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Colleen Kaleda from The Community Project with members of the village

Community School, Debre Birhan, Ethiopia

Engineers Without Borders teams with The Community Project: Ethiopia to increase public health through education and sanitation in Kabele 06 in Debre Birhan.

Debre Birhan continues even though travel has been suspended due to civil unrest in Ethiopia.

The Community School

The Community School will be for all ages K-10, the older children helping the younger ones so parents will know they are safe and cared for. This foundation of community, the nurturing, safety and growth of children will be the centerpiece of the project.

Welcome ceremony

The Community Center

The Community Center will be a community meeting place to help people of all ages connect and thrive. The large community center will house classes for adults, special meetings, a place for children to play inside, out of the sun and rains. Community meals, health care, celebrations and job training will bring the villagers together. Separate smaller rooms may contain a library and donated computers for homework and job-seekers connecting to the world.

The Community Garden


The Community Garden will be within the school/community center complex. It will provide the village a place to learn about growing their own healthy vegetables, fruits and herbs. With a dedicated manager and a nearby water source, healthy food crops will be grown and shared. School children and others can come for hands-on gardening, planting, sharing the harvest and saving the seeds for a new season. The Community Garden has the potential to give and grow for generations to come.

young girl from the village

Fall 2015

cutting wire for rebar

We have made five trips to Debre Birhan to date, with three of those trips occurring this past fall to support the commencement of school construction.  School construction is scheduled to be completed later this year. A track and soccer field are also being constructed.

July 2015

The Portland Maine Professionals and the Portland State University Student Chapters conducted a monitoring trip in July 2015. The purpose of the monitoring trip was to determine if pilot facilities were accessible and functional for the community and if the design latrine was adopted by the community.

March 2015

The Portland Maine Professionals and the Portland State University Student Chapters completed the third assessment trip to Debre Birhan, Ethiopia March 19 through March 29, 2015. The focus of their trip was to assess the urine diversion toilet basin, masonry construction using stone materials, compressed earth block making, and develop a materials and construction schedule for the community school building.

December 2014

The Portland State University Student Chapter (EWB-PSU) constructed latrines. Two masonry structures were completed during the December 2015 implementation trip. Foundations were excavated for both latrines and reinforced concrete footings were poured. CMU walls were constructed, floor slabs were poured and roof trusses were fabricated and installed on both structures. Community health surveys will be used in the future to collect data on typical restroom practices. This data will be used to help the team design an education program on the proper use of composting latrines. The team also made technical presentations at both Debre Birhan University (DBU) and Addis Ababa Science and Technology University (AASTU). These two universities have since signed Memorandum of Understanding agreements with Portland State University. These MOU’s offer valuable in-country engineering assistance and expertise to the project.

May 2014

Our second assessment trip took place in May 2014. We gathered a material list and costs and we performed a site survey on the new site location.

September 2013

Our first assessment trip took place in September 2013. The goal of the project is to improve the health of the community through education, by building an all grades (K through 8) school. We are teaming with Debre Birhan City Administration Office, North Shewa Education Department and Debre Birhan City Municipality. The education office and department will provide technical support and the municipality will give land for the implementation of the projects free of charge. This project was first started by volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, where over 500 homes have already been constructed. With this help up, the final step to a sustainable and supporting community is to provide safe and sanitary education for children and adults.

Now that we have collected data, acquired access to the land, and have a Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Community, the next step is to begin our design and to break ground. We will start with the lavatories and water access, and then each block of schools. We are teaming with architects, other EWB chapters and students at the University of Debre Birhan, all with the common goal to improve public health through education and sanitation.

To get involved with this project, contact Nadia Gluckberg.