain advised students of some important safety precautions.

“Don't drink the water or eat raw vegetables. Bring toilet paper and ear plugs,” he told them. “It gets very noisy at 5 a.m., when the farmers and the animals start the day.”

Chamberlain cautioned team members that even after hundreds of hours of preparation, their plans may be “thrown out the window” when they arrive, due to weather or logistical issues.

The group will stay with host families in Ciudad Romero. Students will eat with their hosts, stay in their beds or hammocks, use their outdoor latrines and take bucket showers from the well.

Two water projects

The village was founded in 1991 by 300 families of former refugees from the Salvadoran highlands returning after 10 years of exile in the Panama jungles. The farming community is working with groups such as Sooners Without Borders to build an infrastructure compatible with the region's climate and topography.

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