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Working together to connect a community in Rwanda

Partnering with Bridges to Prosperity, 12 volunteers changed lives in Butare, Rwanda, by building a 97-meter suspended footbridge.

Imagine if carefully stepping on slippery rocks to cross a river were part of your daily commute.

For an estimated 48 percent of the population in densely populated Rwanda, this is a reality. Completing the tasks of daily life—walking to school, going to the market to buy groceries or sell your goods, commuting to jobs—become dangerous or impossible, especially during the rainy season.

In Butare, Rwanda, 12 CH2Mers heard firsthand the devastating impacts caused by the lack of safe, accessible transport. During the rainy seasons, locals often found it impossible to cross the valley to go to the nearby market, school or health center, and each year 3 - 6 people die attempting to cross the river. Recently, many of the victims were young children.

In a partnership between the CH2M Foundation and Bridges to Prosperity, our team set out to improve these conditions, aiming to build a 97-meter suspended bridge in 12 days. The reward was evident from the beginning, as they watched people crossing the riverbed, multiple times a day. “There are hills everywhere and the terrain these people have to cross is challenging enough without crossing a river,” Aaron Roche, the team’s Construction Manager, described in his blog, “We witnessed almost a hundred children jumping on rocks in the river to get to school and there was no better way to motivate the team knowing how much it would be used.”

In his blog, Johhny Jackson added, “I must say that seeing the vast number of adults and kids making that crossing on a daily basis makes the work easier because you can literally see the positive impact the bridge will yield.”

Rising to the challenge, the team reached its goal of constructing the bridge in just 10 days—providing safe passage for 2,000 kids to get to school and 720 farmers and 80 small businesses going to markets. This new bridge also supports community access to three local health clinics and connects neighbors separated by the valley.

Ever since returning home, I often think of the Butare community members on my way to work,” Kit Yim shared, “I am pleased and relieved knowing that they—especially the kids—will no longer need to risk their lives crossing the river during the rainy season.”

“To actually be a part of a bridge build and then be able to watch as the people of the community—who will be using it in their everyday lives for the next 25 years—cross it with excitement and hope on their faces was definitely a highlight of my life,” echoed Tami Hansen.

This new suspended bridge, alongside the three others CH2M has completed with B2P, are a physical reflection of the company’s purpose to lay the foundation for human progress. It represents the more than 50 volunteers who have committed 46 days to positively impact four communities in three countries, saving an estimated 15,000 lives. With another CH2M bridge build in June, these numbers are still growing. 

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