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ME Students to Participate in Quito Project


Whether grilling at an Ann Arbor eatery or building a shower in Ecuador, three Mechanical Engineering undergraduates will flex some different muscles during their participation in the Quito Project.

This July some twenty University of Michigan students will travel to a small brick-making community near Quito, Ecuador. In Chillogallo, some of the students will tutor local children in math, reading and geography. Six medical students will provide nutrition and hygiene seminars to residents of the underserved community and bring medical supplies and assistance to the local hospital. Five engineering students, including Heejung Hong, Jack Hsu and Ariel Sundel, will lead construction of a shower facility that is “desperately needed,” says Bina Valsangkar, a first-year medical student and the program’s founder and director. If time and funds allow, the engineering students may also build a structure for children to use for studying or playing after school.

To raise money for the trip, medical and building supplies and matriculation fees for five children who currently can’t afford schooling, the U-M students and faculty mentors will serve as “honored guest grillers” at bd’s mongolian barbeque © on Tuesday, March 22, at 7:00 p.m. All tips they collect will go toward the project.

Hsu says he hopes the event will “get people educated and involved about this project and the many others that are like it. I guess I would really like to see people more socially aware–especially on a global level. And raising enough money to cover our expenses would be nice also.”

The total cost of the project is $28,350. Valsangkar is hoping the guest grillers will raise at least $500 on Tuesday.

She also hopes the support that the project will offer in Chillogallo will “start the community in the right direction toward better education and health.” Valsangkar traveled to Quito two years ago as a volunteer with a non-governmental organization. When it withdrew its support, her host family asked her to send volunteers. Their request for help inspired her to start the Quito Project, under the auspices of the Global REACH (Research, Education And Collaboration in Health) Student Alliance of the U-M Medical School.

In giving their time and energy to the project, the ME students expect to gain a great deal. Hsu believes he’ll gain insight into what he wants to do with his life, his engineering degree and his career.

Hong says she is already learning how to work with others in different disciplines and how to make decisions based on specifications and requirements “and apply them, as opposed to following technical orders from professors.”

But most importantly, Hong says, “it’s the reward of making some sort of contribution to the people there that is the true gain….I look forward to giving more and being of some use.”

To make a donation to the project, contact Global REACH Student Alliance at 734-998-6825.