School of Public Health students help bring fresh water to Cambodia

September 15, 2006

Four students and one alumnus from the School of Public Health recently returned from Cambodia, where they helped provide safer drinking water to 1200 students at a primary school outside Phnom Penh. Members of Engineers Without Borders, including Joe Brown, Josh Hunn, Reed Palmer, Jamie Perin and Angella Rinehold, worked with the community of Dey Ut to create an alternative source for the school’s drinking water. The existing source had been an arsenic-contaminated well.

Volunteers designed and executed a rainwater harvesting system and planned for the
project’s sustainability through community involvement and education. Funding and support for the venture came from several sources, including Resource Development International (RDI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to the empowerment of Cambodian communities through the development and implementation of resources and technologies.

Mark Sobsey, PhD, professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and director of the School’s Environmental Microbiology Laboratory, has worked collaboratively with RDI for some time in improving access to safe drinking water in the region. Rotary Club chapters in North Carolina and Cambodia also supported the endeavor.

“EWB is not just for engineers,” student volunteer Brown said. “The organization is open to students who are interested in public health in the context of international development. Our opportunities encompass a wide range of disciplines, including epidemiology, environmental science and anthropology, among others.”

More information about Engineers Without Borders can be found at A description of the work in Cambodia is listed under “Projects.”

Brown and Sobsey’s research in Cambodia is also featured in the fall issue of Endeavors magazine.

Brown is a doctoral candidate and Hunn and Rinehold are master’s students in the School’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering. Palmer (MS ’06) is an alumnus of the department. Perin is a doctoral candidate in the School’s Department of Biostatistics.