Pablo is from Chihuahua, Mexico. He was raised there until he started college and moved out to study.
The main reason he came to USU was because he was applying to different colleges, and some family members lived here in Logan. They encouraged him to come to Logan and go to school at Utah State University. One of them works at the university and thought he would enjoy the engineering program, which indeed he has.
“I first got involved in EWB on my first semester. As I looked into what engineering clubs there were in the university, I heard about EWB and, with the promise of free food, I went to the opening social,” Mendez said. “From then on, it was just going every week to the meetings and helping out with whatever task I could. I joined the Mexico team, well, because I'm from Mexico, and I figured that if I got to travel I could be of great help in translating and generally explaining some possible culture shock that could be faced by the team. “
By the second semester of freshman year he was sure he would be traveling and started his preparations.
“It was interesting, thinking how I would be traveling back to my home country but with another purpose, one of work,” Mendez said. “I had never been to the region where the community of La Salitrera is located, so it was going to be a new experience for me as well as the rest of the team. Except I had better understanding of the language and culture that we would find.”
Preparations were mainly done by writing reports. First the team needed to have authorization from HQ to travel, which required a lot of writing. The team explained what they would be doing during the trip, how they would implement the project and how would it positively affected the community. Mendez helped with the security clearance report and coordinated with CHOICE Humanitarian. This let CHOICE Humanitarian know when the team would be traveling so they could inform the community of the time of their arrival. Coordinating such a trip takes time and preparation, said Mendez.
“Being in the actual community, I was exposed to a new life style, one I had never experienced even if I was from Mexico,” Mendez said. “Everything is much more simplified. There is running water and electricity but not every house has indoor plumbing. Mostly they are farmers and goat ranchers. We went to help them with a water related problem (some arsenic contamination) and we spent a week, gathering materials, building bios and filters for some families and then teaching them about the importance of using the filters to remove the arsenic from the water.”
Every day the team woke up around 7:30 AM. They had breakfast and set up to work for the day. Almost same routine was performed daily, hoping to finish as many bios and filters as possible, while teaching the people of the community how they could build the filters for themselves.
Mendez said his favorite moments were at night after they had finished for the day. The team would sit around the dinner table and talk about anything and everything. They would talk amongst themselves as well as with the community members who would join them after dinner.
“It was a relaxing moment after a long day of work and it was great to able to bond with the people who were traveling, as well as the people we were helping,” said Mendez.
Going back home felt like a good reward after the trip, said Mendez. By helping a small community like La Salitrera, the team could see they were making a positive impact. It felt like a job well done. Mendez said he misses the people in community and would still go back if he got the chance.
Mendez welcomes anyone wanting to join EWB. He said the projects they do are not just on paper; there are people who will be affected by the work they are doing. The team members with more experience and the faculty advisers are there to help and they can guide anyone into doing a great project.
“I'm living in the present,” Mendez said. “My goals are to finish my undergraduate and move back to Mexico to work there. I want to continue improving anything that I can in respect to my country, there is a need for engineers to solve problems in Mexico. I hope I can help solve any engineering related problems that may come up.”
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