The UKZN Chapter of Engineers without Borders has approached Child Welfare in Durban and District (CWDD) to investigate ways in which they can assist the organisation and thus have a broader social impact on society.
PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering at UKZN, Mr Mohamed Khan, handled liaison between the two organisations. The management team of Engineers without Borders visited several CWDD facilities and brainstormed ways in which they could aid the largest welfare organisation in the country.
One initiative was to commission energy audits at three Child and Youth Care Facilities serving over 150 children, and also at social work offices throughout the Durban region. The purpose of the project was to provide undergraduate students with vacation work - a compulsory requirement for their degree - and to assist CWDD lower their monthly energy and water costs.
Under Khan’s supervision, the undergraduates - Ms Lindelwa Dlamini, Mr Phillip Gyasi-Agyei and Mr Jeremy Crichton - spent several days at the various offices and facilities of the organisation, using a variety of methods to determine energy consumption and usage habits. The results were then presented to the senior management of Child Welfare in a detailed report which included recommendations.
Dlamini and Gyasi-Agyei agree that the experience had been extremely informative and interesting. Challenges they faced were to understand the utility bill and the system of billing, to start thinking like an engineer and to think green in order to find smaller practical solutions that could be accepted and implemented by the organisation.
Said Dlamini: ‘The best part of the experience was implementing the strategies the Human Centered Design workshop EWB had provided before the project, which allowed us to look for technical solutions and how these would impact the people we were looking to serve on the different sites.’ Gyasi-Agyei said: ‘What I truly appreciated about the project was that we were given free reign. We were treated with respect despite our inexperience, a fact I think was important for our growth as it gave us a major confidence boost.’
The project developed into the identification of larger capital projects that could yield long-term savings. In order to grow the projects, Khan compiled funding proposals which were submitted to trusts and foundations.
Executive Director, CWSA, Mrs Shehnaaz Gabru, said: ‘This initiative has the potential to greatly help the sustainability of the organisation as municipal costs are one of the largest expenses incurred in running a Child and Youth Care Centre.’