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13 September 2006
Professor Peter Guthrie
Peter Guthrie, Professor of Engineering for Sustainable Development has been nominated for The Telegraph Business Personality of the year. The nomination focusses on Peter's role in the creation and success of the charity RedR (Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief), to supply trained personnel at the request of charities, governments and non-government organisations.
The Telegraph have published the following profile on Professor Guthrie.
Some time in the next few months, British volunteer engineers could be heading for war-torn areas of south Lebanon to help rebuild the bombed out infrastructure. It would not be the first time their expertise has been sought. Engineers have helped in Rwanda, the Gulf, Ethiopia and after tsunamis. Worldwide, they have supplied sanitation and life-saving water in areas struck by disaster.
That around 2,000 men and woman are today contactable at short notice for such vital work is thanks to Professor Peter Guthrie, a civil engineer, who more than 25 years ago, at the age of 28, set up RedR.
Peter Guthrie’s VSO experience as a postgraduate took him to Nigeria, where he saw what engineers could contribute. But it was in Malaysia in 1979, where he helped Oxfam provide sanitation and shelter for Vietnamese boat people in makeshift camps, that he became acutely aware of a shortage of technical expertise.
Home in Hampshire, he and his wife decided to form a register of qualified civil engineers willing to serve overseas. Within six months they had 400 active members. “The response was overwhelming,” he says.
From the outset, they “had strong views about not creating an organisation that would compete in the field, but to help organisations like Oxfam and Save the Children to be more effective themselves. We provided them with people they needed to do their job.”
Engineers were rigorously interviewed before going on RedR training courses. “If an agency needed five road engineers, able to work in a high-temperature environment, under difficult security, with real experience overseas and the emotional stability to cope with it, this had to be planned before you offered up names.”
In 1990, RedR International was formed, and includes bases in Canada, India, Kenya and Australia. Three years ago, RedR linked with the International Health Exchange to form one body providing professionals across a wide spectrum. Its annual turnover of around £3million is largely from patrons, individual and corporate donors, through training courses open to other agencies and project funding by the government.
Although he has served several terms as chairman and is still a vicepresident, Peter Guthrie says that for him “it was never a job — it was a spare-time activity”. He pursued his civil-engineering career, becoming director of a consultancy firm. He also became a trustee for Engineers Without Borders, which sends undergraduate engineers overseas on projects in developing countries.
Awarded the OBE in 1994, six years ago Peter Guthrie became Professor of Engineering for Sustainable Development at Cambridge.To vote for Peter to win The Telegraph business personality of the year please visit The Telegraph online.
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