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LMU Junior Builds On Personal Loss to Help African Community

James ClementLoyola Marymount University junior James Clements learned the value of community and service when his neighbors supported him and his family after his brother was brutally murdered in 2006.

“We all learned that it doesn’t hurt to reach out and help your neighbors when they are in need,” Clements said. “It’s really easy to do good things, but a person has to have the motivation to do so.”

The mechanical engineering major will continue that spirit of community and service as a recipient of a 2009 Honors Summer Research Grant. Clements will work from July 28 to Aug. 8 at the Malingunde School for the Blind in Malawi with Engineers without Borders, an international organization that promotes community-driven, sustainable engineering projects, while fostering responsible leadership. Malingunde enrolls more than 50 students who are either blind or severely visually impaired, and lack access to freshwater.

The ultimate goal of the EWB in the African nation is to help build an irrigation system in order to make freshwater accessible for the community year-round. This will be the first trip to the school by LMU’s chapter of EWB. Clements will help conduct a site visit to take measurements and learn the landscape, and build a relationship with the community. “Our priority is to get the community to trust us. We want to rise with them, and not force our culture on anybody,” Clements said.

Clements also plans to help develop new solar technology for the Braille machines in the school, which are often out-of-power or breaking down. Clements also said that he hopes to empower students who face discrimination from the community and government because of their disability.

“The students have been told that they can’t be counted on, but I believe they can still make a difference. I don’t know how, but we will find a way for them to help build the well,” Clements said. “It will do no good if they don’t actively participate in the process.”

Each year, the LMU Honors Program offers several fellowships for summer projects conducted around the world. Fellows are awarded $5,000 to support research, travel, internships, writing or tuition.

“I am honored to receive this grant. I hope to use my engineering skills and education to help people and to work toward peace,” Clements said.