Week 3 Oltulelei Community Bridge: Hard Work Indeed!

This week the Oltulelei team finished digging the hole for the bridge anchor on the south side of the river. There was much joy when the last bit of soil was dug out from the bottom of the hole. However, the smiles only lasted a short time—because now the same task waited on the other side of the river. Believe us, digging by hand using pickaxes, hoes, and shovels is no joke. It is tough, laborious work. It’s a good thing we had what we call the “A” team with us.

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The local Oltulelei team pressed on with the excavation while the BtGA team prepared to set up the anchor section for a large concrete pour.

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As Debora spent more time at the bridge site, checking out the riverbank and the bridge surroundings, she realized there were some areas of severe soil erosion. From her new office
she is developing an action plan to counter the problem and prevent future erosion. She also noticed something else-- on average about 1,000 livestock (cows, goats, and sheep) travel daily
through the new bridge site location to graze. That could affect the ground surrounding the bridge. The Maasai people are pastoralist, and their livelihoods depend on their livestock. So,
Debora and the team are working toward a solution to divert the livestock traffic around the bridge site while also maintaining the Maasai’s connection to their herds.

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Cows, goats, and sheep weren’t the only company at the bridge site. We spent a good amount of time chasing monkeys away—that is, when we weren’t negotiating kuku (chicken in Swahili) prices. And when word spread through the community that we loved to eat chicken, most days we had more than one Mama wanting to sell us kukus. Matthew thought we ought to build a chicken coop. So, he turned a workbench into one!

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It is now the end of our third week at the Oltulelei bridge site. The excavation is well underway on the other side of the river, and concrete has been poured for the first anchor. Everyone is tired at the end of every day. But we are rewarded with a good meal to enjoy under a beautiful sunset. Somehow, the memory of the day’s hard work seems softer under that light.

Week 2 Oltulelei Community Bridge: Some Things Can't Be Made Up

Our main goals going into our second week at Oltulelei were to finish transporting materials to camp, set up the remaining tents and common areas, and continue digging the foundation for the massive beam anchor. Goals always come with obstacles. And we got more than our share: the supply truck loaded with bridge materials and steel parts bogged down in the middle of nowhere! Not to be outdone, JACO, our old but faithful Landcruiser pickup truck, chipped in with a dead battery. That’s when we knew the honeymoon was over!

After push-starting old JACO and driving through muddy bush roads—depending on directions from people who didn’t speak a word of English, our team finally reached the truck. Upon arrival, Matthew assessed the situation. Let's just say it was not good. The heavily loaded truck was seriously stuck! 

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With no other options and dusk approaching, our crew of locals began to shovel around the truck’s tires and to lodge pieces of wood around them to help gain leverage. After many unsuccessful attempts, the crew decided to completely unload all the items off the truck to make it lighter so that JACO could pull it out. It was 9:00 pm when JACO finally managed to get the truck unstuck and the crew loaded the truck shortly after. We were so relieved. The worse was over.

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Famous last words. Driving back to camp at such a late hour and in such poor visibility wasn’t ideal, but we pressed on. Despite driving slowly and carefully, the truck got stuck again. Some things can't be made up! This time it bogged down on private property. Let’s just say the owner wasn’t impressed! Due to the late hour, Matthew left the truck overnight and made it back to camp around 1:00 am. In the morning, the team received word that a nearby safari camp (Cottar's 1920 Camp) had dispatched a large tractor to pull our supply truck out of the mud. The tractor was essential in assisting to dislodge the truck and assist in crossing the Sand River. We are beyond grateful for the help from the Cottars team.

By some coincidence, or perhaps a miracle, our BtGA team of workers arrived on the site at the same time as the supply truck. With the team’s help, we finished setting up camp a few days later. Later in the week, the first layer of anchor excavation was nearly completed, and Débora was able to start testing soil mixture ratios to be used as grass starter for erosion control along the riverbank and gullies.

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Murphy’s Law says that if anything can go wrong, it will. We saw that law in action this week. But we also gained something: we realized that a bridge is a labor of love, patience, and sacrifice. When things go wrong, and they will, those are what we depend on to set things right again.

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Week 1 Oltulelei Community Bridge: Greetings from the Field!

Bridging the Gap Africa is excited to announce that construction of the Oltulelei Community Bridge has officially begun under the guidance of Matthew and Debora Bowser. Matthew is a professional Bridge engineer and BTGA’s Kenya Country Manager; his wife Debora is an adviser in soil erosion.

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The Oltulelei Community Bridge will be a 55m span M-Type suspension bridge, BTGA’s longest M-Type suspension bridge to date! It will provide an essential crossing over the formidable Sand River. The Sand River separates the local Oltulelei community from the necessities of life and is gravely dangerous to cross in the rainy season. This beautiful bridge will save lives by preventing drownings and bring social change by linking the community with economic opportunities, education, and healthcare. Oltulelei is located outside the Maasai Mara of Kenya.

The project was delayed due to the rainy season, but our team arrived at the Oltulelei Bridge site ready to tackle the project. The first few days were spent removing weathered/ fallen limbs and branches to fence the riverbank, laying foundations for the tents, kitchen, tool shed, and utilizing infrequent household items for a makeshift bathroom…. Sparing the details, but it involves buckets and plastic bags!!!

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On Day 3, digging for the tower foundation of the Oltulelei Bridge began! This task alone would take over a week and would be completed by members of the Maasai community. BTGA requires community participation in the digging of the foundation of a bridge. Our team was continually surprised with the Maasai's incredibly hard work, even when they encountered major communication difficulties. The Maasai crew leader assigned to lead the other nine Maasai didn’t speak a word of English, and some of the crew didn’t speak Swahili, Kenya’s official language! Debora mentioned that “Nonetheless, we’ve made significant progress even through the language barriers.”

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Over the following days, the team loaded JACO, BTGA’s work truck with more supplies, prefabricated materials, and a cement mixer in Kitale, located in Western Kenya, and made the 10-hour journey over many unpaved roads to deliver it to the bridge site. So, after a long week of digging, driving loading/unloading and setting up camp, everyone was exhausted.

As the sun went down on day 7, the camp was completed, and the BTGA team settled into their new home. Matthew reported, “we had some delays and unexpected curve balls during the first few days, but we were delighted that we managed to get our tents up before sundown today and have a place to sleep!” July is Kenya’s coldest month, and average annual temperatures fluctuate between 52 - 76 C/ 11 - 26ºC, giving Maasai Mara a similar climate to northern California. “This place is freezing cold at night... and yes, I am Canadian!!” said Matthew.

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A very sincere thank you to all of the donors for the 2017 BE A BRIDGE Fundraiser that was hosted by our Proud Partner, Initiative 360 and for the matching funds provided by WSP Canada! We express our most profound gratitude for your support of this project!

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TEAM MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Chris Offen

 
 

Each month, we feature BtGA team members who have made a significant contribution to our organization. From impacting our daily processes and procedures to shaping our culture, our team members come from diverse backgrounds and are constantly finding ways to spark greatness within BtGA.

1. What is your personal philosophy?

Show dignity and fairness to all. 

 

2. Where were you born? Where are you from?  

I was born in the Bronx, NY. My parents were immigrants who later became U.S. citizens. My mother was from Ireland and father was from Germany. Thus, I was a first generation American growing up in New York City and New Jersey. Went to college in Washington DC and have always lived in the Southeastern part of the US since graduation. 

 

3. Where did you graduate? What did you study? Any certifications?  

I have a BA from The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. where I studied Biology/Pre-med. I also have an MBA in Marketing/Management from George Mason University in Virginia. I attended the Advanced Executive Program at the Kellogg School of Business, Northwestern University, Illinois; as well as several shorter Business Programs at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. 

 

4. What three traits define you?  

Organized, focused, and analytical

 

5. Favorite book/movie?  

Movie: Star Wars. Book: The Greatest Generation by T. Brokaw

 

6. What are you most looking forward to? 

In my current retirement, I look forward towards enjoying myself with my wife, kids, grandchildren, and friends. Getting involved in endeavors and ventures that allow me to give back to people less fortunate than I have been blessed to be.  Shooting a golf score less than 100.  

 

7. What drew you to BTGA and how has BTGA changed has since joining the team?  

The focus of BTGA is to build bridges to save and improve people’s lives. It is measureable, you know you have accomplished your goal when the bridge is built. Most importantly, the bridge delivers tangible benefits to the health and economy of people in challenging areas of Africa. I believe BTGA has changed for the better by amplifying its technical and business capabilities.

 

8. What is your wish list for the organization in the next 5 years?

To develop a sustainable organization where the funding is more predictable, and the impact is larger through building more bridges each year. 

 

9. What is the favorite part about working for BTGA? 

The people of the organization have high values and are singularly focused to do what is right to improve people’s lives.  

 

10. Tell us something that might surprise us about you.  

Humorous (New York Style). I can’t walk and wear flip flops on my feet. Never learned how to wear them; therefore, I avoid them in the summer making me the odd person out within my family. 

 

TEAM MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Burleigh Law

Each month, we feature BtGA team members who have made a significant contribution to our organization. From impacting our daily processes and procedures to shaping our culture, our team members come from diverse backgrounds and are constantly finding ways to spark greatness within BtGA.

1. What is your personal philosophy?

Fulfill the plan and purpose God has for my life through my knowledge and experience as a bridge engineer.  Show others grace because it has been so freely given to me. Love my wife and kids as best I can and always cherish my time with them because life moves so quickly.  Life is precious, so do my best to serve others while I can.

 

2. Where were you born? Where are you from?  

I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) to 2nd generation missionary parents who still live and serve there today.  My Dad’s parents served there as well in the 50’s and early 60’s and my grandfather Burleigh was martyred in 1963.  I lived in Africa 11 of my first 18 years, including 3 years at Kijabe, Kenya to attend high school at Rift Valley Academy.  Nicholasville, Kentucky was home when we were in the States.

 

3. Where did you graduate? What did you study? Any certifications?  

I graduated from Asbury University in 1995 with a BA in Physical Science and from the University of Kentucky in 1996 with a BS in Civil Engineering.  At that time Asbury and UK had a 3-2 program. I took all of the standard undergraduate courses like English, science, and math at Asbury, then all of the engineering courses at UK.  I’m a licensed professional engineer in three states.

 

4. What three traits define you?  

I’m very thorough and detailed oriented, as you would hope with a bridge engineer.  I’m a bit of an introvert, but I can be assertive, vocal, and proactive when needed.  It’s taken me time to learn this, but I like to be very thoughtful, considerate, logical, and fact based in my responses to challenging or controversial topics or issues.

 

5. Favorite book/movie?  

Sadly, I haven’t read very many books in the last several years, so clearly, I need to do more reading.  The most recent book I read was You and Me Forever – Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis & Lisa Chan. It’s about how to have a healthy marriage by first being a healthy follower of Christ and served as a great reminder even after 24 years of marriage.  My favorite movie is either Forrest Gump or the Lord of the Ring series. As an engineer, I’m a bit of a sci-fi geek, so also love the Marvel movie series like Avengers and the more recent Star Wars movies.

 

6. What are you most looking forward to? 

Wow, that’s a tough one since there are so many.  I love spending time with my wife and kids, especially on vacation, and Father-Son outings or Daddy-Daughter dates, I love seeing how God is moving in the lives of my kids through the good and the bad, I love to golf and enjoy the outdoors, I love traveling to Kenya for a bridge build, I love winning projects at work, delivering on deadlines, and making clients happy.

 

7. What drew you to BTGA and how has BTGA changed has since joining the team?  

The lack of infrastructure in Africa created in me a desire to become a civil engineer, with an emphasis on bridges.  Most of the vehicular bridges over there are terrible and would scare the bravest of you, so I knew bridges was the way to go.  I’ve always known I would someday use my skills as a bridge engineer in Africa, but never found the right opportunity. The urge and desire to serve in Africa became stronger than ever toward the end of 2013, so I began searching for organizations building bridges in Africa.  I discovered BtGA and was pleasantly surprised to see Harmon as the founder and director. Harmon has been a longtime family friend, having built our home in the Congo in 1985 using his mason skills, but we hadn’t been in touch for years. I immediately reached out to Harmon to see if there was an opportunity to serve and here we are 4 ½ years later.

 

8. What is your wish list for the organization in the next 5 years?

For BtGA to have raised enough funds to support building at least 10-20 bridges per year, expand into other African countries, have a full-time design team, have more full-time staff and boots on the ground in Kenya, have trained, hired, and retained a strong team of Kenyan engineers and skilled laborers and builders, and have all the necessary trucks and equipment to support all of the above.

 

9. What is the favorite part about working for BTGA? 

There are many, but definitely includes working alongside Harmon and a great group of committed members on the TAC.  We all have full-time jobs and families, so it can be challenging to find enough time to volunteer. And really more than anything, to see the smiles on the faces of children and women crossing a brand-new bridge for the first time.

 

10. Tell us something that might surprise us about you.  

Growing up in Africa generates many surprises and life changing opportunities not afforded to others.  We had a lion on our farm in the Congo when I was 2 years old, I had malaria 7 times, I almost got bit by a black mamba and many other snakes were it not for my Congolese friends, as a family we saw the mountain gorillas in eastern Congo after an hour and a half hike through dense and dangerous forests, and I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro as a senior in high school.

 

“I’ve always had a strong desire to give back to Africa and its people, so I loved being able to join BtGA as a volunteer in late 2013/early 2014 after 18 years into my professional career.” – Burleigh Law

 

The tool that is taking BTGA to the next level: Classy

Are you interested in starting a fundraising campaign to help save lives with BtGA? We have good news for you!

Meet Classy.

What is Classy? As the world’s fastest growing fundraising platform for social impact organizations, Classy has enabled millions of people across 300K individual campaigns to help fund more than 3,000 organizations. From cutting-edge health programs to educational advancement to engineering innovations, Classy’s customers are tackling the world’s greatest challenges with the power of the Classy platform. In addition, it helps 501c3 or other nonprofit organizations to run crowdfunding, online and mobile campaigns, awareness and fundraising events all under one roof.

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We have experimented with Classy for a few months and were ready to introduce it to you.

1. We now can reach entirely new audiences.

2. Classy has allowed us to build out user friendly campaign pages that looks clean with no web development experience.

3. The staff has been extraordinarily helpful in guiding us to fully utilize all the tools and resources within the software.

4. Classy has expanded its platform’s capabilities to process donations, and issue receipts to donors across the world, in over 100 currencies.

5.  Classy is easy to use!

We can’t rave enough about their great customer service and helpfulness with strategic planning. They are also open to feedback and continue to improve their product based on their client's needs.

If you are interested in starting a fundraising campaign, and be a part of the movement to transforming lives, please contact Timirial Laney at timi@bridgingthegapfrica.org.

 

RESOURCES:

Image: https://www.classy.org/
Classy: https://www.classy.org/online-fundraising-company
Article: https://techcrunch.com/2016/11/01/classy-raises-30-million-to-help-nonprofits-raise-donations-make-a-greater-impact/

 

TEAM MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Welcome, Matthew and Débora Bowser!

We have a new monthly series:
Team Member Spotlight

We want to give you an opportunity to learn a little more about the people behind BTGA, along with some of the reasons we are excited they joined. For our first Team Spotlight, we interview BtGA's new In-Country Director, Matthew Bowser and his wife Débora, who is an Erosion Technician for BtGA. The Bowsers arrived in Kenya this month and are ready to get started making a difference in their new roles.

1. What is your personal philosophy?

M: “Find the things in life that you are not good at, and don’t do them” a quote from the Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World.  I enjoy new challenges in life and appreciate finding things that I excel at; however, I am also very comfortable with my limitations.

D: “If you think you are too small to make a difference trying sleeping with a mosquito” Dalai Lama.

2. Where were you born? Where are you from?

M: I was born in New Westminster and grew up on Canada’s west coast.

D: I was born in a city located in the Brazilian Rainforest. I have dual citizenship: Brazilian and Canadian.

3. Where did you graduate? What did you study? Any certifications?

M: I have a Diploma of Civil and Structural Engineering from BCIT and received my B.A.Sc. and M.A.Sc. in Civil Engineering from the University of Waterloo.  I am a registered Professional Engineer in the Canadian Provinces of British Columbia and Ontario.

D: I attended the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada from 2011 to 2017. I graduate from a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 2015 and a Master of Environmental Science in 2017.

4. What three traits define you?  

M: Débora says I am blond, handsome, and tall.

D: I am organized, hardworking and fun.

5. Favorite book/movie?  

M: My favourite movie is Schindler’s List, it inspires me to be a better person and to use my skills in a way that provides social change.

D: Favourite movie is Forest Gump, the thing I appreciate most about this movie is that you can find yourself in the most precarious situations and still make the most of it.

6. What are you most looking forward to?  

M: The first two nights camped out at each bridge build… by the third night I am sure reality will hit.

D: To put my education to good use.

7. What drew you to BTGA and how has BTGA changed has since joining the team?  

M: I am passionate about helping people and enjoy designing and building bridges… BtGA provides an incredible opportunity to combine my passion and profession.  In the 5 years since I joined the BtGA Team I am particularly proud that we have compiled an incredible Technical Advisory Committee and that we have developed our own BtGA Suspension Bridge design that is detailed specifically for Kenya.

D: What initially drew me was Matthew. He started to talk about BtGA at home some years ago but at the time I had no interest as I am not an engineer. When Harmon Parker came to visit us in 2015 he mentioned that erosion was a problem around the bridge sites. Now, being a plant/soil person that peeked my interest right away. When we came to Kenya in 2016 I realized if we were to move here I could be useful to the organization by developing and implementing a programme to reduce bridge scouring at the bridge sites.

8. What is your wish list for the organization in the next 5 years?  

M: My hope is that 5 years from now BtGA has a Kenyan Engineer that is able to manage bridge projects from start to finish including community engagement, design, and construction supervision.

D: To grow and reach as many communities as possible not only in Kenya but other neighbouring countries as well.

9. What is the favorite part about working for BTGA?  

M: I get to work with amazing people in a beautiful place.

D: The people you meet along the way.

10. Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

M: While am very content drinking wine from a mason jar I also have a great appreciation for fine English China.

D: As a child I used to light tarantulas on fire…there was a good reason for it, which I am happy to explain over a beer.


 

2016 BE A BRIDGE Raises $CAD 51,300 – Thank you for your support!

Thank you to all that supported Bridging the Gap Africa’s 2016 BE A BRIDGE Fundraiser, together you raised $CAD 51,300!

The local community, in partnership with Bridging the Gap Africa, have broken ground at the bridge site and we are excited to let you know that construction of Kakenya’s Crossing is officially underway.

The community is very excited about their new piece of infrastructure! 

 Breaking Ground for Kakenya's Crossing - "Low Flow Season"

Breaking Ground for Kakenya's Crossing - "Low Flow Season"

 Kakenya's Crossing - Local Students

Kakenya's Crossing - Local Students

Footbridges Enable Education

It was April of this year when Bridging the Gap Africa was visiting a primary school in Central Pokot, a remote region in Kenya where a bridge had to be removed several years ago due to erosion of the river banks. The head school master explained to us that the day after the bridge was removed 230 students where immediately separated from their local primary school. We were told how some of the older primary students continued to talk to school by adding a detour consisting of a three (3) walk to get to a location upstream where the students could safely cross the river. There were also several teachers that lived on the ‘far side’ of the river that were required to walk this long detour to continue their role as educators for the children in their community. We are pleased to note that a bridge has now been reconstructed for this community in Central Pokot, but there are several other schools in rural Kenya that require footbridges to provide safe and reliable year-round access to education.

When Anna Lucas heard how a simple footbridge has a profound social impact by enabling education in rural Kenya she immediately wanted to help raise funds and awareness for this cause. Anna shares how educators at Sheppard Public School in Kitchener, Canada, care about education for all children.

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In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” As a group of educators that message resonates deeply with us and it is the impetus behind our river crossing to support Bridging the Gap Africa’s “Be a Bridge” fundraiser. We believe passionately that ALL children have a right to the basic education they need to become empowered adults who can support their families and help lift their communities out of poverty. 

It is a right that is easy for us in Canada to take for granted (although it is worth noting that it is not a right that many Indigenous communities in our country would take for granted). We have the privilege of receiving students at school each day who are safely delivered by school bus, by cars, or by walking along relatively safe streets. As educators, we have the luxury of safe passage to school in order to teach our students. It is hard for us to imagine living in a community where our students’ journey or an educator’s journey to school might put their lives at risk. Can you imagine the risk of animal attacks or drowning in order to access a basic right - the right to an education. 

While we obviously could not replicate the challenges and danger that many students and educators confront in their journeys to school, crossing the Grand River in Kitchener, Ontario, and then making the 6km trek to school was an important symbolic gesture for us.

Our goals were manyfold:

  • to put ourselves in the shoes of others (in a very diminished way as we knew this would be a safe crossing for us and one that was undertaken by choice, not necessity);
  • to raise money for and awareness of this important issue;
  • lastly, to model for our students the words of Mahatma Ghandi, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Educators from Sheppard Public School crossing the Grand River before sunrise.

A river crossing with purpose: educators wanting to see education for ALL children.

So with these goals in our hearts, we met in the pre-dawn hours to begin our trek across the Grand River. It was necessary for us to meet before the sun had risen in order to reach school in time. With our home-made signs in hand, advertising Bridging the Gap Africa and the Kakenya Centre for Excellence, we joined hands as a sign of unity for this cause and stepped into the river. We were very lucky that in early October the water was still quite warm. We were also lucky that the fall crossing meant that the waters were at a low level. 

I once accompanied my son to this river in the spring in order to fly fish and we experienced firsthand how easily the strong current can overpower a child. Luckily, he had an adult on hand to support him when he was suddenly overpowered by the fast moving waters - we never made that mistake again! A child having to face a strong current to access school is quite a different situation to a child crossing the river for recreational fishing with the safe protection of a parent. Even with the lower water levels, we experienced a deceptively strong current in the middle of the river.  We were only at thigh high level yet the current, at one point, presented us with a challenge. We simply could not imagine a young child having to face this current as part of their journey to school. We simply could not imagine our own dear students having to experience this as part of their daily life.

As we emerged from the river on the other side we huddled in a circle to take a moment to reflect on the experience of children who face perils far, far greater than we had experienced or could imagine experiencing. With signs in hand, and chants of “education for all” and “build that bridge”, we embarked upon our 6km walk to school. We were inspired by all the honks from passing cars and we even received a donation en route!

Arriving at school at the end of their 6km walk.

We will now be using the experience of our river crossing to inspire our school community to engage in awareness raising and fundraising initiatives for Bridging the Gap Africa. We know they will embrace this cause with the same compassion and generosity that is characteristic of our amazing school community. We just can’t wait to get started! While we feel our river crossing and walk has made a worthwhile contribution to BtGA, the truth is, we received far more by being part of this endeavor that we can ever give. We were all so moved and inspired by this experience and it has created a deep bond between us “river walkers” that enriches both our school life and our personal life. We thank BtGA for the the privilege of participating in this incredible initiative.

To watch news coverage of our Educators’ Walk follow this link http://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=967434 

To sponsor us, please select “Educators’ Walk” in the “Donate” link and help us keep working towards that goal of education for all! Thank you!

Anna Lucas, Teacher at Sheppard Public School, Kitchener, Canada

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Will you BE A BRIDGE today by making a donation to promotes education for children in Kenya?

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Footbridges Provide Access to Work and Schools

In rural Kenya, many people find themselves making difficult decisions when it comes to accessing places of education and employment: Do we risk walking through a river to get our children to school and ourselves to work? Or do we keep our children at home (and out of school) during the rainy seasons because the river is high and dangerous to cross? 

At Bridging the Gap Africa, we believe that people should not be faced with these questions.  And when we enable these communities to build footbridges across these dangerous rivers we reduce the number of people that have to make these difficult decisions. 

To raise awareness for this weeks’ social impact, Dan and Sophie completed a walk through the Grand River in Kitchener, Canada.

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The concern that there were school children wading through rivers in Africa was a long topic of discussion at our supper table earlier this year. As the discussion grew, and the understanding of the variability of a river and predators lurking for prey was understood; the need to support Bridging the Gap Africa became a cause for our support.

I work as a project manager for MMM/WSP and Sophie, my daughter, is in Grade 8 in Kitchener Ontario. We reside in a community that grew by the Grand River, a river with a watershed of approximately 6,800 square kilometers. Our thought was to replicate a normal day to work and school with a river crossing. We imagined that if we had to cross the river each day, we would probably have a place to cross and would be prepared to cross. We would be wary of the dangers of the river and the predators living nearby. However, the speed, depth of the river and the unpredictability of the local predators would be our daily concern.

To help us understand how this could impact us, we decided that we would not spend much time preparing for our crossing and that we would wear what we would normally wear for our school and work days. Our challenge, while not the same, would help us understand the challenges of our counterparts in Africa.

 Dan reflecting on what life would be like if this was part of their daily routine.

Dan reflecting on what life would be like if this was part of their daily routine.

Sophie stepping out into the Grand River.

At our crossing location, the river is variable depth and speed with several small islands and shallow areas. We made four attempts to cross the river at different locations. The first three attempts would have put the water level high enough such that Sophie would have been swept downstream. I was beginning to think that we would not be able to cross but Sophie found some shallower water upstream that was moving more quickly at reduced depths. What I thought would be a 10 minute crossing actually took us about 30 minutes.

Sophie in the Grand River during her walk.

We were both wet and dirty from the grasses and the mud. Without a change of clothes we would have been very uncomfortable participating at school or at work. If the river had been flowing slightly higher, we would have probably abandoned the crossing. We wondered how many days of school are missed because of the unpredictability of rivers in Africa. We wondered how they managed to cross and participate in the normal activities of work and school after crossing the river. Do they have a change of clothes?  How do they manage to carry their homework? What if they slip into the river; is there someone there to save them?

Sophie and her "after-math."

In North America we take bridges for granted without thought that they may not be there tomorrow. The resources required for these foot bridges is small and yet the benefits are enormous. Please support Bridging the Gap Africa as a simple foot bridge provides a dependable safe crossing and permits communities to grow through education and commerce.

-Dan and Sophie

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Will you BE A BRIDGE today and donate?

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