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The 2013 Autumn Semester has seen Engineers Without Borders Birmingham take up a long-term international development project with Southampton-based Cameroon Catalyst. Cameroon Catalyst was set up in 2009 by a group of final-year civil engineering students who had contacted Cameroonian charity Mosame Trust about creating a Masters project with a difference. Since 2009 they have undertaken yearly design projects that are fundraised for in Southampton and delivered to the village of Bambouti in Cameroon. These projects can then be implemented and maintained by people on the ground in Bambouti using the designs and the materials provided by Cameroon Catalyst. In early 2013 they approached EWB Birmingham with the view to expand throughout the UK and Birmingham would be their first push for a number of other UK branches. EWB Birmingham Cameroon Catalyst Project was born!

Cameroon Catalyst have given EWB Birmingham a brief to design a rainwater harvesting system for the village of Bambouti. This project will be designed and delivered like any other Cameroon Catalyst project but will not be implemented at the end of the year. This enables any people involved in Birmingham to develop the design process over a yearly period before any work we produce actually impacts the lives of the people of Bambouti. This pilot project also allows EWB Birmingham and Cameroon Catalyst to develop a stronger relationship over the year to become an EWB-UK affiliated project during 2014.

Ultimately, this year is about helping EWB Birmingham learn about how to carry out an international development project as well to raise the profile of the project within Birmingham. So far this year we have hosted a series of introductory meetings to raise awareness about Cameroon Catalyst and gauge initial interest. On Monday 4th November we hosted a final project launch where over 45 people registered an interest in the project. These people were split into initial 4 project areas including design, publicity, fundraising and French delivery. One of the key issues surrounding this project is its necessity to be delivered in French, as a result we’re hoping to include as many people outside of EPS as possible. This meeting saw everyone who wanted to get involved brainstorm about where they wanted the project to go and what goals they wanted to set. We also elected team leaders within each project area to try and develop a main point of contact for each aspect of the project as we move forward.

This meeting was then followed by a meeting on Monday 11th November where the publicity team began raising awareness of the project through social media. Likewise, the design team started thinking more tangibly about how such a large group of designers (about 25 people-strong) can be utilized most effectively. The aim from this point onwards is to divide the project into a series of units that can be designed by a team of less than 10 people. One of the main reasons we were drawn to a rainwater harvesting brief was the interdisciplinary nature of the project. We are proud of how many scientific and engineering disciplines are involved in EWB Birmingham and wanted to create a project everyone can get involved in. Typical Cameroon Catalyst projects are very focussed around civil engineering and we wanted to expand on this to make it more relevant to Birmingham.

Moving forward each team is going to meet each week with the view to get our work critically evaluated in March 2014. It’s a very exciting project and we are always looking for help, expertise and support and encourage anyone to get involved. We’re easy to find online, through Facebook and Twitter.