Celebrating the success of the UWE Global Water Security Project

Students who took part in this summer’s UWE Global Water Security Project came together for a ‘Celebrating Success’ event on 20 November. The event, which was also attended by colleagues from partner organisations and UWE staff members, was a chance to reflect on another successful year for the project and learn more about the research projects undertaken by the students.

Following welcome remarks from Professor Chad Staddon, a short film was shown, produced by BA Media Culture and Practice student Melanie Vaxevanakis, one of six students who travelled to Uganda to work with the National Association of Professional Environmentalists. This team – which also included BSc Biomedical Science, BSc Geography, BSc Environmental Science and MEng Mechanical Engineering students – were researching the effects on human and environmental health from artisanal gold mining in Bukuya.

One of the students, Will Bickerton (BSc Environmental Science), is doing a six-month placement with NAPE and he joined the event by Skype. He talked about the impact of his research: he tested water in a borehole at a local school and found it had levels of contamination many times the safe limit, with the result that a new, safer supply has been created for the school.

There were presentations from BEng Civil and Environmental Engineering student Martin Georgiev, who worked with RMI in Swaziland, and Peter Covell (BA Architecture and Planning; right), who carried out research on step wells in Gujarat, India with the Samerth Trust.

Joe Denby and Alex Davies (BEng Civil and Environmental Engineering; right) presented a short film looking at their time in Kisoro, Uganda, where their research focused on analysing the structural integrity of ferro-concrete rainwater harvesting tanks.

A Q&A session followed, in which the students were asked questions by audience members. When asked if they would like to return to the country they visited, every student raised their hand.

Katie Alcott (FRANK Water) and Rebekah Rice (Bristol Water) then spoke about the importance of such opportunities, not only because it helps the host organisations and communities, but because the students benefit through new learning experiences, boosting their confidence, communication skills and employability. Both Katie and Rebekah had studied and worked abroad and the UWE Global Water Security Programme is keen to work with both their organisations, as well as the Pahar Trust who were also represented, to offer placements to UWE students in the years ahead.

The event closed with some words from Professor Paul Olomolaiye, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Environment and Technology, who was a key inspiration for, and supporter of, this project when it was founded in 2012. He praised the students for their “amazing” work, and said that many of the children and others they met will remember them for years to come.

Since 2012, 34 students have travelled to partner organisations in Uganda, Kenya, Swaziland, South Africa, India, Peru and Nigeria to conduct water research as part of this project. These students have gone on to work for a wide range of employers, including WaterAid, The Converging World, Organic Farmers & Growers Ltd, National Trust, International Trade and Development (Itad), Hilton Hotels (as Energy and Environment Intern), Wall Street English Vietnam, Bristol City Council and Market Operator Services Limited.