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News Oct 18, 2022

Connecting Kibiraro: Making an Impact in the Heart of Rwanda

Reflecting on our first-ever global Bridges to Prosperity build

  • Stewart Fisken, Sam Arthurson, Charlotte Wylie
  • Daisy Carter with community members
  • Tim Duncan
  • Joanne Caruso with community members
  • James Wilson and Erin James
  • Ousmane Insa
  • B2P Women
  • Hard hats

Four communities and 2,500 people now have safe, year-round access to essential services in a rural Rwandan community thanks to 12 of our Jacobs teammates.

Selected from close to 200 of our employees who applied to be part of the project, our team members traveled in June to Kibiraro, in western Rwanda, alongside the nonprofit Bridges to Prosperity (B2P).

The two-week mission: provide safe access across the Kibande river, which often becomes dangerously flooded during the rainy season. Crossing the river on a stack of timber logs to reach schools, access medical care and sell crops at market had resulted in regular injuries and even death over the years. Additionally, children missing school due to impassable rivers has long term effects on their education and future potential.

Our teammates learned basic terms in the local language (Kinyarwandan), lived and worked alongside local team members, and, of course, got their hands dirty to construct the 80-meter (262-foot) bridge. Together with local community members and Bridges to Prosperity staff, the collective group moved – by hand – 200,000 pounds of rock, and other materials throughout the build.

“The bridge build itself was at times demanding, but always achievable,” says Sam Arthurson, a Jacobs structural engineer. “As a bridge engineer, I’ve learned so much about construction and communication – and have loved the entire experience.”

Each day on site began with group stretching and preparation, as well as safety updates to prepare for the tasks ahead. The team also took a half-day team-building break to recharge at Lake Kivu.

For Nicola Wilkins, these shared experiences reinforced the power of teamwork and renewed inspiration for her role as technical director of solar photovoltaics. “We can achieve extraordinary success by working together, motivating and learning from each other,” she shares.

For the second week of the trip, the team was joined by Jacobs Chief Legal and Administrative Officer Joanne Caruso, who served as the executive sponsor for the project. “This amazing group of colleagues from around the world came together as a team and were so dedicated to this project. They really are just the very, very best of Jacobs,” she says. “It was such a privilege to join this team; never in a million years did I think I'd have this experience. I was thrilled to be able to see not only what we could achieve together as a team but really the difference we made to the community.”

On one of the final days, the team visited at a local school where students can now safely cross the Kibiraro bridge to attend.

Geotechnical Engineer Ousmane Insa reflects on his favorite day of the experience: “As soon as [the students] got in line, I remembered my childhood as a little boy in an elementary school in the Niger Republic... Working alongside the community made me realize how lucky I am in life, and how important it is for me to leverage my skills and privilege to better the lives of the underserved communities around the world.”

After the school visit, the team inaugurated the bridge with celebratory song and dance from the community. One man, who worked alongside Jacobs during the bridge construction, shared an emotional tribute to his three friends who lost their lives to the river, underscoring the impact of the new bridge.

Then, after two weeks of teamwork, laughter and determination, a ribbon cutting officially opened the bridge and the build team and community symbolically crossed together.

“I’m a better engineer, friend and human due to carrying out Bridges to Prosperity’s vision,” shares Erin James, global sustainability specialist and five-time B2P volunteer.

It’s a vision that aligns to our own purpose of creating a more connected, sustainable world, and we know our time in Rwanda will live in #OurJacobs hearts and memories.

Watch the incredible experience unfold:

Connecting Kibiraro: Making an Impact in the Heart of Rwanda

The Kibiraro Trailbridge Project marks Jacobs’ first-ever global bridge build. While individual Jacobs teammates and legacy CH2M teams have participated in 13 bridge builds since 2014, Jacobs had never officially sent a team on a B2P build until Kibiraro. We can’t wait for our next opportunity!

Kibiraro Bridge Impact by the Numbers:

  • 80

    meter span bridge serving 2.5K people

  • 30 %

    increase in annual household income

  • 1 K

    more children with safe access to school

  • 260

    more women with access to attended births

  • 12

    Jacobs teammates representing 6 countries