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Feature Story

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Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship website

Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship website

Visit the Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship website to read more stories about people that work at Boeing.

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Photo: EWB-USA

An EWB-USA project team studies the existing rainwater catchment system near the Malamulo Hospital campus in Malawi.

Where there's a will

Propelling objects through space has become second nature to Boeing's Shah Selbe. Bringing clean water to one of the world's most populated countries is more of a challenge.

A propulsion systems engineer with Boeing's Space and Intelligence Systems in El Segundo, Calif., Selbe spends his days working out how communications satellites move around the Earth once they're in orbit. Lately, he's also devoted his personal time to solving a different kind of engineering puzzle: How to design a clean-water supply line for a major medical clinic in the southeast African nation of Malawi.

"I really enjoy what I do at Boeing -- making satellites move in space is pretty cool. But this EWB project was rewarding in a whole different way."

Selbe's efforts are part of a volunteer project coordinated by Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA), a non-profit humanitarian organization that pairs the talents and skills of professional engineers with developing communities worldwide in order to improve their quality of life. Boeing supports EWB-USA through its Global Corporate Citizenship organization.

An area near the Malamulo Hospital campus in Malawi is surveyed

Photo: EWB-USA

An area near the Malamulo Hospital campus in Malawi is surveyed by a member of an EWB-USA project team that is working with the community to improve the drinking water system.

The goal of this five-year project is to bring inexpensive clean water to an entire Malawian hospital campus — starting with identifying water sources, repairing piping and constructing a complete rainwater catchment system. Malamulo Hospital is home to the country's leading HIV/AIDS prevention program, but its water system was inadequate and inconsistent, and many of the potential sources of water are contaminated.

"As a liquid propulsion subsystem engineer, I deal with technical issues regarding liquids and pressure changes," Selbe said. "So what I did on this project, including drafting of the technical documentation, is similar to what I do at work." Despite these similarities, Selbe has had to develop and employ some unexpected skills for this project, ranging from training and communication to negotiation to project and resource management.

"I really enjoy what I do at Boeing — making satellites move in space is pretty cool," Selbe said. "But this EWB project was rewarding in a whole different way. We're working to make sure that this hospital can continue its work for people living with HIV/AIDS, and also to deliver a reliable source of clean drinking water for children who go to school on the campus. How cool is that?"

Selbe's volunteer work may also touch lives in other parts of the globe. He hopes that the rainwater catchment system he designed for Malawi will soon be adapted for use in other EWB-USA projects in Tanzania and South America. The success of his efforts led Boeing to honor Selbe with the 2009 Boeing Exceptional Volunteer Service Award.