People who need people

Dwayne Kalynchuk, P.Eng.
APWA President

I'm sitting in an airport in Malaysia on my way to the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia (IPWEA) Conference in Mackay near the Great Barrier Reef, where I am to be one of the keynote speakers on behalf of APWA. I have traveled extensively and firmly believe in pre-planning all my flights and accommodations.

  Dwayne Kalynchuk

Considering the time required for a flight from Canada to Australia, I decided to go through the Orient, as the flight was cheaper. I also thought I could adjust my body to the 17-hour time difference by relaxing at a hotel pool for a day in Malaysia before I caught a flight to Brisbane. However, I neglected to check the weather and arrived in Malaysia during a monsoon! It was like being in the recent hurricane in North America, but much warmer and with far fewer Starbucks locations. Despite being wet, I enjoyed my day and discovered from my taxi driver that the field of public works is worldwide. We share a lot in common with other people around the world. Sounds strange, but let me explain.

I woke up about 1:00 a.m. the next day and was to continue my trip to Australia with a 6:00 a.m. flight. I couldn't go back to sleep and decided to head to the airport early, as the storm was getting worse with extensive flooding and several key roads being washed out. A taxi was scheduled to pick me up at 4:45 a.m., but I decided that I wanted to leave one hour earlier. I telephoned the hotel desk and asked if they could arrange for the taxi to come an hour earlier. Unfortunately, staff could not locate the company. I then remembered that my taxi driver, Ahmad, had given me his phone number. Within minutes the front desk had phoned back and confirmed that Ahmad would pick me up at 3:30 a.m.

Sure enough, at 3:30 a.m. Ahmad was there. On the way to the airport he explained how upset his wife was with the fact that he had to get up at 4:00 a.m. to drive someone to the airport. However, he told her that I was a Canadian and appeared to be an honest individual to whom he had given his word if I needed help. We continued to chat, and I discovered that his son was a Supervisor for the Water Department for the City of Penang in northern Malaysia. He advised that the Water Department was facing challenges in a fast-growing community with shrinking revenue sources! I thought I was home—my community and many others in North America are facing the same issue. By the time we arrived at the airport an hour later we were friends, and I was able to share some of the challenges we too face with increasing growth and with limited resources. I provided him with a copy of the APWA Reporter to share with his family.

Three presidents at the IPWEA Queensland State Conference in Mackay. From left are APWA President Dwayne Kalynchuk, IPWEA Queenland Division President John Lackie, and IPWEA National President Ross Moody.

This is the very reason we as an association must expand our horizons and look beyond the borders of North America. The challenges we face in our communities are no different than those in other locations around the world. However, other countries may have already discovered or developed a solution, obviously serving to potentially benefit us in North America. Several examples of this were evident in presentations at the IPWEA Conference. Australia has been in drought conditions substantially longer than most communities here. In order to deal with this, the Australians have developed new technologies, combined with an understanding of water use and commitment, to integrated water management. The result is far greater self-sufficiency for Australian communities. Likewise, in the field of asset management, Australia and New Zealand have been implementing systems within their countries for years. Their National Asset Management Manual is acknowledged to be one of the best and is used worldwide. They are looking at publishing a U.S. version in 2004.

Similarly, we have encountered some of the problems that Slovakia is just now experiencing. The Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic became separate countries in 1993 when Czechoslovakia split. Before 1993 the central government provided all the necessary public works services through a national organization. After the split, Slovak communities faced, and continue to face, the challenge of providing basic services such as solid waste collection and water and sewer services with no equipment or little previous experience. Communities banded together to form the Slovak Public Works Association, an organization with which APWA has had an affiliation for the past six years.

The Slovak Public Works Association's Spring Meeting in Sahy, Slovakia, March 2002.

Our International Affairs Committee, under the leadership of Jimmy Foster from Plano, Texas, is mandated to develop these relationships, encourage and coordinate international exchanges, and further the goals of our association beyond Canada and the United States. The committee recently announced the reintroduction of the Jennings Randolph Fellowship, which provides the opportunity for our members to attend a conference of our partner organizations in Mexico, Australia, or Slovakia, and to research a public works issue while there. Although the deadline has passed for this year's application, it is to be an annual program. Please check it out at Be a part of APWA's "people to people" efforts.