May 2015 Shop Day

Shop Days are Engineers Without Borders’ Toronto Professional chapter’s all-purpose engagement event. The EWB team combines learning with community awareness and action. At the Shop Day hosted at the National Head Office in Toronto on 2nd May 2015 all attendees participated in the #PoliticsAside campaign by sharing via social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Learn More Here. Sasha Caldera, from the Advocacy Team spoke about the #PoliticsAside campaign (which aims to bring Canada’s development funding back to its historic peak of 0.34% of Gross National Income and beyond).

Suraj Bhardwaj, conducted an interactive workshop designed by Little Cloud Collective. The process of UX design in tackling challenges, encountered by overseas ventures that aim to improve education, medical, and sanitation standards, was tackled via whiteboarding (and my not so great artistic capabilities). We get to see what other people are doing in EWB by bringing them into present and engage in discussions, we get to know each other, and finally, we decide what we are going to do as a chapter over the next period. If you’re interested in getting involved, check out the next shop day.

More updates to follow. Stay Tuned.

International Development and Canada’s 2015 Budget

Given that it’s an election year, a time when the spotlight shines brightest on domestic issues, are you surprised by what the April 21st federal budget proposed for our international development priorities? Probably not.

It’s a sad state of affairs that foreign aid has never been a major electioneering issue. In the realm of international affairs, aid is often overshadowed by the likes of trade, diplomacy, and defence.  A question our government must ask itself is whether it can afford to continue to sideline its development agenda.  In a January 2015 poll, “94% of Canadians say it is important to improve health, education and economic opportunity for the world’s poorest.

Although Canada talks a good game, statistics show that compared to our G7 and OECD counterparts we’ve become a mediocre (at best) ally to our bilateral and multilateral development partners. While the sheer amount of aid a country provides is a poor metric for the quality of its assistance, in Canada’s case the 0.24 percent of GNI that we allocated in 2013-2014 is actually a decent reflection of our meandering and unsatisfactory contributions to development (the percentage is even less if you include the lapsed development budget funding that was intentionally unspent and subsequently returned to government coffers.)  This newest federal budget has continued the 5-year freeze that’s been imposed on Canada’s development funding.

In a document that clocks in at 518 pages, a mere 4 pages has been devoted to “Assisting International Communities“.

Doing the math, that’s 0.75% of document space – so I suppose that’s better than the amount of GNI that we allocate towards foreign aid.  However, the majority of these 4 pages describe how Canada is seeking to improve its remittance systems so that private individuals can send their own money to assist families and communities. While this is an excellent and targeted source of development financing, are we seriously asking some of our newest and least established citizens to take on the burden of Official Development Assistance (ODA)?

There is a silver lining to this budget: The government has committed to establishing Canada’s Development Finance Initiative (DFI), a more flexible and innovative way of funding the private sector in developing countries. (NB: EWB played a fundamental role in lobbying for this initiative.)  Between the spectrum of micro-credit and commercial financing there exists a major gap in developing countries for small-medium enterprise to obtain the capital necessary to improve business practices and maintain sustainable growth. The CAD $300 million that has been set aside will improve Canada’s ability to push private sector development in Sub-Saharan Africa, which leads to more jobs, increased tax revenue, and better outcomes for the most marginalized in the global community.  This is a win to be sure, but it is still a far-cry from Canada’s potential to be a global development leader.

Canada can do better.  Canada needs to do better.  We need to improve our country’s ODA regardless of partisanship and day-to-day politicking.  Join us at #PoliticsAside and learn how you can make a difference today

EWB RECAP: Water Systems Shop Day

Despite a blistering, raging snow storm, about twenty brave souls ventured outside to attend the EWB Toronto Water Systems Shop Day. This Shop Day aimed to emphasize the growing importance of water, and highlighted issues related to water access, water security and water quality.

After providing our attendees with some piping hot coffee and pizza, the Water for the World (W4TW) team kicked things off with an interactive, informative and ‘adult-ified’ version of their classic Water for the World Workshop.

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Throughout the workshop, the W4TW team really got us thinking about how much we take water for granted. In Toronto, we have clean, free and highly accessible water almost everywhere we go without ever having to give it a second thought. However, many developing countries do not have this same luxury. Additionally, the amount of accessible freshwater in the world is a mere fraction of what you might think it is: Only 1% of the world’s water supply is fresh and easily accessible!

During our first interactive activity, we were asked to contemplate what ‘water access’ means to us. We then looked at a variety of factors that were related to water access, such as poverty, conflict, health, and education, and were asked to determine how these different factors were interconnected. For example, inability to access clean water can lead to poor health, but conversely poor health can lead to inability to access water (especially if a community’s only well is located several kilometres away). In our second interactive activity, we were asked to transport water across a room using a mere spoon. This helped to demonstrate the necessity of water transporting infrastructure within a community.

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Our final interactive activity — the pièce de résistance — was the ‘adult-ified’ version of the W4TW’s water filter building activity. Participants were divided into different teams and countries with some teams representing developed countries like Canada and the United States, and others representing developing countries such as Cambodia and Malawi. Each team was asked to build a water filter and distribution network, but were allocated different resources and instructions based on their country’s GDP and literacy rates. This put the developing countries at a severe disadvantage. Although countries were able to barter with one another and trade resources, ultimately developed countries had the means to build a functional system with relative ease while developing countries were forced to prioritize how their limited financial capital was to be spent.

This activity was not only incredibly fun and competitive, it really helped to hammer home the messages that had been discussed earlier in the Shop Day and got participants enthusiastic about technology and its role in human development.

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After our W4TW workshop wrapped up, we heard from our second speaker of the day Ms. Erica Lee Garcia. Erica is an entrepreneur and professional engineer who realized her own startup called Engineer Your Life. After an extensive career in the automotive manufacturing, mining, non-profit project management and consulting sectors, Erica began to contemplate how she could build her activities, livelihood, and living situation around her aspirations — and Engineer Your Life was born! Erica used her engineering skills to build a life and career that she is passionate about, and today she helps other young engineers to do the same.

In honour of National Engineer Month, which is coming up in March, Erica began her presentation with a new perspective on engineering and sparked within us a new way of thinking about the role and potential impact of engineering and technology for global society. This was followed by a fun activity in which Erica challenged us to think about our passions, skills and ideal career paths. Through a series of prompts, ranging from ‘what am I really good at’ and ‘what do I want to leave behind at the end of my life’, to ‘what next step will I commit to doing’, Erica helped us to see that it is possible to find a balance between what we have-to-do and what we want-to-do. She also helped us to develop a roadmap to achieve our professional and personal goals in the future.

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Overall, this was a super informative, fun and engaging Shop Day. Congratulations to the Member Learning team for putting together yet another fantastic event. To all of our guests; thank you so much for coming out, we appreciate your support so much. To all of our presenters; you were fantastic, we could not have done it without you. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get constant updates on what the Chapter is up to and information about future Shop Days! We hope to see you there.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Water for the World workshops that will be taking place across Toronto during the month of March, check out the team’s website here. If you would like to find out more about Erica’s startup Engineer Your Life, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter


Apply to Join EWB Toronto Leadership Team 2015-2016

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Upcoming open volunteer positions at the EWB Toronto Professional Chapter:

Chapter President | R2EP Co-Lead

Are you thinking about doing an MBA or taking on a management level position and would like a leadership opportunity?

Are you a pragmatic idealist looking to make a difference?

Would you be excited to rally a whole network of engineers and social innovators?

Do you believe in harnessing Global Engineering, and the growth of African Leadership towards meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?

Are you a systems thinker?

If any or all of the above apply, then, apply for the volunteer opportunity of a lifetime as:

President of the Toronto Professional Chapter of Engineers without Borders Canada.

In addition, we are looking for enthusiastic volunteers to take on Communications and Finance roles.  Please note that these are leadership positions and the organization believes in a very bottoms up democratic approach to executing our goals.

Within the biggest city in Canada, the EWB Toronto Pro chapter has been the catalyst for a large number of outreach events engaging with youth, politicians, corporations, and community groups on issues that matter.  Our vision began with ending extreme poverty and has gradually evolved to include a focus on developing engineers that contribute to a better society.

Fair Trade Toronto ▪ The Kumvana Program ▪ The Run To End Poverty ▪ The Water for the World Program

…have all been supported by the EWB Toronto community.  Do you want to help drive What’s Next?

Please apply for the following positions. You can find out more information about the position and how to apply by clicking on the respective link below.

– Chapter President



Run To End Poverty Co-Lead (Deadline to apply: April 27, 2015) 

We would like to invest in YOU to lead social change in our community.

Explore. Empower. Take Action.

Running for Change, Running to End Poverty

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Run to End Poverty in Toronto on October 19, 2014. It was a huge success with 120 runners and over $25,000 raised. A special congratulations to our Top Corporate Team, Dillon Consulting, who raised $2,700 and our Top Fundraiser, Amanda Froese, for single-handedly raising $2,170! Amanda won a fair-trade gold engineering ring generously donated by our friends at the Fair Trade Jewellery Co. As well, we’d like to specially thank all of our other sponsors this year: Barbara Oliver Jewellery, BerryFresh Fruit Co, Bulk Barn, Camino Chocolate, The Classical Theatre Project, Ethical Bean, The Detox Market, Hailo, Ten Thousand Villages, True North Climbing, No Frills, Metro, and Modavanti!

If you’re interested in getting involved with the Run to End Poverty in 2015 or have any feedback about this year’s run, please e-mail the Toronto Professional Chapter for details! We’d love to chat!

From, your Run to End Poverty team.