TÜV NORD Engineers without Borders

The TÜV NORD GROUP is a globally successful group of companies. Equally global is its commitment to humanitarian causes for the NGO known as “Engineers without Borders”. In addition to generous donations from the TÜV NORD GROUP, its staff also support the NGO in very practical ways by using their knowledge on a voluntary basis for the good of those people who are most urgently in need of it.


Simon Piotrowski works as an expert at TÜV NORD. The 28-year-old specialises in the testing of seals, including on heat exchangers. At the end of February 2018, he left the cold and damp of Hamburg for the tropical heat of Uganda with the aim of helping to improve the situation at a vocational school there. Mr Piotrowski was already working for Engineers without Borders as a volunteer while still at university.

Uganda is one of the ten poorest countries on the planet, and the situation in the Rakai district between Tanzania and Lake Victoria is particularly dire for its inhabitants. It is here that Engineers without Borders is working at the vocational school in Gayaza Village, at which 400 students are learning for their future. For many of them, the school is also home, either because they have lost their parents to AIDS or because they live too far away to make the journey every day.

Engineers without Borders has been active in Gayaza Village since 2013. The first task of the experts from Germany was to build two rainwater cisterns with a capacity of 60 cubic metres each. Previously, the school’s drinking water needed to be fetched from a distant and polluted watering hole. A new project now envisages the construction of a canteen with kitchen and storage space for food. Until now, the children have been forced to eat in their dormitories, and the hygienic conditions there are accordingly appalling.

Students of the Gayaza Secondary School taking water from the cistern. Students of the Gayaza Secondary School taking water from the cistern. Students of the Gayaza Secondary School taking water from the cistern. Students of the Gayaza Secondary School taking water from the cistern.
Students of the Gayaza Secondary School taking water from the cistern.

Mr Piotrowski first joined in with this aid project in Germany. “We meet several times a month in our regional project groups and support our partners in Uganda from Hamburg,” the engineer reports. To ensure the best possible results, the individual stages are precisely structured. “The initial fact-finding stage is followed by a planning phase, and then by implementation. Every project ends with an evaluation.”

In all of this, helping people to help themselves is particularly important to Engineers without Borders: “Our goal is sustainability and not simply to set something up only to disappear again,” Piotrowski says. On the ground, the volunteers from Germany work closely with a local NGO, the African Rural Community Shepherds (ARCOS). Its staff in Uganda are trained in the production and use of very environmentally-friendly bricks which don’t need to be fired and can be made out of local materials.

At the end of February 2018, Piotrowski travelled to Uganda himself on his first overseas mission for Engineers without Borders. He initially flew to Entebbe. After a brief stay in Kampala, he took the bus to Gayaza, some 300 km away. What he particularly enjoyed was the intensity of his communication with the local partners. One of the items on the agenda was the inspection of the buildings. “We needed to check whether everything had been done as agreed, and then we helped out in the optimisation work. We also took a very close look at the state of all the existing buildings on the site,” Piotrowski explains. Overall, he is very satisfied with the joint work carried out on the ground.

This commitment to corporate social responsibility is very important for the TÜV NORD GROUP. After all, it has always been the task of any TÜV organisation to use the knowledge and experience of engineers to make the world a better place - including for those people who would never otherwise be able to afford safety with the “Made in Germany” tag. It is for this reason that the TÜV NORD GROUP has been sponsoring Engineers without Borders since 2013: the volume of donations from the Group now amounts to some € 100,000.

In India, with the assistance of the TÜV NORD GROUP, Engineers without Borders supported a school in the construction of a solar array. Prior to that, a diesel generator had been the sole source of electricity. Not only was this very noisy and polluting, but it also swallowed huge amounts of cash for fuel. Having switched to renewable energy, the school now has enough money every month to pay half a teacher’s salary as a direct investment in the education of the children.

In the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, the focus was also on a school project. A primary school there had a huge hygiene problem in the form of ageing and smelly latrines. Many of the children simply refused to go to school because of the unbearable hygienic conditions. Engineers without Borders worked with local partners to develop a concept for a sustainable sanitation system. This gave the children a clean environment worthy of their dignity as human beings, cleaned with the aid of an ecological plant-based sewage system. A further associated benefit was the commissioning of a modern biogas plant which is now providing the school with power. The success of the project is immediately quantifiable: attendance at lessons has risen by 11 percent.

In May 2015, Nepal was rocked by a devastating earthquake. Over 3,000 people were killed, most of whom were buried under collapsed houses. But many lives could have been saved if the buildings had been earthquake-resistant. Here, too, the knowledge of engineers from Germany is helping make the country more resilient in the event of future disasters. The TÜV NORD GROUP has to this end been supporting Engineers without Borders in its unflagging commitment to the reconstruction of this devastated country. Alongside the acute need for reconstruction aid, the population is also now being trained in how to use traditional techniques to build earthquake-resistant houses.

Financial aid and assistance for people in need is a natural element of the corporate culture of the TÜV NORD GROUP. The Group is therefore particularly proud of staff members like Simon Piotrowski, who has worked very hard in Uganda on a purely voluntary basis, even though the climate and the communication with his local partners have not always been completely straightforward. He spent a total of just under three weeks on the site. As a small token of recognition and appreciation, the TÜV NORD GROUP has given him a couple of extra days of holiday.To the question of what motivates him, he offers a simple answer: “I want to help people.”