José Matías Fernández, an industrial engineer, has been in charge of operations at the Skikda desalination plant in Algeria, managed by Sacyr Agua and located near the border with Tunisia, for the past seven months. He is also one of the founders of an NGO in Uganda called Uplanet.
At the beginning of the pandemic, our colleague decided to study a Master's Degree in International Cooperation and Development Policies, since one of his passions is to travel to developing countries, where he spends time with a social purpose.
"The Master's degree program included an internship, through which I cooperated in Uganda with Rafiki Africa, an NGO from Valencia. Taking advantage of my engineering knowledge, I developed several technical projects on water purification, construction, electrification, etc.," explains José Matías.
This experience helped him found an NGO called Uplanet with two other people.
Power, healthcare, education
Through this organization, he has carried out projects in the African country. Uplanet has electrified educational and health infrastructures with renewable energy, built a secondary school, created water purification systems, and is currently developing a new mother and child hospital.
"We are currently building a boarding school in southern Uganda, while also organizing environmental awareness and youth entrepreneurship projects at the European level. The latter we organize through the Erasmus+ program, but we also send young nationals to others organized by our NGO partners, located in more than five European Union countries," explains José Matías.
Regarding cooperation, our partner stresses that the impact of the projects is "very important".
"It is a very large region with a very dispersed population and a very low level of education. One of the consequences of the shortage of secondary schools, for example, is that when girls turn 12, many are forced to marry older people in order to have children and help their families with the dowry," he says.
"For this reason, it is important to build boarding schools for girls and boys, so that they receive secondary education, thus decreasing the birth rate and increasing the level of education in the region," he adds.
Funding and collaboration
The NGO is financed through EU funds for awareness-raising and training projects under the Erasmus+ program; and through municipal and regional public subsidies, to finance cooperation projects in Africa.
"We rely on the contributions of the members of the organization, as well as other private donations, in addition to other types of collaborations, since not all help has to be economic: legal, fiscal, technical advice, etc.," says José Matías.
"I would like to take advantage of the synergy of my current location in Sacyr and that Uplanet can also work in Algeria, specifically in the Saharawi villages," he says.
Uplanet is constantly looking for new partners, donors and volunteers interested in the projects they carry out, in financing new infrastructures, as well as collaborating in some of the entity's tasks, either on the ground or remotely.
If anyone from the Sacyr network is interested in volunteering, do not hesitate to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.