Mercer students and faculty will travel to Kenya next week for a Mercer On Mission trip where they will work on several projects to increase access to clean drinking water for several nursery schools, and the villages that surround them.
A group of 10 students, led by Mercer professors Dr. Laura Lackey, professor and chair of environmental engineering, Dr. Jay Pendleton, associate professor of liberal arts and vice provost, and Dr. Philip McCreanor, associate professor of environmental engineering, will leave Monday, May 31 for the east African nation. Over the course of three weeks, the group will work on several water projects in partnership with Africa Exchange, a nonprofit led by Cooperative Baptist Fellowship missionary Sam Harrell.
“These are truly worthy projects, and we hope we’ll be able to address each problem fully,” said Dr. Lackey. “These projects will provide potable water access to people in some of the most marginalized communities in Kenya.”
The efforts of the Mercer team will focus on engineering problems that Africa Exchange has encountered in its outreach program. As part of its efforts in Kenya, Africa Exchange builds nursery schools in minority-language villages to train students in English and Swahili, so that they can attend free, government-sponsored primary schools, which only teach in those languages. In addition to building the schools, Africa Exchange develops water sources in the villages where its schools are located to free girls to attend school. It is traditional in Kenya for girls to be responsible for providing the family’s water, which can often mean several hours-long trips per day, and a choice between school and water.
The Mercer team will address three separate types of water challenges as part of its trip. First, the group will first travel to a village in the Rift Valley, Loongeiwuan, where Africa Exchange has established a school and drilled a well, providing access to water. However, the water must be filtered because it has too many minerals to be safe to drink, or irrigate with. The Mercer team will take measurements and search for ways to filter the water with locally available materials. Next, the group will travel to the mountains overlooking the Rift Valley to tackle two more engineering problems in the villages of Sisit and Sigor. The group will install a water delivery system, which is itself powered by water. The group plans to install a Kenyan-designed turbine pump in an irrigation raceway to pump water up the mountain to the village. In addition, the group will work with AquaClara International to help villagers build approximately 20 family-sized filtration systems to ensure their water is clean.
Among the students on the trip are nine undergraduate students from the College of Liberal Arts and graduate engineering student Beth Hyde, a 2009 environmental engineering school graduate. Hyde is working on the project as part of her thesis for her Master of Science in Engineering, which will incorporate each of the projects.
“I’m excited about this trip because we’re not just going to give something to these people, we’re empowering them,” she said. “We’re going to provide them with solid products they can use sustainably, that will give them the power to govern their own lives and own health without endless private donations.”
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,000 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
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