Engineers Without Borders
Q: I was just watching a CBC TV broadcast on "Engineers Without Borders." This is a Canadian volunteer non profit program in which both professional and student engineers volunteer for and are sent overseas to help primitive communities. The programs had its inspiration from the French based "Doctors without Borders" program that won the Nobel Prize. One example was a student engineer sent to Nepal. Their problem was that there was no electricity for lighting and the fuel used was animal dung and precious little wood. Not only was the light produced inadequate for doing schoolwork but there was also a high incidence of respiratory diseases from breathing all that smoke. The children don't go to day school because their labour during daytime is needed in the fields. Education has high priorty to raise living standards so the children have to make do with night school. The solution was realtively simple. Hook up a low voltage system - car alternator and battery and use high intensity LEDs to provide light. 20 minutes of pedalling was good enough for 4 hours of light. The LEDs drew only 1 watt and the LED just about lasts forever. The "Engineers Without Borders" program is very popular with both the volunteers, their professional society and their sponsors. Employers are more than happy to allow their staff time off for a few months to participate in the program. The reason I am bringing this up is because this may be one way for Singapore to diffuse its current economic slump and unemployment crisis, in particular unemployed new graduates and older workers with valuable skills. An assignment of a couple of months, a year, two years max, this is an unparalleled opportunity to get people in at the grassroots and learn on a personal level the things that matter to other peoples. And these links can create new business opportunities and trade links that would otherwise have never been explored. And it is only at this time when you people are receptive enough to try something like this. Send people to China, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Kampuchea, Burma, Indonesia (when things are more settled and less dangerous), to South America. Pay them well at the local rates which will allow them to live conmfortably but is still a lot cheaper than the pay earned in Singapore. Singapore had lost billions of dollars when it tried to go in big (as in China). This program should cost a lot less and have a far better chance of getting something in return even if it is only an education. There are a lot more positives but if you agree with this proposal so far you can come up with the rest of the positives yourselves.