To create bridges to prosperity for developing communities, the not-for-profit Bridges to Prosperity was formed. Arup and Bechtel recently joined forces with the charity, raising more than £45,000, to create a lasting solution to connect the village of Kukibuye, Rwanda, with the other side of the Mukungwa River. The 42-meter suspension bridge was built through a combination of local knowledge and 10 engineers from the two firms.
Bridges to Prosperity is a US-based charity that aims to connect isolated rural regions. Many regions around the world lack the basic transport infrastructure taken for granted in the UK, including bridges across gorges, rivers and other natural features. A lack of easy access, through a sound built environment, means that people are forced to take the long route around (if one exists), take risks with sub-par constructs or need to use more inefficient options. This can slow regional economic activity as well as isolate regions from economic and social access to, among others, schooling, healthcare and disaster relief. The aim of Bridges to Prosperity is to provide development regions with improved transportation networks, through the construction of safe and sound bridges. As part of its mission, the charity leverages the latest technology, partnerships with engineering organisations globally and a monitoring programme to measure impact and keep the structure in check.
One of Bridges to Prosperity’s projects was the recent construction of a pedestrian bridge for the small community of Kukibuye, Rwanda. As it stood, the passage across the Mukungwa River for the village of 12,000 involved crossing logs. The log bridge last year claimed two lives and injured a further seven. To support the community to develop a long term solution, allowing local people year-round access to schools, markets, and health care facilities, Arup and Bechtel partnered with Bridges to Prosperity to deliver a solution.
Arup and Bechtel Group Foundation raised £45,000 for the construction of a 42-meter suspension bridge for the village. The local people, in advance of the construction of the bridge, prepared foundations. A team of ten engineers, which themselves raised an additional £6,000 for the construction, recently worked for two weeks to complete the new bridge. As part of the project, the engineers will engage the local community to pass on their skills and knowledge for the construction of safe, efficient, and locally appropriate footbridges.
Phil Borowiec, Arup Engineer and Bridges to Prosperity Trustee, says, “Arup have worked with Bridges to Prosperity for the last 5 years to help build these essential links that reconnect communities and provide safe passage for so many people. It’s a tremendously rewarding experience working with the local community and seeing first-hand the significant positive impact the bridge makes to their daily lives. We’re really pleased to partner with Bechtel this year, and we look forward to continuing our great work together.”
Charlene Wheeless, Principal Vice President and Manager of Global Corporate Affairs at Bechtel, says, “Bechtel volunteers bring extensive experience and passion to this project for the citizens of Kukibuye. Our employee volunteers have partnered with Engineers Without Borders to help improve the lives of local citizens on projects in nine countries—bringing needed infrastructure to thousands of people. We are delighted to engage in this first assignment with Bridges to Prosperity and to team with Arup in this important work that will have a lasting impact on the village”.