The El Salvador Project
El Salvador has faced numerous devastating earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and hurricanes over the years, due to its geographic position near the Caribbean and proximity to multiple tectonic plate boundaries. With a turbulent past, corrupt governments and a bloody 12-year civil war that only finished in 1992, the population of this small but densely populated country has suffered significantly. Many rural families are still living in poverty, inhabiting cramped and unsafe housing and lacking basic facilities and sanitation.
Following a series of infamous earthquakes in 2001 that left 1.5 million homeless, the Imperial College El Salvador Project was conceived. This voluntary project involves a team primarily made up of Civil Engineering students from Imperial College London traveling to El Salvador every year to work on construction projects in poverty-stricken communities.
The projects are carried out in conjunction with REDES, an El Salvadorian NGO with 20 years experience in construction and development. Engage for Development and the engineering firm Arup also work in partnership with the university. The projects focus on housing, water, sanitation and infrastructure, and have been extended in recent years to include sociological evaluation projects and education programs.
The actual in-country project lasts for six weeks during the summer holiday, however the planning, fundraising, and post-project work represent over a year’s worth of effort by the students involved.