With heart and mind in the right place: Partnering with Engineers Without Borders


Several DIS employees wanting to use their skills to make a difference have been posted abroad with Engineers Without Borders. The company fully supports the partnership – and with good reason. Because these projects involve using your engineering skills to lift people out of deep poverty, says the General Secretary. 


Clean drinking water, solar energy and project management for initiatives designed to provide the basic necessities in humanitarian crises. These are examples of the projects that DIS engineers have worked on voluntarily – primarily in Sierra Leone, with the non-profit organization Engineers Without Borders (EWB). A partnership that grew out of a group of concerned employees who wanted to make a difference, using their engineering skills in places around the world where they were most needed.


We call the initiative Meaningful Work at DIS, and around 50 of our people have volunteered so far. The partnership is an element of our work with the UN Goal No. 6, ‘Clean water and sanitation’, and Goal No. 7 ‘Affordable and clean energy’. Read more about DIS' work with CSR.


– There were a few of us who shared a desire to use our skills to address some of the problems we see in third world countries. That was the start of Meaningful Work, and the partnership with Engineers Without Borders. We had the drive, but simply lacked the means, says Louise Vang Edwards, initiator of Engineers Without Borders at DIS.


Our people typically take part in development projects, working on a specific problem related to building solar energy plans, local water supplies and clean drinking water. Then there’s the protection of vulnerable communities against the effects of climate change, such as flooding, pollution of water sources and crop destruction. But it’s not all engineering work, there’s also project management and financial management.

The General Secretary of Engineers Without Borders: It’s a matter of life and death


Dorte Lindegaard Madsen is the General Secretary of Engineers Without Borders Denmark and says that being able to rely on expertise from companies such as DIS is a core resource.


– DIS has considerable capacity in a number of the areas we work in. They also have a particular and sharply focused mindset, and they’re good at getting straight to the point and moving quickly when working on a project. That’s immensely valuable to a voluntary organization with limited resources, and we want to deliver a fast solution to the local population in the countries where we operate.

Because these are projects that make a massive difference in developing countries, she emphasizes.


– It’s a matter of life and death. When over half the population of Sierra Leone get their water from polluted sources, for example, cholera and other waterborne diseases account for one of the world’s highest rates of child fatality. And when the almost non-existent hospitals are under pressure, good local clinics powered by solar energy and with proper facilities are much needed.


We’re not talking the most advanced technology to be deployed in development projects, but it does have to be extremely robust. So the job is often about using the existing knowledge of the personnel to solve a problem that exists in a totally alien environment, and is often based on the components to hand in the area, and without the usual technical and mechanical aids.


– This is work that makes such a lot of sense, including on the humane level. The people we send out there are dedicated. They can see that every little helps to make an enormous difference. Women can give birth safely at night with lights and in hygienic conditions, and poor families being able to have access to clean, safe water is a fundamental human right, says Dorthe Lindegaard Madsen.

Substantial support from the DIS management


A dedicated corps of ambassadors consisting of a number of employees are helping build bridges between Engineers Without Borders projects, and the skills of DIS personnel.


The work they undertake is voluntary, but with substantial support from the DIS management, who are happy to donate employee resources to such projects.


– We think it’s wonderful to have such a supportive employer backing us up in our work for EWB. Employees who engage in the projects are given the best support, and get a very special experience, says Louise Vang Edwards.

Posted to Sierra Leone: A major professional and personal experience


Simon Østergaard is an engineer at DIS and was posted to Sierra Leone with Engineers Without Borders in 2021. They took part in work to evaluate EWB’s earlier project that built decentralized charging stations for cellphones used by farmers. Awareness of effect and how EWB can improve the project in the future are key to ensuring quality and sustainable projects.


The chargers are located in rural districts where there is no mains electricity, but there is cell cover. The project is important for farmers to be able to support their families because they use their cellphones when selling their crops without losing the profit to the middlemen. The phone is also an important means of keeping contact with the family in large towns and cities.


Simon Østergaard says that it’s highly motivational to help others and use your skills in a totally different context that makes it possible to tackle problems from completely new angles.


– I’m motivated by the desire to help others with what I’m good at. Engineers Without Borders brings and extra dimension to life, and there are some very exciting projects.

Something that makes DIS unique as a workplace


Along with an experienced EWB engineer, Simon Østergaard is responsible for technical/electrical inspection of the existing systems, and how they can be improved. The experience in Sierra Leone made a deep impression, he says.


– Seeing the contrasts between my life and that of the local inhabitants was unbelievably rewarding and helped me understand the context in which Engineers Without Borders projects are realised. It was also a massive personal experience in Sierra Leone, where I gained experiences that have expanded my horizons on a cultural and professional level.


DIS gives its employees the chance to use their skills on highly significant charitable projects, says Simon Østergaard.


– It’s great to be employed by a company that gives you the chance to work on projects like these when profit is not the only motive. It’s an opportunity I wouldn’t get many other places, and one of the things that makes DIS unique.


"It’s great to be employed by a company that gives you the chance to work on projects like these when profit is not the only motive. It’s an opportunity I wouldn’t get many other places, and one of the things that make DIS unique."


Simon Østergaard, engineer at DIS