Under the guidance of professor Kendra Sharp (the Richard and Gretchen Evans Professor of Humanitarian Engineering), students completed their capstone project working with a nonprofit organization, TERREWODE. This summer, they are conducting additional field research in Uganda.

Based in Soroti in eastern Uganda, the group aims to improve the lives of women suffering from a medical condition known as obstetric fistula. This devastating problem occurs when, during prolonged childbirth and without adequate medical care, tissue in the birth canal is damaged. The resulting fistula, or hole, allows urine or feces to leak uncontrollably. Victims may be shunned by family members and reduced to a life of poverty and isolation.

Fortunately, effective medical treatment is available. With support from the Worldwide Fistula Fund, TERREWODE works to educate women about the risks, to raise money for medical costs and to increase access to care, which is often out of reach in rural areas.

Inspired by Oregon photographer Joni Kabana, TERREWODE is developing a soap-making business to provide survivors of fistula with a source of income. The students have three objectives for their four-week stay in Africa: identify a practical, local source of electricity so soap makers wouldn’t have to worry about periodic interruptions to Uganda’s power grid; determine if locally available ingredients can be used for increased soap production; find ways to improve efficiency and scale-up the soap-making process.

Read the full story on OSU's Terra website.