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Supporting Sustainable Communities and Infrastructure in Rwanda
For the 900 million people worldwide who lack basic transportation infrastructure, commuting realities can be challenging and even hazardous. Completing tasks of daily life—walking to school, going to the market to buy groceries or sell goods, commuting to jobs—becomes dangerous or impossible, especially during the rainy season.
"We are so grateful for the incredible support of CH2M, and proud of what we've been able to accomplish together in service of safe access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities for so many people."
— Avery Bang, CEO, Bridges to Prosperity
According to the Rural Access Index, 48 percent of the population in densely populated Rwanda lacks safe, adequate access to transport. Rwanda is one of the countries where CH2M employees are investing their engineering ingenuity, time, and talent to build sustainable communities in the developing world. In June 2015, we sent 11 employee volunteers from 7 different countries to Gasabo-Gasura, Rwanda, to build a 45‑meter-long suspension bridge in 12 days, working with our partner Bridges to Prosperity and the local community. “About 300 sites across the country should be bridged, so one of the main goals is to bring up the capacity of the local staff, so they can finish the job,” said Ben Cook from Boston. “So we spent a lot of time trying to share all the knowledge we could, but then at the same time, I also learned a lot from them.”
Since formalizing our partnership with Bridges to Prosperity through a US$100,000 grant from the CH2M Foundation in 2014, more than 30 employee volunteers have built footbridges in Panama, Nicaragua, and Rwanda, providing more than 2,000 community members with safe crossings to access schools, health clinics, and commercial markets. Bridges to Prosperity’s research shows that building a footbridge in a rural community leads to an 18 percent increase in women who are employed, a 24 percent increase in healthcare treatment, and a boost in school enrollment by 12 percent.
“What’s unique about our partnership with Bridges to Prosperity is that it gives our employees an opportunity to use their engineering skills in a real, tangible way while making a difference in two communities where footbridges will literally change their way of life,” says CH2M Foundation Executive Director Ellen Sandberg.
The new bridge enables 1,000 residents to cross the Karuruma River, a volatile waterway that prevents farmers from getting crops to market in the rainy season and proves dangerous for children and families traveling to nearby healthcare clinics and schools. Watch the bridge being built and erected in this video, and read inspiring stories by employee volunteers in the CH2M Foundation blog.
Some of our most memorable clients pay us in smiles, teamwork, and gratitude rather than money. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard in my life,” said Jamie Mapp from Chicago. “Working alongside the people who will be using this bridge is an amazing feeling.”
After the Rwanda bridge build, another team of CH2M volunteers headed to Rancheria, a rural community in Muy Muy, Matagalpa, to live and work for 2 weeks. The volunteer team constructed a 50‑meter-long suspension bridge that allows residents to cross the Campasagüa River. This bridge gives a community of 350 people access to schools, medical services, transportation, city services, and markets to sell their produce or purchase goods and food for their families.
"The Gasura Suspension Bridge is a perfect example of how nonprofits, businesses, and communities can come together to create real change in the developing world,” said Avery Bang, CEO of Bridges to Prosperity. “From the resources that helped to make our work in Rwanda possible, to the countless hours that employee volunteers dedicated to working alongside our staff and local community members to complete Gasura project, we are so grateful for the incredible support of CH2M, and proud of what we've been able to accomplish together in service of safe access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities for so many people."
In addition to Bridges to Prosperity, two of our other strategic partners are making tremendous contributions to building sustainable communities in Rwanda. We have been working with Engineers Without Borders USA and Water For People since their inception. Back in 2012, water engineer Diana Frost from Calgary, Alberta, was one of our first employees to travel to Rwanda as a volunteer, on a Water For People trip. By partnering with the Rwandan government, Water For People has helped create improved access to water supply for almost 60,000 people. The organization is implementing sustainable water system management, sanitation services, and maintenance and technical support to ensure that systems built today last well into the future.