In July 2007, Johan van der Walt, Lauren Hagy, and Jessica Ventura met for coffee near The University of Texas at Austin (UT). Jessica had recently arrived from Honduras with good news for the others; her contacts were excited about the first aid kits and coloring books that Johan, Lauren, and their classmates had designed for the Chortí villages in western Honduras. The meeting that afternoon began with a discussion of how to raise money to pay for the supplies and ended with the three UT students founding a new student organization, UT for REED: Rural Enhancement through Education and Design.
UT for REED is officially sponsored by the Biomedical Engineering
Department at UT and is composed of students from across campus (i.e.
engineering, government, social work, communication). The group’s goal is to encourage and support
student participation in projects related to design and education that meet
healthcare needs in developing areas and countries. As UT for REED prides the great care taken
to respect local cultures, projects are also often initiated and lead by those
students who have contacts living in the specific communities.
Since the Honduras Project, Ray Skidmore started the Gulf Coast Project, where UT for REED helped organize university and high school students to volunteer their school break time to rebuild cities hit by recent hurricanes. The Mali Signs Project connected various deaf schools across the country with a video exchange program that continues to this day. The Kenya Project, started by Sharanya Rajan and currently set to be implemented in December, will bring an irrigation system to a community near Nairobi, Kenya to provide surplus crops and ensure the community's financial sustainability. The Honduras Project, following its initial implementation, has since brought health/sanitation education and a small library to two communities in the Copán region of Honduras.
Although a small group of
students, UT for REED members are
doing their part to make a difference in our world community. The group is open to new project ideas led by
UT students who have a commitment to a cause for the improvement of public
UT for REED is now a defunct student organization. This website now serves as a record for what the group accomplished.