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UC student engineers bring clean water to Tongan schools

21 December 2022

Using technical skills and community engagement, a group of University of Canterbury (UC) Humanitarian Engineering students installed drinking water treatment systems in schools in the Kingdom of Tonga.

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UC Diploma in Global Humanitarian Engineering students bring clean water to Tongan schools.

UC Diploma in Global Humanitarian Engineering students Tamara Stratton, Tim Dunshea, Evan Caygill, George Mortlock, and Bryann Avendaño recently travelled to Tonga with Associate Professor Ricardo Bello Mendoza and Technical Officer Siale Faitotonu to install water filter and disinfection systems at Tupou College, Tupou High, and Apifo'ou High School in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. 

“This was a valuable and rewarding experience for UC students; learning first-hand the importance and challenges of humanitarian work on an island that is highly vulnerable to tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes,” says Associate Professor Bello Mendoza.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation

He says the diploma helps students understand the challenges of working in humanitarian projects. “It develops and broadens their intellectual experience beyond technical knowledge and allows engineers to use their skills and knowledge to improve people’s quality of life.”

The UC team worked alongside staff and students at the schools to install and deliver the water treatment systems, which consist of membrane filters and a UV chamber to disinfect water for 2,500 students in the three schools, while engaging with local authorities and institutions to discuss opportunities for new UC Humanitarian Engineering programmes to continue working with Tongan communities. 

“We discussed ways to assist with water and sanitation infrastructure, renewable energy, and education and talked to high school students about UC as a destination to study towards careers in science, technology, engineering, arts and maths, particularly engineering,” says Associate Professor Bello Mendoza.

This mission highlights UC’s commitment to supporting UN Sustainable Development Goals. “It is an example of humanitarian engineers working with communities and other partners to provide clean water and sanitation to improve the health and life quality of communities in the Polynesian Islands,” he says.

The mission was a collaboration with UC’s Civil and Natural Resources Engineering department, EcoCARE Pacific Trust and the Embassy of Ireland to New Zealand.

The Diploma in Global Humanitarian Engineering at UC is leading an emergent discipline that focuses on improving under-served communities by increasing standard of living, capacity and resilience.


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