Robert DiFilippo ’86

Reaching Out in Rwanda and Beyond

In the landlocked country of Rwanda, which is still rebounding from the 1994 genocide that claimed nearly one million lives, geology graduate Bob DiFilippo is making a profound difference for villagers in the Rugerero district.

As a member of Engineers Without Borders, Mid-Atlantic Professional Chapter (EWB-MAP), DiFilippo, a registered professional geologist, designed and constructed a new sanitation system for families left homeless by the genocide: “I was looking to get involved with a project that could benefit from my expertise when I attended EWB’s International Conference and met members of the Mid-Atlantic Professional chapter.”

It was a new group with less than 10 members. By combining forces with other Philadelphia organizations, including Jefferson Medical College and Barefoot Artists, EWB-MAP significantly improved the lives of families living in the Survivors’ Village: “In assessing the village’s sanitation system, we discovered open septic systems. We built ventilated improved pit latrines that eliminate a significant source of contamination enhanced through disease-carrying insects.”

EWB then established a health committee consisting of locals who could perform ongoing maintenance to the new system. In November, DiFilippo and his teammates will return for a four-day maintenance and strategy session: “Our goal is not simply to use our technical skills; EWB aims to help people help themselves.”

DiFilippo’s humanitarian efforts extend beyond EWB. He is also involved with the South Florida Haiti Project, a coalition of Episcopal parishes constructing houses and schools in Bondeau. As technical liaison to the community, DiFillippo is assessing well fields, important water sources for this small village.

“I have been fortunate to have the support of my family, friends, and staff at Aquaterra Technologies, Inc. My advice to anyone thinking of helping out is not to hesitate. You don’t have to travel half way around the world; there are opportunities in most urban centers throughout the USA as well as in Mexico. The work will leave a lasting impression; it truly transforms lives and changes you as a person.”

—Maria V. Caliri ’86, M.B.A. ’92