Ireland, England, Nepal, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Brazil – all as engineer…mostly sanitation
Assess sanitation technology that is affordable for low income communities
UNICEF (United Nations Children Fund)
I am a Sanitation Engineer currently working with UNICEF in Kenya.
A ‘Sanitation Engineer’ is not a job you hear of often in Ireland… however, in Africa it is very necessary. In Kenya alone 6 million people have no access to ‘sanitation’ or basically, a toilet. Can you imagine a country where millions have no toilet and no organised structures to convey human waste away from households? It is not the nicest thing to think about but its a serious health risk, especially in cities (that said cities in Ireland were not much different a hundred years ago!)
My job is to solve this problem – through designs of basic toilet technology that is affordable and accessible for the poor and also good waste management systems.
The job is perfect. It requires a lot of creativity (you spend a lot of time working as an inventor!), is extremely challenging but also provides you with a sense of adventure and really feels like it has an impact on people’s lives. The cons are that the situation is very upsetting in some places and you feel a bit helpless to solve the larger problems of the country, and obviously that I miss family and friends in Gorey and Ireland!
My Typical Day
My typical day is very varied – sometimes I visit communities, other days manufacturers and indsutry – some days in the office designing new technology and processes. I am rarely in an office but will do my best to join you for chats :-) – please leave questions for me if not.
My perfect day is testing new equipment I have designed to empty human waste from pit latrines (a basic toilet that has a pit rather than a septic tank). I design equipment to empty the pits and work with local small scale business men to help them make money through emptying the latrine pits and bringing the waste to a treatment site.
This helps them to make money, but also provides a valuable service to householders who need their toilet emptied so they can continue to use it.
When it goes well, this is a brilliant day…when the machine fails…it gets messy.
What I'd do with the money
I would like to donate it to Engineers Without Borders Ireland and FABLAB Kenya – both organisations that encourage people to use engineering skills to create positive change in the world.
I would like to use the money to support two great organisations:
250 EUR to Engineers Without Borders Ireland – an organisation who encourage Irish engineers to use their skills to create change in the world around them (http://www.ewb-ireland.org/)
250 EUR to FABLAB in Kenya – an organisation that run science and engineering workshops in schools here to help students gain some confidence in their ability to create and engineering as a career https://www.facebook.com/FabLab-Nairobi-Outreach-220691117976348/)(.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Adventurous, Ambitious..but a little Anxious
What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?
I taught a group of women to build and create for themselves in Nepal – it was great to see their confidence grow
What or who inspired you to become an engineer?
My Grandad – he was an amazing creator (ask me about his gate). Other than that I wanted to do science really but my mother convinced me engineering might suit me better – parents are always right.
What did you want to be after you left school?
I was considering aeronautical engineer, Formula 1 engineer or physio
Were you ever in trouble at school?
My mother is a teacher …I couldn’t be
If you weren't an engineer, what would you be?
I like to think I could be an explorer
Who is your favourite singer or band?
The XX (if abroad in a stressful situation I always listed to their album)
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I love cycling and have had many fun trips
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
(i) Happiness for me (ii) Make others happy (iii) Lifetime supply of Nutella
Tell us a joke.
My sense of humour is terribly weird…I’m not sure you’d enjoy my jokes!!