WJE Associate Principal Recipient of the 2008 ASCE Citizen Engineer Award

December 5, 2008
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has announced that Collins O.Y. Ofori-Amanfo, PE, of the WJE-Minneapolis branch has been selected as the recipient of the 2008 ASCE Citizen Engineer Award for his efforts to bring clean drinking water to local citizens in his home country of Ghana. This award is presented to members of ASCE in recognition of their accomplishments in the area of public service whose activities have improved the image of the civil engineering profession through their personal involvement in public-serving endeavors.

In what began as a friendly contest among his fellow employees at WJE to do something good within their local communities, Ofori-Amanfo far exceeded the original intention of the challenge. The competition, sponsored as part of the firm's fiftieth anniversary celebration, challenged employees to complete "One Good Thing," which served to strengthen company morale while making a positive impact in local communities throughout the country. In the case of Ofori-Amanfo and the Minneapolis office, however, "One Good Thing" meant saving lives a world away.

Conditions in parts of his native country of Ghana are overwhelmingly substandard. Poverty is widespread and many of Ghana's citizens are subjected to using contaminated water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. Having seen the disturbing images of the poverty far too long, Ofori-Amanfo decided to make a difference. "We all have the capacity to do something extraordinary, no matter how many obstacles we might endure," said Ofori-Amanfo.

Ofori-Amanfo teamed up with members of his church, along with friends and fellow coworkers, to help raise money to build water wells for approximately 20,000 people in six rural communities. He applied his civil engineering knowledge to educate other volunteers in regard to improving water delivery systems in his native county of Ghana.

Since day one, Ofori-Amanfo has been involved in nearly every aspect of the planning process, from communicating with local area chiefs to secure land donations to working with fixed-bid contractors to ensure quality drilling and maintenance services. As a result of the new wells, clinical visits and infant mortality rates have decreased; women and children no longer have to suffer the harsh, lengthy daily trips to natural water sources; and the overall quality of life for the citizens has vastly improved.

"I thank God that I lived long enough to see this drinking well," said one native senior citizen from Dampong, Ghana. "It was worth waiting for and everyone involved in this effort deserves our most sincere appreciation."

WJE sponsored the initial "One Good Thing" challenge, which resulted in the drilling of the first well. To this day, Ofori-Amanfo continues to work with his family and church in securing funds for the construction of additional wells. Since the original "One Good Thing" competition, Ofori-Amanfo has funded and constructed fourteen wells in Ghana.

The award will be presented at the ASCE Multi-Region Leadership Conference, which will be held at the Hyatt Regency Tech Center in Denver, Colorado, during the President's Luncheon on Friday, January 9, 2009.

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