Volunteering: an alternative form of student activism

How one student works to change society through service

Not all students rely on protests to change society. In a piece for the Washington Post, Santa Clara University senior Mohit Nalavadi discusses his own method: volunteering.

As part of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Nalavadi found a way to mix service and real-world engineering work—enabling him to solve problems faced by real people while also adding to his professional experience. The organization connects developing regions with engineers who design solutions that empower communities. 

"EWB is dynamic. We are in the field, strategizing our next move, building, testing, and rebuilding, succeeding at times, failing at others, but constantly making decisions. You only learn by doing," Nalavadi writes.

Using Skype, the group meets with people from their partner communities all over the world. For Nalavadi's chapter, that included people in Nyange, Rwanda who requested a faster way to create clay roof tiles.

Over the course of a year, EWB members designed and built a bike-powered clay-mixer, tile-press, and implementation plan for the tools. Then, they traveled to Rwanda for two weeks to work with the community.

"I still drive down 101, looking at all the [Silicon Valley] tech companies, wondering if 'making the world a better place' is just a worn-out marketing campaign—or whether it is handing someone a wrench and saying, 'You can do this,'" he writes (Nalavadi, "Grade Point, Washington Post, 12/3).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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