Faces of EWB-NL – Edition #1: Meet the new Board!

May 20, 2020
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Faces of EWB-NL – Edition #1: Meet the new Board!

In each edition of this blog you will get to know a couple of our members from our organisation or our local partners. Who is driving our organisation and our projects, and what drives them? In Edition #1 I will introduce you to our new board.

Engineers Without Borders – NL has seen a tremendous growth over the past years. Petra Beris, who started EWB-NL from the very bottom, has successfully run and guided our organisation for 6 (!) years: “We started with just a small group of people and the idea that we can contribute more to improve wellbeing in developing countries by giving our knowledge and experience, rather than giving money. And therefore we started a project organisation based on new principles of development aid in which it is key to have local ownership and find solutions including a business model to ensure a lasting impact”. 

With Petra’s period as chairwoman coming to an end in 2020, she reflects: “We learned a lot during this journey and I’m impressed by the growth of this organisation to over 600 subscribed amazing volunteers that are there to make an impact. I really believe the people of EWB have the power to make changes by inspiring and empowering local people. On the other hand they learn like I did from this experience and will use this knowledge to make the companies they work for more sustainable. I’m grateful for the beautiful years, the things I learned and the great connections I made. I’m very confident that the new team will grow the organisation further so we can make more impact!”

The growth EWB-NL has seen over the years demanded for adjustment of our organisational structure. Our 2020 Policy Plan describes this to more detail (available here). Parallel to these changes, some adjustments have been made on the setup of the board. Functions have been redefined or created, a couple of members have left, a couple of members are new, and some have stayed. Members that we owe great thanks to are: Petra Beris, Georgiana Stan, Alejandro Hahn, Alexandra Florea, Maarten Vriezen, and  Bernardo Marques.

Board members of Engineers without Borders NL
Antonio Menezes (Chair); Tessa Vaendel (Impact & Sustainability); Wessel Wikkerink (Treasurer); Felipe Augusto Chies (Partnerships, Funding & Business Impact); Irina Sleikina (Project Portfolio); Fernanda Gonzalez (Community & Communication)

To start with the beginning: why did you join EWB?

Antonio: “On October 25th 2019, I jotted down a note on my phone promising myself that in the next 5 years I would be on stage talking about an NGO or some kind of venture that I am a part of. It is really amazing the things life can bring you when you set your heart and mind to it.”

Fernanda: “I got acquainted with EWB during a fundraiser organized in TU/e where I was studying. The opportunity to be part of EWB was the chance I was looking for to be a changemaker. The fascinating part was that I could use my technical background to help vulnerable communities to develop.”

Felipe: “I joined EWB in May 2019 with the goal of facilitating access to basic infrastructure to local communities in developing countries. I want to live in a world where everyone has access to the same opportunities in life, and I am happy to work on projects that will lead us there.” 

Wessel: “In 2016 Jasper Flapper (former EWB board member and a former colleague of mine) told me that they had a problem with their treasurer. He asked if I could take a look at the financial situation. From then on, I never left.”

Irina: ”I think sometimes opportunities just find us, and this was the case with EWB-NL! I was looking for some volunteering work I could do to make our Planet a better place. In 2017, there was an open vacancy for an Events Executive. I decided to jump into this opportunity. If you cannot find the event that you like – why don’t you create one?”

Tessa: “My graduation project was on “circular economy in emerging markets”. Via Students4Sustainability I learned about EWB-NL and joined one of the events. After graduation I was still enthusiastic about EWB-NL as I was looking to do volunteering work. The global perspective of EWB is one of the many things I liked about EWB.”

What are you looking forward to be doing in your role?

Antonio: “I look forward to getting to know all the volunteers at EWB and ensuring that the free time which they kindly dedicate goes to doing something they really enjoy!”

Fernanda: “I like to make sure we are all connected as one EWB family. The aim of our team is to make sure that the world knows what we do as engineers in developing countries. So we can inspire and encourage other enthusiasts to be part of our mission to help our local partners to implement sustainable solutions.”

Felipe: “The annual target of the partnerships team is to reach 10 new partners and raise 50.000 euros in new funding to support our activities. The BIT team is working with our projects team to improve our impact measurement by including sustainable and socio-cultural targets.I am looking forward to seeing new partnerships materializing during the year and to measuring the impact of our amazing projects. The icing on the cake for this year would be launching our revolving fund, and therefore expanding our impact even further.”

Wessel: “I will be focusing on making the EWB financially independent of donations and further professionalize the financial system.”

Irina: “In my role I will oversee overall execution of the projects and make sure that the work we do as volunteers is consistent with core principles of the EWB-NL. I want us, people giving professional time, – to execute projects in lean manner with real impact. Hence, my focus for 2020 is to standardise procedures, distinguish project benchmarks and above all – to Grow four Portfolios (Water, Energy, Education and Circular) in terms of expertise and partner connections.”

Tessa: “I am looking forward to focus on the circular projects and impact measurement. The circular projects are new to EWB, so I am very excited to help with the first projects and learn from this to create an efficient process for doing circular projects. I hope we can make concrete steps this year for our impact measurement framework and make it an integral part of our projects and the whole organisation.”

To engineer without borders: why are borders irrelevant?

Antonio: “In the world we live in, borders are irrelevant. We have gone through many things as a society and there are definitely many horrible things going on, but we ARE getting better. People care more, people want the world to be a better and safer place, for everyone. People care about purpose, and doing things that matter. Look at EWB, it is 60% international, and over 40% female! Where are the borders there?”

Fernanda: “Believing that we all live in one world – that what happens in southeast Asia will have an impact in Greenland – convinces me that we all should help each other regardless of our location.”

Felipe: “I am a Brazilian citizen, with a French engineering degree, living in the Netherlands, married with a beautiful Italian wife. My personal experience taught me that life brings you in unexpected places, with or without any border drawn up by a human on a map.”

Irina: “The border constraints are real geopolitical limits. However, in a bigger perspective, we – citizens of planet Earth, are bound only by social construct elements of borders. Therefore when an NGO, like us, proclaims to focus on solution prior politics, it enables its volunteers to help (any) community.”

Tessa: ”EWB means supporting communities and organisations worldwide. We do not solely focus on the technical part, the business aspects are key in successful projects with a long-term perspective. “Without borders” means to me that we are all sharing one world and we should all take our responsibility to take care of the world and each other.”

One of the quotes  EWB-NL stands by is “Be the change you want to see in the world” What is the change, in 1 word, that the world needs according to you?

Fernanda: “Empathy”

Wessel: “Responsibility”

Irina: “Change is Growth.Only through stepping-up and doing something innovative we are able 

to fix conventional problems.”

Antonio: “Mindfulness. People need to realize and understand how their actions and words affect other people. I truly believe that most people in this world do not intend to be mean, bad, negative, but they just don’t realize it. That is why mindfulness is so powerful, it helps you to understand you, and then understand others.”

Felipe: “Ubuntu”

Tessa: “I think the world needs to be in balance.”

To conclude, EWB is all about sharing the passion for finding innovative solutions for today’s global challenges – regardless of any cultural or geographical restraints. This shared passion is well alive in all our volunteers, so it shows by the 6 heads of our board. We are all looking forward to what the coming period will bring. 

Keep looking out for the next edition of this blog, we will introduce to you 3 new faces again!

Text and graphics by: Eva Labrujere

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