24 December 2019
Students from the NUS Civil Engineering Club embarked on a an Overseas Community Involvement Project (OCIP), Operation Orion 2018 (Orion) in Mambugsay, Negros Occidental in Philippines from 11 to 28 December 2018. As a student-initiated community service project, Orion collaborated with Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, a Non-Government Organisation based in Philippines to provide a better standard of living and quality of life for those living in the rural areas. Orion encompassed two main segments — Operations and Programmes.
The population of the city relies on lemongrass farming and processing as their main source of income. Most farmers have resorted to using plots of land at higher altitudes due to the high rents of agricultural land. With the lack of irrigation at such altitudes and the prevalence of droughts, frequent crop failures result in seasonal income. The team set out to address this issue to improve the efficiency of the processing of these crops.
A hydraulic ram pump system that utilises natural energy conversion to pump water to higher altitudes was constructed at a main stream 200 meters (in altitude) away from the local community. The system effectively serves as a more accessible source of water. To complement the installation of the pump, a 100 cubic meter reservoir was installed, at an elevation of 216 meters, near the agricultural plots. The team aided in tasks such as concrete mixing, the assembly of the skeletal frame using wire mesh as well as plastering.
Many of the locals earn a large proportion of their income from the sale of lemongrass oil after the harvesting and processing of the crops. However, the production of oil is often hindered due to issues such as roof leaks that damaged the crops and lack of storage at their local lemongrass factory. In view of these problems, our team refurbished the factory with the installation of a new roof and concrete floor slab. Additional drying sheds were constructed, effectively increasing storage space by up to 25%.
Participant, Marcus 2017/18 batch shared that his favourite memory of Orion was forging of new friendships. “Away from the bustling and technology-filled city life, everyone stepped out of their comfort zone and into a foreign environment. We had set a goal of accomplishing three projects – we persevered and motivated each other despite tough times such as having to pull a lorry up the steep hill or manually mixing cement. These hardships allowed us to bond together into a family. At the end of a hard day’s work, all we did was sit around and laugh about the memories we had and the bonds we share."
The team actively immersed themselves in the local culture through personal and meaningful connections. Students strove to empower the local community by conducting English and Science lessons for all ages, with a large focus on proficiency and boosting confidence. They facilitated mini Engineering projects and organised a carnival during which they introduced the Singaporean culture for the locals to experience.
Throughout this journey, Orion has achieved its motto to Aspire, Inspire and Perspire.
About Operation Orion
Operation Orion is one of the longest running OCIP projects in NUS. The group has sustained contribution to overseas communities as well as provided a holistic education experience for Engineering students. Orion Alumni Network (OAN) is an alumni club for all members of Operation Orion. The club aims to connect past and present batches of Orion members as well as to provide a platform for the alumnus to give back to society through community service. Operation Orion 2018 is a recipient of the “Community Service” Distinction Award at the NUS 2nd Student Life Awards