Engineering for a Purpose
I’ve never blogged about my career. To be honest, there usually isn’t a whole lot say. However, today I have something to share that’s close to my heart. It’s requiring me to be a lot more vulnerable than I usually am, but exciting things can happen when you step outside of your comfort zone - so here it goes!
I’ve worked on a lot of projects in the six years since I’ve been out of college. Most of my work has been in private development doing civil site design for various projects (commercial, residential, industrial) large and small, domestic and international. And while all of the projects I work on impact the world around us in some way, most of my career I’ve failed to see how the work I do is bigger than just my own personal interest. And until recently, this was never a priority for me.
About six months ago I helped plan a women’s engineering conference in Chicago. While attending one of the sessions I was hit with a feeling I had never felt before. A woman from Colorado gave a talk on the 2013 Colorado floods. We watched a video on the effects of this natural disaster. Homes were destroyed, there were several casualties, and 120 miles of roads and bridges were washed away leaving people feeling completely stranded. The video focused on the impact this disaster had on the community with regards to transportation, and how city officials, design engineers, and construction workers had (and still have) a lot of work to do to help repair the damage. The video made civil engineers look like superheroes. As cheesy as this sounds, it was the first time in my career that I realized I possess the skills to make a difference in the world. I walked out of the conference room feeling like I had finally woken up. Afterwards, I spent the next six months searching for meaning in my work.
I read “The Purpose Driven Life”, a book that breaks down the 5 purposes of life into 42 different chapters, each one to be read and reflected on in a single day. It made me look at my life completely different. The entire book (much like the Bible) can be used as a guide for how to live your life. Chapter 29, “Accepting Your Assignment”, was about using the gifts God gave you to help others, contributing to the world (not just taking from it), and how everyone should be a part of a service or ministry. I was on board with the first two concepts, but was pretty unsure about the third one - being a part of a service or ministry. I really struggled with this idea. I give money to various organizations, but very rarely give my time. I remember putting the book down and walking away thinking that chapter was written for someone else.
During this six month time span, I read several other books that have since shaped the way I see myself, life, and my work. If you were to look at my bookshelf, most of these titles would read “lost”. The truth is, I kind of was. During this time I also signed up for and attended the Storyline Conference, which heavily focused on concepts from Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search For Meaning” (more about that here).
The Storyline Conference, in combination with all of the books I read over the course of six months, helped me connect the work I do with a purpose. Thanks to this internal struggle, I’ve been able to find meaning in my local, daily work. However, I realized one of my purposes I have yet to fulfill is using my engineering skills to help people in need. This led me to Google the phrase “engineering for good”. I eventually found the website for Engineering Ministries International (EMI), a non-profit Christian organization dedicated to designing facilities (hospitals, orphanages, schools, etc.) that serve the poor in developing countries. I took a leap of faith and contacted EMI about volunteering for a project trip. About a week later I committed to a project team, and right before Christmas I found out that I’m going to Honduras in March for ten days with a design team to help master plan a site for a community in need.
The project is located on a 6 acre undeveloped site about 2 hours north of the capital city, Tegucigalpa. We’ll be master planning a ministry center for World Reach which includes a:
- Computer-based education center for locals to earn a GED
- Vocational training center (carpentry, auto mechanics, etc.)
- Children’s dining area to provide one meal a day for local children
- Clinic - which would eventually expand into a full hospital
- Mission guest house
The majority of our design work, including sketches and calculations, will be completed in Honduras. Approximately 40 hours of additional work will be done back in the States. This is necessary to tie up any loose ends before handing our master plan over to World Reach.
I know some people are reading this and think I’m crazy. Trust me, I get it. However, I hope most people can relate. I believe everyone at some point in their life and/or career have questioned what they’re doing, what they’re about, and whether or not they’re fulfilling their purpose. I’m so excited to work with EMI and our team of architects and engineers to use our God-given skills to give back. This is something I never thought I’d do, and it’s an opportunity I didn’t even know existed.
If this blog post sparked something in you, then I hope you will support me before and during my trip to Honduras. There are two ways you can offer your support. One is by praying for me and my team during the time leading up to the trip as well as while we’re gone. The other is to provide financial support for me to attend and donate my design services.
The cost of my trip is approximately $2,050 which includes my airfare, membership in the EMI Network, travel insurance, and miscellaneous expenses accrued while on the trip. If you’d like to make a tax deductible donation, you can either donate online or by mail.
If you’d like to donate online, you can donate through EMI's website by clicking the button below and following these simple steps:
- Choose "Project Trip Volunteers" from the pull down menu
- Another drop down menu will appear - choose "5665-Honduras" (there are 2 Honduras projects, so make sure you choose the correct one)
- Enter the amount you'd like to donate and click "Add"
- Under "Other Category and/or Volunteer's Name" - type "Becky Howe"
- Continue filling out the remaining fields
- Click "Submit"
If you'd like to donate by mail, download and fill out the following response card, and mail it to EMI in Colorado Springs (address indicated on the card). EMI will then mail you a receipt that you can use when filing your taxes.
Thank you so much for reading this. Believe it or not, writing this blog post was so much scarier than signing up for the trip. Thank you in advance for your support, it truly means the world to me.