EWB-NL: Arnoud Kramer, engineering in Paradise
Already over three months have passed since I returned from the remote village of Andavadoaka in Madagascar to work on a 60kW solarpark. As a 23-year-old mechanical engineering student, I do not believe there are many who can say the same. My name is Arnoud Kramer and although last February I was ready to start my master thesis at the TU Delft, I wasn’t truly ready for that. What I wanted first was an experience and that is exactly what I got.
Through students4sustainability I found an organisation, EWB-NL, that uses technology to help people who are less familiar with it. Through technology we, EWB-NL, can help societies living in poverty to help themselves, whether it is through electricity, water treatment or waste management. That is why I joined EWB-NL, because they are looking ahead, not just to the coming year, but to the coming decade.
Of course, working in a remote African village has taught me a lot of useful skills as an engineer. For example I started to learn to use whatever I had lying around, since ordering any component takes months to reach the village. Also, for the first time, I truly experienced the importance of proper communication, because through language and cultural barriers it’s impossible to function without extremely clear and structured communication.
Although this will be a great addition to my skillset, there is something completely different that I take away from this project personally: I will never again forget all the things I took for granted every single day. That I do not have to fill my buckets with water outside the village in the well, that I do not have to worry about getting enough firewood to cook or get warm or that I do not have to do number two on the beach without any means to wipe.
I will never forget the first shower I had when I returned from the project; the fresh, warm water on my back, which must be the best shower I ever had.
My most cherished memories will be those of the mornings in Andavadoaka. Everyday I woke up around 6.00, when the first light hit the sky. I grabbed a fresh orange, stepped outside on the beach and walked just 100 metres onto the rocks at the end of the bay. From there I could see the sunrise, the clear ocean with the first pirogues setting sail for a day of fishing and the beautiful small village slowly coming to live. Somehow that beauty and simple serenity can no longer be found here.
I do not want to imply that it has been a project for me with only ups and not a single down. There has been a moment when my motivation dropped to a low after receiving yet another message that the local logistics had failed me. Nevertheless, when I look around me, talk to the people, envision the perfect solarpark, there are always other things that can be done.