June 3, 2011

Dr. Ebenezer’s “Technology for the Poor”

“The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'” -Matthew 25:40

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Written by LeighAnne Coble
Dr. Job Ebenezer came to Varablanca for two days with a suitcase, a grin, and a plan to share his area of expertise with the ADE high school students. Originally from India, this gentle elderly man received his masters in engineering and has used his knowledge to “develop, innovate, and disseminate appropriate technologies for the poor.” As a boy, Dr. Ebenezer was fascinated by the inventions of American agriculturist George Washington Carver, who made 350 products solely from the peanut. Like Carver, Dr. Ebenezer is a huge proponent of simplicity. He used a quote from the man that inspired him which describes the reason behind “technology for the poor” and Carver’s own philosophy: “Let all the methods of nature study be brought down to the everyday life and language of the masses.”

Along with simplicity, Dr. Ebenezer also believes in going to talk with the people he wants to help, and he has done this in many corners of the earth. He has traveled to India, Tanzania, Zambia, Belize, and now to Costa Rica (for the second time,) teaching sustainability and technology. Why does he take his ideas and inventions and teach them around the world? He has a simple explanation, a verse from Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” Dr. Ebenezer serves others, particularly those who are in need, in order to serve Jesus.
 
Job speaking to the ADE Colegio students.

As he spoke to the children and explained the slides (with Tomás translating), he moved around animatedly and gestured with hands, a man eager to share his knowledge with youth. He described how he took a simple bicycle and created several inventions with it, some of which include a winnower, a corn sheller, a circular saw, and even a washing machine. The children were impressed with the photos of these dual-purpose bicycles in use, asking the professor incredulously, “You invented that?”

The next part of his presentation focused on sustainability. He believes in sustainability because, as he told the school children after asking them to think of all the plants and animals on Earth, “God created a sustainable system.” In compliance with this sustainable system, he has explored urban agriculture and focused on making technology simple and accessible (especially for the poor) without depleting the community’s work force. He takes abandoned parking lots, brown fields, rooftops, and other unused spaces and makes them into gardens with simply grocery bags and soil. In Chicago, Dr. Ebenezer built a garden on the rooftop of a seventh floor building, and filled it with sunflowers that eventually grew nearly ten feet high.

After his presentation, the children followed him outside, where he put basic agriculture into action. One of the high school students brought a plastic liter bottle of Coca Cola, which Dr. Ebenezer turned into something like a mini hanging vegetable garden. He cut the bottom of the bottle to form a lid, then flipped it, filled the bottle with soil, and cut tiny triangles near the bottom to allow drainage for the rain. Then he asked the children what sorts of vegetables they could plant inside, which turned out to be an impressive variety: carrots, radishes, onions, and lettuce. “And I plan to return to Costa Rica in one year,” he told them, holding up one finger, “to see your garden.” Tomás translated this into Spanish for the students, who seemed to take interest in the pleasant professor and his inventions, and will hopefully take this project to heart.

The students learning a unique way to make a garden.

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