Sooners Without Borders Heading To El Salvador

Sunday, November 23rd 2014, 11:27 pm
By: News 9

Thanksgiving break for most students means spending time with family and food. But a group of OU students is sacrificing their break for service. They're headed more than 2,100 miles away to Central America.

It's not your average trip these Sooners are packing for. They are carrying with them tools, a GPS unit, hefty bags and a bunch of tape; all for a trip to El Salvador for about a dozen OU students, who will fly out with five faculty members.

It will be chemical engineering senior Alexis Pascoe's first time out the country.

"I'm from Edmond, Oklahoma, and I have all these resources that people take for granted, and I think going down there will just be a really humbling experience," Pascoe said.

For a week, the college service group Sooners without Borders will install a solar-powered irrigation system in a farming community that needs it most.

"They still have a lot of villages in that area where people do not have any kind of clean water, most of them have hand-dug wells, but those wells are often contaminated with bacteria, and they use that for everything," said civil engineering and environmental science professor Jim Chamberlain, who also serves as co-director for education and outreach for OU's WaTER Center.

Learn more about the University of Oklahoma's WaTER Center.

The group will measure the well with an instrument that will beep when it reaches the bottom.

Chamberlain has taken the trip several times and although everyone will mostly speak Spanish, he always tells his students, “Just let go and become a Salvadoran for a week and just enjoy the flow of their culture; don't try to take any expectations from the U.S. just enjoy it.”

The group will have a translator. This will be chemical engineering senior Yaqub Betz second time on the trip. He says the cool part this time is they'll be able to build a community garden with fruit trees for a school.

"We came down a lot with this idea of with 'we have the solution' and they really need our help, but they themselves have a lot of really good ideas and solutions and we really can't do what we want to do without working together with them, it takes all of our skillsets," Betz said.

On this trip, Teamwork will be served for Thanksgiving.

"Not like being with family, but it's our little family," Chamberlain said.

The students will miss two days of school. They leave at 6 a.m. Monday and will return next Sunday evening.