testimony from frédérica, a member of préci 2018, group travel grant awardee (2018)
The PRÉCI (student alliance for international co-operation) is an extracurricular program offered at ETS (graduate school of technologies). Every year, 6 students are selected, based on their competences and desire to combine their adventurousness and open-mindedness to have a positive and lasting impact on a community in need abroad. Their goal is to lead an engineering project from start to finish in a developing country.
Our cohort selected a project in Kunturo, Rwanda. The mountain chain crossing the western province makes local transit quite complicated and there are very few quality health centres in the area. Since most people can’t afford to buy a car, walking is the main transportation mode. Hence the problem we wanted to tackle; the limited access to healthcare for local residents, especially for pregnant women who often end up giving birth on their way to the nearest health centre, putting their lives and their babies’ lives at risk. The infant mortality rate is very high in this region.
Our team decided to build a health post in a central village to reduce the distance people had to cross to receive decent healthcare. PRÉCI was responsible for the funding, design and organization of the project (including ordering all the construction materials). Once on site, we had 4 months to build the centre, manage the construction process and local workers. Upon arrival, we discovered a warm and welcoming community; kids were curious and amazed by our presence, work teams were ready and motivated and our local partner was willing and proud to host us. The terrain had already been prepared and the materials had been delivered, allowing us to start the job right away. The work site was promising. However, some logistical issues, combined to the Rwandan bureaucracy, affected our progress more than expected, meaning we had to learn to work despite frequent challenges. Our lack of knowledge in regards to local finishing techniques ended up delaying us. In order to complete the project in time, we had to double the number of employees and increase the daily work load. It was important to keep the spirits up and maintain the trust of our team members towards us to finish the building. In the end, on December 21st, we were ready to inaugurate the Kunturo Health Post, with a functional electric system and finished outhouses. The opening ceremony was a very festive and highly emotional celebration, great way to end this amazing project. Once again, the Rwandan style shone through the various dances, chants and touching speeches that were given that day. The time had now come to bid our farewells.
This was a very surprising, empowering, yet exhausting educational experience. The 4 months of constructions provided us with countless learning, on top of allowing us to put into practises the skills we had studied in school. The 6 future engineers that we are came back from this journey more mature and full of memories with a unique community. We are grateful to the Youth Travel Foundation for enabling groups like us to reach their goal and live truly enriching experiences.
-Frédérica, member of the PRÉCI 2018 team