Living Village

As part of SMU’s first Engineering & Humanity Week in April 2011, students will live, cook their meals and sleep in temporary shelters designed to house people living in extreme poverty or displaced by war and natural disasters. Students, faculty and local members of the community will build the “Living Village” on the SMU campus lawn, showcasing structures ranging from standard-issue United Nations tents to the experimental EcoDome (sandbag shelter), which uses wire to stabilize walls constructed of long, earth-filled tubes.

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After a chilly night in a tent

An entry from Taylor, a first-year civil engineering major:

I was not expecting the night of sleep to turn out as badly as it did because I have stayed a week in a couple different third-world countries. But in the countries I have been to, they spoil us with a one-inch mattress pad.

The other villagers and I enjoyed an evening (and some of the night) of music (Carl Sullivan and the Rising Suns!!), volleyball and s’mores over a small wood stove. It was an awesome night until we had to do homework and then go to sleep.

I stayed the night in the ShelterBox tent. I was thoroughly impressed during the day by how low the temperature stayed with the sun beating down on it. But as soon as the sun went down last night, the temperature dropped dramatically and became quite chilly. Thankfully, I had a sleeping bag to keep me warm. (The ShelterBox actually includes a set of blankets for warmth depending on the country in need.)

My first mistake of the night was putting off my homework until everyone was calming down for the night. It was many hours after dark, so I had to go inside to finish my work. I finally got to bed after setting my alarm and went to sleep. I woke up abruptly with some movement and a bright light. I thought for sure I had slept through my alarm and missed my class at 9:30. But after I got to my phone, I realized it was only 7 a.m. The sun had woken me up. I had no protection from daylight to sleep to make up for staying up so late. So for tonight, I have decided I will be heading to bed much sooner, with the sun.

The toughest part about the night was lying on the ground. While I fell asleep almost right away, it was because I was exhausted. When I woke up in the morning, I felt like I had slept for maybe half an hour, even though it had been hours. The ground beat up my body so I woke up sore and still physically exhausted. It’s going to take a lot more hours of sleep to get the “rest” I need to make it through my days.

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