When Amanda Gatz of Cutchogue was touring colleges prior to her 2013 graduation from Mattituck High School, she learned about an organization called Engineers Without Borders and her curiosity was piqued.
Like Doctors Without Borders, EWB is a worldwide organization of volunteers who donate their unique skills to help people in need.
“I really got hooked on the idea that you’re able to problem solve, to find solutions that were sustainable and worthwhile for people to use to improve their lives,” said Gatz. “That was attractive to me because I wanted to do something that was giving back, something I could continue through life. It’s what got me interested in engineering.”
Gatz, 21, will graduate from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts in May with a degree in electrical engineering and has already begun to put her skills to work. She traveled to Guatemala in 2015 and 2016 and worked with EWB on rainwater harvesting systems, helping to develop and implement a design that would work for the community.
“Throughout that process we fundraised all the money for building these systems. We included an educational component to teach the people how to maintain and make repairs after we’re done and gone.”
At the end of May, Gatz will travel to Ghana, on the northern coast of West Africa, to work on a solar business project with Saha Global, an organization that partners with communities to train local women to launch profitable social enterprises, such as clean water or solar businesses.
“We work with the women for three weeks, helping them build a business model and then we build the actual system,” said Gatz.
Saha Global meets with the women periodically for five years after the installation, monitoring the systems to ensure that they’re sustainable and in good working order and that the businesses are solvent.
“The solar charging stations are so important,” says Gatz. The use of kerosene lamps for lighting poses a danger of fire and has led to loss of life, she said.
It is Gatz’s responsibility to raise the $2,950 to pay for the project’s materials by May 8 and she is turning to her friends and neighbors on the North Fork to lend a hand.
“I have a passion for working on humanitarian projects with engineering,” she said. “But I have to raise the money for the project materials myself.”
If you are able to donate, Amanda asks that you visit her crowd funding site.