November 21, 2017

Global service is a virtue that runs in Matthew Asher’s (Alpha Mu Chapter ‘15) family. When he was a sophomore in high school, his parents moved to Sierra Leone, a small country in Africa, to run a small rural hospital. Those two years that Asher lived there had a large impact on him. “When I saw some of the inverter infrastructural needs of Sierra Leone, I knew I had to pursue a degree in engineering,” he explains. When he returned to the states, he attended West Virginia University to study engineering, but he knew he needed to go back. “Sierra Leone made a big impact on my high school years and I was finally presented with an opportunity to give back to a country that sculpted me into the man I am today."

Today, Asher resides in Mattru Jong, Sierra Leone where he’s in charge of building and installing a solar mini-grid for a hospital. “The solar mini-grid is a means of providing sustainable free electricity to the hospital and a small stream of income to help the hospital provide medication to those in the community,” he explains. Any excess solar that the hospital does not consume can be sold to the community. Asher goes on to say that “with an increased level of healthcare and access to electrification, we are expecting the solar to benefit over 10,000 people.” Asher is also overseeing a water purification and packaging center, which will not only reduce the number of people with Typhoid but will also benefit the hospital as all profits of water sales will go to buying medications and paying qualified employees.

Matthew Asher
Matthew Asher (Right) in front of The Water Packaging Center

Asher’s day-to-day on the job changes with the different phases of his projects. “When I first arrived I focused solely on the design of the water packaging center and hospital electrification system. Then after that, I changed my focus to overseeing the building of the water purification and packaging center, terracing the solar array field, building the solar mounting structure, and rewiring of the hospital compound. Now that the solar equipment has arrived in the country and the water purification and packaging center has been built, I focus on installing the solar equipment and monitor the production of the water,” Asher explains. Once the solar is functional, he will focus on distributing the electricity to the community. He also assists with maintenance at the hospital and is developing renovation estimates for the dilapidated buildings. “It is exciting to work in a constantly dynamic work environment because it makes you well rounded and always busy.”

Matthew Asher
Matthew Asher with the Construction Team.

The work that Asher is doing in Sierra Leone is vital for that community and the country as a whole. “No one in the 21st century should not have access to clean water, electricity or quality healthcare,” he exclaims. “As a humanitarian and educated person, I feel I should use my unique skill set to make a positive impact on the world.” Asher’s leadership in Sierra Leone will come to a close next year as his current contract ends in March 2018. At that point, he will hand the solar and water projects over to a local business manager. What’s next for Asher? He’s debating returning to the U.S. to seek work at a solar company, however, he doesn’t know if he can calm his spirit for travel quite yet. “I do have an extreme heart for adventure and the developing world and will continue to keep a lookout for other projects like this in the future.”

Matthew Asher
Matthew Asher’s time in Sierra Leone has led to many adventures. Here, Asher took a trip to Bunce Island in Freetown, Sierra Leone to see a historic slave trade fortress.

Asher recognizes the Brothers of the Alpha Mu Chapter for constantly encouraging him to follow his dreams and pursue passions and careers that make a positive impact on the world. “Once a week at least, one of my Brothers texts me or calls me just to follow up with the progress of the project and encourage me. Phi Sigma Pi not only introduced me to an amazing network of intelligent and successful individuals but extremely loving and caring ones as well.” His final piece of advice is an important one: “Don’t ever be afraid to go out and make a positive impact in the developing world. It may seem a bit scary because those communities don’t have the same amenities that we are used to in the U.S. But instead, I challenge you to go and help with an open mindset. Even if it is only for a week. The experience will make you an extremely well-rounded individual, and the people in those developing countries may actually teach you more than you are actually able to teach them.”

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