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Building bridges for a better future
Rural community members often live in a walking world. When the rivers swell, walks to school, work or visits to a doctor can become life threatening without a bridge to cross.
Those who survive on the least often do not have sufficient infrastructure servicing their communities. Safe and maintained trails and footbridges are necessary to live healthy and productive lives.
UN Millennium Development Goals
The United Nations developed eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to combat worldwide poverty. They include halving extreme poverty, providing universal primary education, and improving child and maternal health, among others.
Improving access through safe infrastructure improvement is interwoven with poverty reduction. Every effort to improve people’s lives relies on their ability to access services. This is particularly true in rural areas – the UN estimates that 70% of those who subsist on less than $1.25 a day live and work in rural areas.
Continental Crossings is a civil engineering student organization at the University of Iowa. We work with Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide isolated communities with access to essential health care, education and economic opportunities by building footbridges over impassable rivers. Each year we design, fund raise and construct a bridge in a rural community in a developing country.
From the Ground Up
1. Site Survey
Our year long process begins with a survey of a few potential sites. Surveying is important because we not only collect topographical information about the area, but also information about the community. Information especially of interest includes how many people cross the river each day and what resources are unavailable when the river rises and prevents that traffic.
2. Bridge Design
With the help of a panel of technical advisors from Bridges to Prosperity, we develop a simple footbridge design complementary to the site. Except for recycled shipyard cable, all materials that go into our bridge are local.
A big part of our state-side work is fundraising. Each year we must raise about $15,000 to cover the cost of the bridge. We hold car washes and bake sales. Additionally, we receive support from local business, grants, and corporate donations. Travel team members must also do personal fundraising as well to cover the cost of their trip to build the bridge alongside the community.
During our winter break we send a pair of students down to the community in need to set up excavations for anchors and foundations so that when the travel team returns in the summer, construction will be ready to begin. Over the course of eight weeks, students in the travel team live and work alongside the community to construct foundations, tiers, towers, anchors, and a walkway. Finally, the community holds an opening day ceremony to celebrate their accomplishments and all of the opportunities awaiting in the future with their newly gained access.
History and Accomplishments
· Continental Crossings was formed in 2006
· Our first bridge build and success was in 2007 in Peru
· Second Bridge built in 2010 in Zambia in collaboration of designs with the University of Iowa and the University of Zambia
· Third Bridge built in 2011 in Nicaragua!
· Fourth Bridge built in 2012 in Jucuapa Occidental, Nicaragua
· Fifth Bridge built in 2013 in Jicaro, Nicaragua
· Sixth Bridge built in 2014 in Cinta Verde, Nicaragua
· Seventh Bridge will be built this summer in Las Lagunas, Nicaragua