In the Community

HOCHTIEF Helps Build 100th B2P Bridge in Rwanda

Flatiron Construction’s general counsel and Bridges to Prosperity Board member Melody Pickett and her family traveled to Rwanda with HOCHTIEF to build Bridges to Prosperity’s 100th footbridge. Melody’s Daughter Jamie shared this reflection.

In July, the members of the board of Bridges to Prosperity including Flatiron’s Elie Homsi, Melody Pickett and their families traveled to Rwanda for the opening of Bridges to Prosperity’s 100th bridge. The 95-meter Mayange Nyamabare suspension bridge in the Gatsibo District of northern Rwanda is also the first B2P bridge built by HOCHTIEF employees.

The nearest crossings are 20 kilometers in one direction and 10 kilometers in the other. This bridge will serve as many as 12,000 people and up to 600 people are expected to use it each day. The bridge will cut as many as 12 miles off the route taken by villagers to access schools, medical facilities and markets for selling crops.

The inaugural crossing of the bridge was one of the most memorable moments of the trip. A crowd of more than 500 villagers, local dignitaries including the mayor of Gatsibo, a four-star general from the army and local media attended the celebration. As they crossed the bridge for the first time, villagers began to clap and sing, growing louder and louder and finally  cheering and dancing as they arrived safely on the opposite side.

The 10-person HOCHTIEF crew will be the first of many volunteer teams. HOCHTIEF’s Bert Hoekstra, corporate sponsor of Bridges to Prosperity, announced during the bridge’s opening celebration that the company would sponsor additional bridges and employee volunteer teams in the future. This commitment received thunderous applause and cheers from the local villagers.

During the trip, about 23 family members traveling with the B2P board helped construct another bridge in the Ngororero District in western Rwanda. Student interns from Princeton University led construction of the 34-meter suspension bridge with the help of local masons and workers. The group prepared tower foundations, digging out large rocks from the river and passing them along a giant assembly line up the banks of the river. The team also took time to play with local children, handing out stickers, doing the “hokey-pokey,” blowing bubbles and playing “duck-duck-goose.” It was truly amazing to see this diverse group from around the world working together for the same cause despite language barriers and cultural differences. The opportunity to contribute in a tangible way to building a bridge was the best part of the trip to Rwanda.

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