Friends In Search of Water Across the Globe How a passion for travel and clean water brought two engineering majors together

Julie and Wendy’s team working with Life Giving Water International to bring clean water to a rural village in Ecuador.

In one year, three study abroad trips and 34,564 miles traveled, seniors Julie Swierenga and Wendy Tabler have learned a lot about thirst. Thirst for travel, thirst for meaningful work as aspiring engineers and most importantly,what it takes to address the thirst of a community in places like Kenya, Peru and Ecuador.

Julie and Wendy, both engineering majors with civil and environmental concentrations, got to know each other on a January interim trip to Kenya in 2014. Sharing a tent and a plethora of adventures (including the time Julie rescued Wendy from a swarm of safari ants) made them quick friends.

It was in Kenya that they began to develop a passion for bringing clean water to communities.

“The community we were in had a well installed by a mission group, but it had been broken for years because they didn't know how to fix it,” Julie said. With their team, Julie and Wendy repaired the well and equipped the local people to care for the well in the future.

After a trip to Peru the following summer, the two grew their friendship into a partnership of skilled engineers.

“The traveling pulled us into [working together],” Wendy explains. “We were both interested in doing a senior design project similar to when we had traveled—something that was going to benefit other people and work with water in another country.”

So they pulled three other engineering majors into their next adventure: expanding a water system in a rural community in Ecuador. Two miles above sea-level,the community is in need of a system that provides adequate water pressure to their homes. Julie and Wendy’s team is working with Life Giving Water International to do just that.

“I think Calvin has great opportunities for exploring service through engineering,”says Julie, who was equipped for this project through a summer of research with one of her engineering professors.

“Expanding out of where I grew up and learning about how God works in other cultures has been really important for me.”

Wendy agrees: “Calvin was the only college I visited that [has study abroad options] for the engineering program where you could still finish in four years.”Even if travel doesn't interest you, Calvin’s engineering program offers numerous opportunities for research and community development,including opportunities through Calvin’s new Clean Water Institute. You can also join one of the engineering student organizations like Engineering Unlimited—the club that set up the Peru trip.

VERGE: Spring 2015

First-Year Experience