Port Hope engineer helps in Haiti
Chris Wilkinson is seen in the foreground of a makeshift office at the new Welcome Home Children's Centre in Haiti, working on an AutoCAD drawing as he donates his skills to draw up plans for a new orphan's centre. Submitted Photo
Cobourg District Collegiate Institute East graduate Chris Wilkinson is back at work in Calgary, after volunteering his technical skills with Engineering Ministries International Canada to design the Welcome Home Children’s Centre in Haiti.
The son of Paul and Ruth Wilkinson of Port Hope, Chris was in the International Baccalaureate program at CDCI East.
“I basically went from there to university, because it seemed fairly logical,” Wilkinson said in a recent telephone interview.
His school of choice was UOIT, where he graduated last May with a bachelor-of-engineering degree in electrical engineering. After spending a few weeks with his parents recovering from that accomplishment, he discovered the Calgary-based firm Engineering Ministries International, a non-profit Christian development agency that mobilizes professionals who donate their skills to help children and families around the world.
It was a good fit for Wilkinson, who hoped to use his education and skills for humanitarian and missionary work.
His first chance to do that came in Marotte, Haiti, where he was part of a team of North American architects and engineers whose task was to provide master planning and design for a new Welcome Home Children’s Centre for orphans to replace the current rented facilities on which the lease is expiring.
The work incorporated the agency's vision for an expanded facility and future programming, along with surveying the site and exploring infrastructure resources.
“I researched regional electrical practice and adapted it to the needs of our site,” Wilkinson said.
He assisted with the electrical design, with AutoCAD, and even with a bit of translation. At the end of the week, the team presented a master plan and building design to Welcome Home.
Wilkinson is currently interning with the Calgary company, where he will finish up design work for the Welcome Home Children’s Centre project as the team continues to work on more detailed elements of the design. Engineering Ministries International will soon be providing Welcome Home with a final report and construction details.
Wilkinson related that he had a different vision of his future than his UOIT classmates did.
“When I was in school, everybody was into development of consumer products — a faster cell phone, fancy sensors on cars. I didn't find that particularly interesting, really,” he said.
“My interests were in environmental and humanitarian things. I just figured nobody needs a new cell phone or a smarter car.”
Wilkinson was also interested to hear of the work going on at his old alma mater, as it undergoes renovations to change his old high school into the consolidated Cobourg Collegiate Institute that is home to both the former CDCI East and CDCI West.
Perhaps he'll look in next time he's in town, he said.