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 commutes without a bridge to cross.
These areas often do not have sufficient infrastructure servicing their communities. Safe and maintained trails and footbridges are necessary to lead productive lives.
Infrastructure improvement is interwoven with poverty reduction. Every effort to improve people’s lives relies on their ability to access services such as education, healthcare, and job opportunities. This is particularly true in the rural areas we work in, so we keep the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in mind to combat worldwide poverty. They include halving extreme poverty, providing universal primary education, and improving child and maternal health, among others.
Continental Crossings is a student organization at the University of Iowa, dedicated to using engineering principles, resources, and teamwork to improve the infrastructure of these underdeveloped areas of the world. 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 Continental Crossings designs, fundraises, and constructs 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 was built successfully 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 Guadalupe, 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 built in 2015 in Mata Palo, Nicaragua