Paul Cescon and Neda Pajooman: Engineers Without Borders

Introduction by Walter W
Engineers Without Borders Canada was founded in 2000 with a mission to use emerging technology to improve lives in developing countries in sub-Sahara Africa. Overtime, this mission has changed,  and today, it is to unlocking human potential by supporting  local innovators through financial and educational resources and accelerate their impact on the local community, as well as globally.
Paul Cescon is the Director of Partnerships and heads up EWB’s development team, cultivating interest and support for our work by sharing stories of impact with philanthropic supporters, family foundations and corporate partners.
Neda Pajooman is Manager, Partnerships and has spent over 10 years volunteering within low socioeconomic communities and over 5 years raising funds to support non-profits.
Thanks in great part to improved infant mortality; Africa is experiencing the highest population growth of any continent in the world. However, the quality of living has kept pace. Engineers Without Borders was founded to help through the use of technology to address the growing population’s need for fresh water in Sub-Sahara countries. They build and installed innovative water supply systems in several communities. However, they failed to recognize that these communities did not have an ability to maintain these systems. In less than 2 years, all of the pumps had broken down and were abandoned. Communities went back to hauling water from long distances, or drinking from contaminated sources.
The failure to meet their original mission lead to significant changes at Engineers Without Borders.  They moved from technology based solutions, to working with local communities and governments to provide financial and educational systems for local innovators. This is seen as a more sustainable way to help that better reflects the desires and abilities of the community in need. Bringing people together, and assisting them to make their ideas a reality helps tackle poverty and inequality.
Engineers Without Borders provides support through seed funding of up to $100,000 USD. This is “patient capital” paid back over 3 to 5 years. Volunteers both in Africa and in Canada assist through mentoring, planning and education. Supported projects are selected for their potential for success and a positive social impact on the community.
There are currently 9 business supported.  An example is the M-Shule mobile education system. Using an inexpensive and widely owned mobile phone, teachers are able to educate children remotely through text messages and quizzes. So far, 30 schools and over 400 students are using this system. There are over 40, 9 minute lessons, and over 4175 minutes of lessons have been completed in only 6 months.
David CS thanked the speakers and there were several questions asked by the audience.