Imagine risking your life to get to school, the doctor or to work. Imagine walking miles out of your way each day to find a safer point to cross a river.
This is part of the day-to-day life for thousands of people in rural communities around the world. Their opportunities are restricted and their lives can be lost–all for lack of a simple footbridge.
Flatiron has partnered with Bridges to Prosperity, a non-profit organization that has built 200 footbridges over impassable or life-threatening river crossings in 14 countries worldwide. Flatiron employees have helped design and build footbridges in rural areas such as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Flatiron is proud to support Bridges to Prosperity through major funding, material supply, innovative design and on-site volunteer project management and labor.
A Natural Partnership
One of America’s top bridge builders, Flatiron has earned a reputation for innovation, excellence and speed. This partnership allows Flatiron to help small villages by sharing our bridge building expertise, and by supplying materials and labor to help build reliable, sustainable footbridges.
At each bridge site, Flatiron sponsors a multi-disciplinary team of employees: engineers, supervisors, laborers and support staff. These employees also act as on-site trainers for the local populace, teaching design, construction and maintenance fundamentals. To date, more than 60 Flatiron employees have travelled as part of one of these bridge-building teams.
How can a single footbridge affect a rural village without a river crossing?
According to Bridges to Prosperity, within two years of bridge completion people in these communities experience, on average:
10 to 20% increase in per capita income
24% increase in employment for women
12% increase in school enrollment
18% increase in use of local health care clinics
These new bridges allow communities to plan, grow, and thrive in ways previously impossible. As Flatiron engineer Natalia Torres said, “A local woman who lived at the project site told me for her whole life, it had been her dream to have a bridge built over the river. The feeling of making someone’s dream come true was very special.”
“The experience of a lifetime is the only way to describe what we were fortunate enough to experience in Guatemala…Of all the bridges that I have built and will build, this will be the one I remember most.”
– Travis Davis, Engineer, Flatiron (La Taña, Guatemala, April 2010)
The Education Circle
Flatiron employees work together to design each footbridge individually, to fit each community’s unique needs and environment. Teams scout building sites and procure building materials. As the actual bridge construction dates near, the team works to complete last-minute details and gets ready for the hard work ahead of them onsite.
There they face new challenges—limited access to tools, equipment, materials and electricity—challenges that sharpen their minds and strengthen their ties to their fellow team members and local villagers. At the building site, Flatiron volunteers help local laborers develop marketable, sustainable construction skills that they can use on future community projects.
As Flatiron employees share their skills with villagers, those villagers share their perspectives and knowledge with the Flatiron workers.
“The enjoyment and satisfaction of working with local people and each other is hard to put in words,” said Flatiron drafting engineer technician David Hetzel, “Suffice to say: It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”