Sustainability and international activism are more relevant than ever in the 21st century, yet the impact of voluntourism — international volunteering — is less discussed.
Global Engineering Brigades at Boston University, a student organization that works to install water systems in the majority world, hosted a Zoom event Nov. 15 to address this topic.
The guest lecture featured Kimberly Samaha, CEO of technology commercialization program Born Global and an adjunct professor at American University of Beirut.
Born Global, based out of Maine, works to innovate in the sectors of food, energy and waste.
Samaha said when finding sustainable solutions, companies should think more critically about what the term “sustainable” actually means and whether that mindset is useful to their business.
“If our goal is just to sustain the mess that we’re in, then let’s just give up right now,’” Samaha said at the event. “The idea now is that we really have to completely change the way we go about doing this stuff.”
In light of the pandemic, Samaha said adapting to a new lifestyle has proven people’s ability to innovate, which she said could be applied to sustainability actions as well.
“A big lesson that [COVID-19] has taught us is that we as humans can radically change our behavior real quick,” Samaha said. “I’m an optimist, but I think that Mother Nature is forcing our hand to the fire on this.”
Taking real actions to rejuvenate the environment is also the main mission of BU’s Global Engineering Brigades, said co-President Macie Monborne, a senior in the College of Engineering.
Monborne said the service chapter, part of the larger Global Brigades organization, has focused on neighborhoods in Honduras, where it typically travels each year to implement clean water infrastructure. To take those trips, however, the group fundraises the expenses itself to send some 20 people abroad.
“We have to fund them ourselves, so ideally, we have a pretty high goal for the year,” Monborne said. “It goes to Global Brigades, so they use it for either the piping systems, whatever is needed for the community, as well as taking care of us while we’re on brigade.”
Co-president Luiza DaMotta, a senior in the College of Engineering, said she was motivated to host the lecture after interning at Born Global over the summer, during which she interacted with Samaha and her work.
“I found Dr. Samaha to be very approachable and easy to work with,” DaMotta said in an interview. “I thought it’d be really good for her to be one of our speakers, and I think the topics were very connected to our group in general.”
DaMotta said she is passionate about fostering lively discussions on sustainability, and was glad the club could introduce members to a new company.
“I think the main thing is just awareness in general of sustainability and the planet and taking care of it, and our part and how we can contribute,” DaMotta said. “I think that’s really important no matter who you are.”