Students raise money to build sanitation station in Thailand

Brooke Vincent

Seven UT students will travel across the world in May to the village of Don Kang, Thailand, to build a sanitation station for an elementary school.

The sanitation station will consist of plumbing and a water tank that run to 25 faucets and sinks. The facilities will give the 100 elementary school children who live in the village the opportunity to wash their hands and brush their teeth, said Pooja Trivedi, biomedical engineering sophomore and risk management director for the project.

“Something my mom always would say is that if someone asks you for water, you have to give it to them, no matter what,” Trivedi said. “That’s one thing you can give to them. This is a basic necessity, and I think it’s really powerful that we can bring water to an entire community.”

The students are part of a year-long program called Projects with Underserved Communities, a collaboration among the International Office, Cockrell School of Engineering and Steve Hicks School of Social Work.

“We’re trying to give students an applied, hands-on experience with international service-learning,” engineering professor James O’Connor said. “The program generates a tremendous amount of goodwill for the University. It’s probably the closest (thing to a) real-world experience they can get at the University before they complete their studies here.”

The students plan to finalize their design by the end of the semester, including a plan for how to create a sustainable system that puts runoff water back to use.

“One of the biggest challenges is that we’re not physically present there,” said Aleem Ali, mechanical engineering junior and technical manager for the project. “We need to know, is there enough water already there? What’s their current system? Do we want the runoff water to go into the field? All of those things are big challenges.”

Trivedi said she is looking forward to traveling to Thailand, not only to try the food and sightsee, but also to immerse herself in the culture.

“This is just so raw,” Trivedi said. “We’re going to live in the village, and we’re going to pour concrete and build pipes all day. I hope that I become more grounded because of it and never, ever take anything for granted. I’ve learned that I should really value everything I’ve been given in this life, and hopefully I can take my career in this direction and help out other people.”