About the tenth person just sent me the link for Ingenieurs san Frontieres/ Engineers without Borders. I finally had the time to take a look, and, sure enough, they're doing amazing work.
ISF-EWB is sending volunteer engineers all over the world to help local people learn to solve their technical problems, doing stuff like providing IT support for the Propoor Info-tech Centre in India and low-energy lighting in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka; helping people in long-term refugee camps in Zambia with food processing infrastructure; improving local milk processing in Peru and shea nut processing in Burkina Faso; assessing the environmental impact and benefits of community dams in Nepal; doing waste management, sanitation and hygiene promotion work in La Paz, Boliva and Cameroon; working on innovative solutions for rural water supply in Tamil Nadu, India, Cameroon, Kenya, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala, Haiti and Cambodia; helping to build an IT center and provide water and science education in Uganda... the list goes on.
Whatsmore, their mission seems right on-target:
"Human development is about people: their desire and struggle to expand their freedoms and lead lives that they value. In this quest, access to appropriate technology plays a key role - every day, people work to improve their technology, laws, institutions and governance in the complex circumstances that poverty, alienation and voicelessness create. Members of EWB are passionate about helping people gain access to the technology they need to improve their lives...
"So that is our vision - improved rural technical capacity. And to achieve this vision hundreds of thousands of engineers and SMEs in developing communities must build their skills, gain access to resources and, in general, improve their capacity to engage in practical problem solving in their own communities"
Just got back from a week in Macedonia. An interesting opportunity there for EWB. It needs a lot of help, but it's also small enough to do something really significant and country-wide. Plus they just got a donation of 2000 computers from China, and are going to wire telecenters into EVERY school in the country.
Working on a proposal to USAID (which is administering the project through EDC (http://dot-edu.org/projects/macedonia.htm) to add Digital Bookmobile capacity, and to make the whole system a wireless ISP that serves anyone near one of the schools.
EWB [in Italian, ISF (Ingegneria Senza Frontiere)] is active in Italy as well (Genova, Roma, Torino, Trento).
And also in Madrid, Bruxelles, Paris, Toronto, USA, Danimarca, Svezia.