Who are the volunteers behind the projects?
Meet a 4-year member of the Usalama project, Patrick Farnham. Patrick moved to NYC in 2012, joining EWB-NY shortly thereafter. Patrick inherited the position of EWB-NY Vice President from Cheehan Leung in mid-2014, but continues his involvement with Usalama.
Patrick dancing with a primary school music class in Usalama
Patrick, what's your day job?
I'm a senior staff environmental engineer at an engineering consulting firm (and partner of EWB-USA) called Langan
. I work on environmental remediation, construction oversight, and compliance projects in NYC and the tri-state area.
I've been involved with EWB since 2012, when I joined the Usalama project. I have contributed to the water system design aspect of the project since then, as a member of the technical team. As with each member of the project, I have also contributed to fundraising and marketing to ensure the long-term viability of our project. Separately, I have been the Vice President of the EWB - New York Professionals chapter since 2014. As VP, I assist the chapter with day-to-day management of its four projects and four committees.
What got you started with EWB?
I started with EWB in 2012 after receiving the recommendation from a coworker, Brent Gatlin, who had been involved with EWB-NY's fundraising effort and with the project in Siem Reap, Cambodia
. I had previously been involved with the AguaClara water project
as an undergraduate and later as a Master of Engineering student at Cornell University
. AguaClara taught me about sustainable international development and how to apply my schooling in a positive way for those who need it most. It also showed me how essential it is to utilize your engineering expertise responsibly, rather than by pouring money and technology into a village thousands of miles from home without effective transfer of knowledge or development of a sense of community ownership.
What’s your favorite thing about EWB?
EWB, as a volunteer activity, is is an ongoing and engaging. I like the continued sense of investment that I get from being involved with individual projects over years-long periods, as well as being in tune with the general operations of the entire chapter. One-off volunteer engagements are also valuable, but there's something special about seeing something through as it unfolds from an idea to an actual tangible deliverable.
What’s the biggest challenge with EWB?
Because I currently work in engineering consulting in New York City, I am used to a fast-paced development process with no specific starting time or ending time each day. Working with communities across the world, some located in areas with spotty or nonexistent access to instant communication methods, brings me out of my comfort zone. It necessitates a patient communication process and plenty of planning ahead for travel and purchase of supplies. Sometimes it helps to remember these coordination quirks when stressing about missing an NYC deadline by one hour!
What would you say to people who want to get involved?
I would recommend getting involved to anyone who wants to feel like their free time is well-spent. Investing yourself in a long-term development project delivers a sense of cumulative accomplishment, and helps maintain a healthy perspective on what we take for granted. It's easy to lose that perspective in a place like NYC, so EWB offers a chance to work hard, think hard, and stay grounded.
Donate today to help Patrick and the Usalama team conduct final evaluations and complete this project.