Aid worker stories

Spotlight on: Geoff Morgan, Future Relief Worker

Geoff Morgan, an engineering consultant in the International Development Team at RedR Patron firm Arup, has recently returned to the UK after taking part in the Future Relief Worker Scheme (FRWS).

The scheme, which RedR runs with Engineers Without Borders UK, enables young engineers based in the UK to use their technical skills to help a project in a country in the developing world.

For many engineers, the FRWS is a first step towards becoming a RedR Affiliate or Member, where they can take an active role in the humanitarian sector.
 
Geoff spent three months in Cusco, Peru, where he worked to help three community projects find sustainable solutions to their energy needs.
 
He returned on 30th October, when we caught up with him to find out more.
 
Tell us a little about your role at Arup.
 
I am a consultant in Arup’s International Development Team, which means I provide technical assistance to design projects and conduct research. 
 
In the role, I’ve worked on a range of things, such as developing a scheme which will help cities understand the resilience of their urban systems for the Rockefeller Foundation; a monitoring and evaluation tool which the Indonesian Ministry of Health is using to monitor remote health clinics in Papua and West Papua; I helped assess the sustainability of development projects for the United Nations Office for Project Services and I have helped design a waste water treatment system for a northern Sri Lankan hospital. It’s a pretty diverse role.
 
What attracted you to take part in the Future Relief Worker Scheme?
 
Before I started with Arup, I travelled out to communities in developing states. My Arup role is interesting, but, I really missed the immediacy of working directly in communities.
 
In addition, I have been looking to move my focus more in the direction of renewable energy generation. Energy and water are vital, and intrinsically linked.  
 
What were you doing in Peru?
 
Casa Mantay centre (credit Geoffrey Morgan Arup)Azul Wasi (credit Geoffrey Morgan Arup)
 
I was working with three partner organisations of the Latin American Foundation for the Future: Casa Mantay, Azul Wasi and Sacred Valley Project. 
 
I have always loved Latin America – the people, the environment and the generally relaxed way of life there. I loved being in Cusco. It’s definitely not a hardship post! Having said that, there’s a very clear socio-economic gap between the town and the surrounding area.
 
I conducted feasibility studies based on each project’s energy needs, then completed technical designs for sustainable energy solutions.
 
What were the requirements?
 
Geoff Morgan setting up solar panels (credit Geoffrey Morgan Arup)
 
What each project needed most was energy from renewable resources.
 
Casa Mantay is a centre for at-risk mothers aged 12-18 and their babies. Fourteen young women currently live there. All have suffered abuse or lost at least one parent, and the project aims to prevent the women abandoning their children, by providing them with health, emotional, material, educational, and technical support. It also supports 40 more children and mothers with childcare for single mothers, and after-school support for children.
 
But the project has a high electricity and gas requirement. The bills for that use up a large portion of their income – money they could use for other things. 
 
Azul Wasi (‘blue house’) in a mix of Spanish and Quechua), is a home to 16 at-risk boys. It offers them formal education and vocational training, as well as a safe place for the boys to learn and grow. One of their priorities is hot water – at the moment hot showers are impossible.
 
And Sacred Valley is a centre where 14 girls from rural villages live from Sunday to Friday in order to attend secondary school, which is unavailable in their villages. Again, showers are a priority. Here, 90 per cent of their electricity bill comes from powering electric showerheads which flash heat water as it passes through them. 
 
So we have been setting up solar thermal systems to meet those needs. At Casa Mantay alone, this could save up to US$44,000 per year – as well as 75 tonnes of carbon during the project’s lifespan. 
 
Would you recommend the FRWS to other UK engineers?
 
Definitely. This is a way for UK engineers to get out and see how their skills can be applied to help improve lives in the developing world. It’s a chance to see new parts of the world and introduce engineers to development work, and it’s a chance to help people directly. 
 
And we should remember that skills in engineering are a means towards development. In some cases, engineering can save more lives than doctors – albeit less directly – by improving infrastructure, water, sanitation, hospitals, roads, etc.
 
They also provide the means for people to do business more efficiently, such as communication and transport systems.
 
I’d certainly recommend the scheme to anyone. Its positive effects can be felt by all.
 
RedR would like to thank Arup for their ongoing support for our work.
 
For more information on becoming a RedR Patron or joining the Future Relief Worker Scheme, contact Katie Grey on katie.grey@redr.org.uk / 020 7840 6006.

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