Engineering, social work students raise funds for service project in India

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The Projects with Underserved Communities’ India Team launched a 30-day fundraising initiative on the UT crowdfunding site HornRaiser to raise funds to travel to and serve the community of Tamil Nadu, India, in the summer of 2016.

Comprised of seven UT engineering and social work students, the team will travel to India to build a structure based on the needs of the villagers. Past teams have built a rainwater harvesting system with water storage, housing foundations and toilet facilities, among other projects.

The team is responsible for raising all the funds required for the project and for personal trip expenses. From Oct. 21 to Nov. 21, the team is seeking $10,000 through its crowdfunding initiative. While they estimate that their project will cost more than this amount, Mariana Silva, project manager and civil engineering junior, said the team will continue to seek other sources of funding through alternative fundraisers and sponsor donations.

“Crowdfunding is a great method to utilize the web in this modern era,” Nathan Hsu, geosystems engineering junior and fundraising manager, said. “If done right, crowdfunding can reach many more people than normal methods. It’s really easy for anyone to donate.”

During the spring semesters, engineering and social work majors are eligible to apply for the Projects for Underserved Communities program, which is a year-round class at UT. Once selected, students are split into smaller teams.

Teams then select the community they would like to serve and listen to the communities’ needs in order to select the best project.

“We never impose anything on the community, since they know what they need.” Silva said. “It’s not our job to tell them what we think is best. The design and execution of the project is where our engineering skills come in, but we are very careful to ensure we are always listening to their needs.”

The Projects with Underserved Communities’ India Team is currently in the process of deciding between working on either a structural project or a water sanitation project for its trip next summer.

Abby Smith, civil engineering sophomore and travel budget and logistics manager, said she thinks working in Tamil Nadu will be a life changing experience.

“I spend a lot of time every week thinking about the people over there and what they want and need with this project,” Smith said. “I hope to be able to get to know them personally and truly impact them not only with the physical project but also by ourselves.”