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Mike Wolfe '98: Humanitarian Engineer

Mike Wolfe '98 has devoted his life to working towards helping others. Over the past decade, Wolfe has worked for 9 humanitarian organizations in 15 developing countries. Some of his stays have been short term postings and some have been shorter consultancies.

Growing up in Halifax, PA, Wolfe didn't know that he would end up being a humanitarian engineer and traveling the world. Wolfe had never even flown in a plane until he was a college student.

Wolfe was the valedictorian of the Halifax High School class of 1994 and a Best & Brightest that year. He came to Lehigh University where he studied civil engineering. Wolfe worked at an engineering firm in Atlanta for three years before realizing that he wanted to follow a different path.

To find that path, Wolfe went back to school to receive a master's degree in engineering development technologies at the University of Melbourne and has spent the last decade working for humanitarian aid organizations worldwide.

In 2003 and 2004, Wolfe worked for the non-profit humanitarian organization Shelter for Life International as a program engineer and project manager in the central Asian nation of Tajikstan. He then moved to Uganda in eastern Africa as a water and sanitation coordinator for a similar agency, Action Against Hunger.

While in Uganda, a photographer for National Geographic magazine followed Wolfe for a few days to do a story on aid workers. That article, eventually was combined with one on the response to hurricane Katrina. "Hope in Hell" appeared in the magazine's December 2005 edition and included Wolfe's photo.

After his work in Uganda, Wolfe moved to Sri Lanka as the district construction manager for the tsunami response effort with World Vision. With World Vision, Wolfe went on to work as the organization's water and sanitation technical advisor in the region including Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

From 2009 to 2010, Wolfe served as an independent technical consultant performing assessments and evaluations of water and sanitation projects in Papua New Guinea, South Sudan, Indonesia and Malawi before moving to Laos. Wolfe and his family have been working out of Laos since 2010.

Humanitarian aid isn't easy and Wolfe credits many of the lessons he learned as a Lehigh Engineer with helping him succeed. "Almost every day as a humanitarian worker I've been faced complex with problems/challenges." says Wolfe. "The needs are always bigger than the resources available, the complexity of the problems always far beyond the scope of any one intervention. Four years of engineering education helped me learn how better to analyze complex problems and, through iterative learning, work on solutions for complex problems."

Wolfe oversees personnel who serve children and communities through improvements to food security, economic development, maternal and child health, education and local leadership. Typical activities might include constructing a gravity-fed water system in a village and establishing revolving animal banks.

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