Find Your Passion: Caring for the Community
Student impacts others through Engineers Without Borders
By Allison Bridges
Josh Hamilton’s dedication to those less fortunate is inspiring.
Participating in tornado relief efforts, improving residential plumbing for multiple families, and volunteering his engineering skills to restore a run-down baseball field are among this undergraduate’s recent humanitarian efforts.
This electrical engineering student, who is graduating in December, has extended the sense of caring he says he found at UA to regions far from the campus’ borders.
“What really caught my attention about UA was the feeling I had whenever I was on campus–the feeling of being at home,” says Hamilton.
“Everyone on campus truly cares about each other, and that sense of community is important to all students, whether you have been here for four days or four years.”
In his role as president of Engineers Without Borders, a student organization that partners with disadvantaged communities around the world to design and implement engineering projects that improve residents’ quality of life, Hamilton has spread the compassionate spirit.
Most recently, he led EWB as they traveled to Greensboro to join other volunteers in the organization’s most challenging project-relief effort following a tornado that hit the town.
“We were all surprised at the extensive damage caused by the storm,” recalls Hamilton. “The area where we were unloading supplies appeared to be a vacant lot, but we were told once a house had been there before the tornado destroyed it just a few days earlier. That was hard for all of us to imagine, and it made us see how much our efforts were needed.”
In 2007, Hamilton served as project leader as EWB partnered with HERO Housing Resource Center, an organization aimed at reducing substandard housing conditions in Hale County, to improve residential plumbing in that area. Residents were being billed hundreds of dollars for water they never received because of faulty pipes or leaks in their homes.
“We worked so that those families could receive water that was affordable,” says Hamilton. “Our goal is to help those who are unable to help themselves, and if we can help by fixing burst pipes, then we are happy to do it.”
That same year, Hamilton also organized a partnership between EWB and the Black Belt Action Commission, an organization aimed at improving the quality of life in Alabama's Black Belt region. The project’s goal was to restore Curtis Smith Field, a run-down baseball field in Greensboro.
“We simply wanted to bring a sense of pride back to their community through improved recreational opportunities for these children,” says Hamilton.
After serving Hale County for several years, Hamilton admits he has grown attached to the area and its residents. “I have developed a passion for helping those in Hale County because it is so close to my own home,” Hamilton says. “Most students just do not understand that there are people living in substandard conditions just 30 minutes down the road from our beloved college town.”
It is hard for many to believe that a college student balancing tests, homework, class and a social life, has time to complete such pro-social efforts. Hamilton says it’s the “least” he can do.
“I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue an engineering degree, and I have learned a lot,” said Hamilton. “The least I can do is help those who do not have access to basic necessities. Once you know how other people in your community are living, you can’t help but try and help make their condition better.”
Hamilton has not only benefitted local and international communities through his service, but he has capitalized on his skills as an engineer and a communicator while a member of EWB. He maintains that being an active member of the student body and the community is just as important to students’ futures as being successful academically.
“Over the past four years, I have realized that classes, labs and homework are vital to the success of future engineers and all professionals, but they lack in one important area–social engagement,” said Hamilton. “To be successful in any career, a person needs to have the ability to interact with the public, and EWB has been an excellent tool by which to practice this social interaction.”
Hamilton graduates from UA in December, and he plans to serve as a member of the professional chapter in Huntsville, where he will work. “I have gained too much from this organization to leave now,” says Hamilton. “It is important to me that I help whoever I can, however I can. EWB will help me never forget that.”
Hamilton found a home in The University of Alabama, and he has dedicated himself to caring for his home and its surrounding communities through service. His service has not only allowed him to impact the residents of Hale County, but it has provided an opportunity for the University community to join in EWB’s efforts to serve those less fortunate.
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This story is part of the Find Your Passion feature section of the UA home page. For more stories, please visit Find Your Passion or Crimson Spotlight. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.