THREE GOOD Samaritans from Engineers Without Borders - which sends volunteers to everything from a block cleanup in Frankford to a water purification project in El Salvador - chill yesterday at Toast on Spruce Street near 12th.
"You don't have to be an engineer to be in Engineers Without Borders," president Walt Walker says over outdoor brunch.
"Think of us as People Without Borders," he says. "If you can roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty on one Saturday every month, we want you."
Walker is an engineer but EWB vice president Paolo Belfiore works at the Italian Consulate in Philadelphia and outreach coordinator Leslie Tuason is a buyer for the food industry.
Walker's commitment to community service began when he accompanied his Rowan University adviser on a trip to her native Bangladesh for a potable water project in 2005.
"We were in a village five minutes outside the capital city," Walker says, "but the only source of drinking water was a pond where animals wandered in to drink, people washed clothes and waste flowed in from latrines."
Figuring out how to provide potable water to the village was a game changer, Walker says. "From then on, I've been volunteering to help communities."
Belfiore had a similar experience in a Peruvian village. ("It was like Walt's Bangladesh.")
Tuason was weeding in a community garden for low-income seniors at Guild House West on Fairmount Avenue near 12th when she learned that the irrigation system hadn't kept pace with the garden's expansion.
Vegetables on the garden's outer borders were dying from lack of water. Tuason enlisted EWB's help to redesign the watering system from sprinklers to drip hoses that soaked the soil.
Walker says he hopes EWB's commitment to working with residents on projects will change the perception that "engineers are poor communicators."
Belfiore laughs and says, "And that engineers are antisocial."