We have a commitment to support and improve our communities. One of our engineers is going a step farther: He’s rolling up his sleeves to help a community almost 4,500 miles away.

Support Engineer Jose Silverio is volunteering on an Engineers Without Borders work trip to the town of Mattru, Sierra Leone. He’s one of five Lehigh Valley engineers who will spend about two weeks in the western African country during the month of January.

The team of engineers will evaluate and close out a previous eight-year project to connect solar energy panels and provide clean water and sanitation facilities at a school. They will also complete the structural, piping, and electrical work of a toilet facility to a hospital.

“I’m very excited,” Silverio said. “I’m looking forward to using my engineering skills to help others.”

Engineers Without Borders is a nonprofit group that designs and builds projects to help communities meet basic human needs – such as water and reliable energy.  According to the group, its members are currently working on almost 700 projects in 46 countries. (The group also coordinates projects to help underserved communities in the U.S.)

Sierra Leone is a deserving recipient of the group’s aid. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, only about 13 percent of the country’s 6.1 million people have access to improved sanitation facilities, and only about 5 percent have access to electricity. The country also has a high degree of risk for major infectious diseases and is extremely poor, with 70 percent of the population below the poverty line.

Silverio joined the Lehigh Valley chapter of Engineers Without Borders in February 2017, after receiving an email saying the group was recruiting new members.

This will be his first work trip with the group. In fact, it will be his first travel anywhere outside the U.S. other than the Dominican Republic, where he was born. In preparation, he’s received vaccinations for yellow fever and typhoid, as well as malaria pills.

“It’s definitely a new adventure,” he said.

Possibly the least challenging part of Silverio’s trip was getting approval from his supervisors. Silverio said they’re on board with his volunteering.

“We’re proud that Jose is lending his skills to these worthy projects, and we hope his group’s work goes smoothly and successfully in Sierra Leone,” said his supervisor, Supervising Engineer Brian D. Moyer.