John Paul Morgan found himself in the middle of a civil war. It was 2006, and after completing his graduate studies in electrical engineering at U of T, the 27-year-old had a one-year contract position with Doctors Without Borders (DWB) in Shabunda, a small town in the South Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“The town was strategically important to various warring factions and kept getting taken and retaken by different sides,” says Morgan. “As a result, it had a very acute medical crisis that needed addressing. DWB had established a fairly large network of hospitals and clinics, and I was in charge of logistics.”
Over the next 12 months, Morgan handled everything from construction and personnel management to making sure the organization had medical supplies and food. One thing that struck him during this time was the negative impact a lack of electricity was having on the local population.
“At the hospital, water was being supplied by a train of 20 labourers going up and down a hill all day to fetch water from a spring in jerry cans,” Morgan explains. “That simple necessity of fetching water could be addressed with pennies worth of electricity.”
Under Morgan’s direction, DWB installed a pipeline that provided some 90,000 gallons of water a day to the hospital for drinking, surgeries, showers and cleaning.