Footbridges Create Economic Opportunity

It was November of 2015, and a local community on the Nzoia River in Western Kenya was mid-way through construction for their new footbridge. While spending time on-site we got to know Jaqueline, a local business women that operates a mobile food service. I guess you could compare her business to the ‘food trucks’ that service construction sites and other public venues in North America.

When we asked her what the new bridge would mean to her she replied with excitement as the new access to the ‘other side’ of the river will allow her to expand her business and easily increase the coverage area for her mobile food service. Jaqueline’s story is one of many examples where entrepreneurs and small business owners benefit from increased economic opportunity when a new footbridge is built.

Jaqueline, owner of a mobile food service business in Western Kenya.

Jaqueline, owner of a mobile food service business in Western Kenya.

To raise awareness for this weeks’ social impact employees from Mammoet Canada completed a river walk to see what their lives may look like if they did not have bridges to cross the rivers near their office.

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When thinking about our plans to participate in this fundraiser, I racked my brain to consider how I can relate my day-to-day life to someone living on the other side of the world, under entirely different circumstances. I came to the conclusion that I can’t. It’s just too different. I work in Communications and Marketing; I spend my days slumped over a computer working on key messages, marketing materials, and spinning bad news into good. How could I possibly relate this to someone seeking economic opportunity in rural Kenya?

Then Dan Thorne and I had a chat. Dan runs the Business Development department for our company, and spends a ton of time on the road meeting prospective clients – creating economic opportunity. And there we had our walk: Dan and I were going to simulate visiting a client to fulfill our walk theme.

When Dan and I mentioned to our colleagues our intentions, a number of them jumped at the opportunity to participate. The more the merrier! We even had a couple junior walkers; our colleague Tanya brought her children Romeo and Sylas to learn an important lesson about daily life in other parts of the world.

“Happy group ready to walk” From left: Erica Stolp, Kim Robichaud, Katie Skinner, Tanya Almeida and son Romeo, Rick Crawford and Dan Thorne

We met on a Friday afternoon at the Grand River in Kitchener, Canada. Luckily for us, it hadn’t rained recently so we anticipated a trouble-free crossing.

Our yard supervisor Rick Crawford brought his work boots as he would to work every day. Dan had his briefcase; I had the shiny work camera that I use to capture exciting moments for marketing materials.

Off we went! The first part of the trip was across a shallow, rocky section, which gave us a chance to get used to the water. It turned out to be a particularly slippery section, causing one or two moments of alarm, but all in all, we got to a dry section in the middle just fine. Pausing for a (photo) break, we assessed the next section, which was much deeper and had a significantly stronger current.

Teamwork helped through the deeper points

The return trip – post "meeting"

Our de facto guide and part time mountain man Dan Thorne led our group through the deeper sections of the river. Some sections caught us off guard with the depth and the strength of the current. In the end, the group held hands to support each other in getting across the deeper sections. Once across, the team surveyed their progress and acknowledged that as enjoyable as this was on a nice warm summer’s afternoon, it would be significantly less fun in the winter months, just before the water froze.

The aftermath.

All in all, though we shared some laughter, we all acknowledged how frustrating and difficult it would be to endure this every time we need to get to a meeting, to get to work, or to a trade show when we carry large installations and images. It was a wonderful lesson in humility, and a reminder to us all to appreciate the things we take for granted. It is my pleasure and honor to support a cause as valuable as Bridging the Gap Africa.

- Katie Skinner, Communications Manager, Mammoet

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Will you BE A BRIDGE today and make a donation to build a bridge that will increase economic opportunities in Kenya?

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