Ivan Martynenko has come a long way in his educational journey, both personally and geographically. A native of Kazakhstan, Martynenko’s first visit to Valparaiso University was also his first time in the United States.“I really liked the environment and the atmosphere at Valpo, but mostly I liked the people,” he said.
Martynenko has dreamed of becoming a professional engineer since he was a young child. As a civil engineering major and a member of the Valpo chapter of Engineers Without Borders, Martynenko is gaining valuable skills that can make his dream a reality.
“One very important skill, apart from the technical knowledge, that I gained at Valpo is effective communication,” Martynenko said. “I view effective communication as an opportunity to explore a great potential that we all have and to use it for the betterment of others.”
Martynenko said that he joined Engineers Without Borders as a freshman, believing that EWB-Valpo was a humanitarian, engineering organization, helping impoverished communities around the globe through innovative engineering solutions. As he became more involved, he quickly decided that EWB-Valpo was “even better” than he anticipated.
“EWB-Valpo is a humanitarian organization with a history of engineering leadership, but is open to students of all backgrounds and designed for students to learn how to be leaders through serving others,” Martynenko said. “It not only provides innovative engineering solutions, but sustainable solutions that are developed in collaboration with community partners.”
One of the common misconceptions about Engineers Without Borders is that it is an organization exclusive to engineering majors. Martynenko pointed out that the EWB-Valpo team this year consisted of geography, nursing, and engineering majors.
“I believe that the more different perspectives people have within a team, the more success they will achieve,” he said. “Today, EWBValpo, or the EWB-Valpo family as some of us call it, has students from business, nursing, Christ College, and engineering, as well as representatives of six different countries and more than 10 states.”
Through Engineers Without Borders, Martynenko recently expanded his geographical borders once again, by participating in the group’s trip to Tanzania in May and June 2012. On the trip, engineering and nursing students worked together to continue an irrigation canal project, that will provide clean water access to the village of Masaera-Kilema.
Martynenko said that the interaction between EWB-Valpo and the Masaera community transcended language barriers.
“Working together made us all understand each other without much verbal communication,” he said. “I do not know what it was exactly, probably the common humanity that we all share despite the languages we speak, the tones of our skin, and different cultures.”
EWB-Valpo was able to form a meaningful relationship with the village of Masaera-Kilema. It was important to those on the trip to show that this relationship is not just a professional partnership, but that there is a personal bond that every member of EWB-Valpo feels to the community.
“The most memorable part of our trip, for me, was the Sunday service at the local Catholic church, which our team attended. We did it as a sign of respect to the local community,” Martynenko said. “The entire two-hour service was in Swahili, with only a few English words here and there. At the end of the service, the priest invited our team to come up front and introduce ourselves. It was a great feeling to see how grateful the villagers were to all and each of us. At that moment, I would say that our entire team could sense a strong, invisible bond with every villager of Masaera-Kilema.”
Through this trip, Martynenko and his classmates gave people in a developing country access to amenities and resources that were previously unattainable. This meaningful experience will play an important part in Martynenko’s future, as he hopes to help others gain access to valuable life resources.
“I believe that these lessons I learned at Valpo will help me make my own contribution to the betterment of my homeland,” Martynenko said. “In fact, this idea of having a chance to make a positive change in the development of my country inspires me for new achievements.”
Members of Engineers Without Borders form close bonds with one another and develop lifelong relationships, Martynenko has learned. “Engineers Without Borders for me is not only for these four years while I am a college student,” he said. “For me, it’s more like Boy Scouts, once you’re in, you’re in forever.”
Not only has Valpo given Martynenko the opportunity to create lasting friendships, but he has also gained valuable knowledge and learned lessons that will last a lifetime.
“Valpo already has a special place in my life — it taught me how much people can achieve if they work together on a common goal, while solving common problems, and despite numerous differences they might have,” he said.