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NIU Engineers Without Borders trio headed to Tanzania

DeKALB — Northern Illinois University’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders is a year away from completing a five-year project to give light and power to a school in Africa.

Three members of group will head to Nyegina, Tanzania, to check on the equipment the organization built there for Nyegina Secondary School and install more. They’ll be taking the trip from August 5 to 14, said Mohammad Athar, president the NIU chapter.

Since 2009, members have been providing efficient lighting and cooking resources to Nyegina Secondary School to help cut operating costs for the roughly 500 students there. 

Several solar lighting devices have been installed at the school and its library. Another device will be installed during the trip. The solar lighting devices are key to allowing the students study every night instead just a few. 

“Right now, 100 percent of the school can’t study at the same time,” Athar said, who went to Nyegina last year but will not be going this year so others in the organization can go instead.

The group will also check its equipment to make sure everything is working properly.

“We’re not creating a stove so it sits there and gets rained on,” Athar said. “We want people to use it.” 

Although the people in Tanzania may not have running water, one thing
they do have is cellphones, Athar said. In the shanty towns, there’s at least one person who charges cellphones with a car battery, he said. Companies have sold phones there because they saw money could be made, he said. 

“There’s not a lot of profit to bring water and solar power to schools,” Athar said. 

He hopes the organization will find more funding for another trip in the winter season to check on its equipment.

Taylor Thanos, the chapter’s public relations and fundraising chair, said the organization gives students majoring in nursing, public relations and engineering, among others, experiences they probably wouldn’t get otherwise.

“We are allowing students to make a difference in Third World countries,” Thanos said, “and in ways they might never get a chance in any other organization.

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