Student groups answer world’s challenges

The second annual World’s Challenge Challenge took place during Western International Week earlier this month. This competition stems from President Amit Chakma’s honorary doctorate address at the University of Waterloo (2010) in which he stated:

“If you embrace a global vision, your talents and creative minds hold the potential and the power to solve enormous world challenges and improve the human condition right across our global village.”

Students are encouraged to form diverse teams and together identify both a problem the world is facing, and a proposed solution to the problem, to a panel of judges. The first prize is a $1,000 scholarship per team member to be used on an international learning opportunity (study abroad, service learning, exchange or other experiences).

The top three winning teams this year were:

Monique Tuin, Economics; Lilian Tsai, Political Science and BMOS; and Flora Jung, Biomedical Sciences

Financing for Community-Driven Development Projects
Monique Tuin, Economics; Lilian Tsai, Political Science and BMOS (King’s University College); and Flora Jung, Biomedical Sciences
First place

An inclusive and financially sustainable model for community-driven development is the way to go when assisting developing nations, according to this group. Current development projects are filtered into developing communities, and, by the time aid arrives, it is already decided where funds and resources will be allocated. This means the aid that communities get doesn’t always address actual needs.

If, however, communities were able to identify their needs, and had access to financing through a private company or government structure, they would have access to capital to tackle self-identified areas of need.

The group’s model works like a microloan program, only expanded to a community in which groups would collectively apply for funding. Once a community built whatever it deemed necessary – a well, irrigation system, farmlands, etc. – it could make a profit. When it makes its money back, the community can pay back the loan and apply for a bigger one.

The country the group gave as an example was Haiti, though the model is transferable to other developing countries.

Weig (Charlie) Zhao, David Lau and Jasper Wong, all Biomedical Sciences

A Matter of Waste: Healthcare Waste and Water Management
Weige (Charlie) Zhao, David Lau and Jasper Wong, all Biomedical Sciences
Second place

This group tackled global waste sanitation in developing countries, where the lack of proper waste sanitation is a large contributor to disease and mortality. Given developing countries don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to build sewage systems, the group proposed a simple, low-cost sustainable system for waste disposal. The idea is to implement portable hygienic toilets made of a compostable bucket, including a cover made of sugar cane to absorb foul smells, which attract pests. The portable toilets would be collected every week and taken to a central processing facility where its contents would be made into fertilizer and sold to local farmers, creating a sustainable cycle. The proposed nation for the group’s project was Ethiopia, where there is a strong agricultural sector.

Linta Mustafa, Megan Miranda and Anisha Khanna, all Science

Linta Mustafa, Megan Miranda and Anisha Khanna, all Science
A Bike for a Bike
Third place

‘Water walks’ in African nations would become more efficient as a result of this group’s proposal. Many people in Africa don’t have access to water, and water walks, undertaken by women, are usually challenging journeys on foot.

While Canada has invested millions in the building of 250 dams in Africa, the problem isn’t entirely the availability of water – it was its accessibility.

This group proposed the creation of the A Bike for a Bike program.

Here’s how it works: Someone in North America or Europe donates an old bicycle to United Scrap, an existing scrap metal company in the United States working in humanitarian aid. From those donations, 60 per cent of the funds would go to ZamBikes, a Zambian company that creates modified bicycles to hold two jerry cans (which carry water).

As a result, the water walk becomes more efficient, making what would have been a two-hour journey into a 20-minute ride.