The UNLV chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) USA works with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Opportunity Village, Las Vegas Rescue Mission and Vegas Roots in order to make a difference in the local community.

EWB USA is an organization dedicated to connecting developing communities and designing solutions to infrastructure needs. It was founded by University of Colorado Boulder’s Dr. Bernard Amadei in 2002 that has grown from a small group of students and mentors to more than 15,900 members.

“The organization provides a platform for members to apply their abilities and develop, fund and implement projects which are needed around the world,” said Juan Rosales, a professional Las Vegas engineer who helped initiate the chapter’s first project in Ghana.

The UNLV EWB differs from other chapters nationally and internationally by working with the local professional chapter.

“The partnership with the students has been great,” Rosales said. “The professionals serve as mentors and the students inject the group with energy and enthusiasm.”

These service projects, including the organization’s main project in Nicaragua, have taken place over the past three years.

“Being in Nicaragua was one of the best experiences I have had so far,” sophomore Andre Ibarra said.

Juan and Maylinn Rosales are engineers who work with Black and Veatch, an engineering company, and are partners with EWB. Both are from Nicaragua, and they saw an opportunity for the organization to travel to and coordinate with communities for future developmental projects.

“We get to use our craft and expertise to help improve the quality of life of people who are less fortunate than us,” Rosales said. “The communities are so grateful and working with them creates a great bond, not only between the community and the organization but between the EWB members as well.”

Every summer, selected EWB students and partners fly to Nicaragua where they show local people how to build, use and maintain latrines in communities like San Francisco, Libre and the surrounding areas.

“Being out there and helping those in need really changes you as a person,” Ibarra said. “Poverty in developing countries is different from poverty in the United States. Living in the United States, we tend to take a lot of necessities for granted.”

Ibarra recently joined EWB when he was given a homework assignment to attend meetings at different engineering clubs.

“This is when I found out exactly what they do and I knew I wanted to be a part of this. And ever since, it has become one of my passions,” Ibarra said.

Students are not required to take any engineering courses or be an engineering major, because the organization has opportunities for a diverse group of students.

“Our project requires a wide variety of skills, such as health/medicine, education, language/translation, cultural studies, fundraising, advertising, graphic arts, grant writing, and publicity,” said Erica Marti, one of  UNLV’s EWB founders. “Everyone can contribute.”

EWB is open and ready for new members who share the same passion for making a difference. They focus on using each individual’s talents to better society and lives around the world. Fundraising events like Bowling for Nicaragua take place year-round for the organization, which is funded mainly by grants and donations.

“If you get involved you wouldn’t regret your decision,” said Ibarra. “It has a lot of meaning and brings important benefits to communities.”