It was the opening day for a new footbridge in West Pokot, Kenya, and part way through the celebration some of the elderly members of the community came to cross the bridge to join the ceremony. The conversation quickly shifted to the significance of these seniors crossing the bridge, without this bridge these seniors would likely live out the remainder of their lives without crossing this river. To understand the importance of this you need to realize that these seniors live on the ‘far side’ of the river where there is not a single facility that provides medical care. It was a heart-tugging moment seeing those seniors cross the bridge on that opening day because I knew that this bridge means that they will now have access to medical care that will improve their quality of life.
To raise awareness for this weeks’ social impact Fred and Sue Bowser and Phil Kinnie share about their adventure with their peers in Canada’s west coast British Columbia.
Our son has found a passion in building footbridges in Africa. His stories of the impact that these bridges have has more than caught our attention. So when he challenged us to consider doing a river crossing for the BE A BRIDGE Fundraiser we were more than willing to get on board. We were somewhat taken aback that our challenge was going to be paired with the topic of “How not having a bridge affects seniors.”
We recruited our close (and more senior) friends, Tris & Sunny White and Phil & Sue Kinnie, to help plan and participate in the crossing. Our planning sessions were usually around a dinner table enjoying a few cold refreshments. Jokes were plentiful as we contemplated our task at hand. It was during these times of laughter that we often paused to consider how daunting it must be for the elderly to be totally overwhelmed if they needed to cross a river without a bridge for medical help, or to purchase their groceries for the week. Some days it is hard enough for us old folks to crawl out of bed let alone to wade across a flooding river. We know we didn’t even begin to truly appreciate the real impact that walking across a river would have if it was part of our everyday existence. What we do know is that our level of awareness was greatly heightened along with our appreciation of bridges.
- Fred and Sue Bowser, Surrey, Canada
So after several ‘planning’ dinners, the three couples decided that they would assume a scenario where an earthquake had knocked out their local bridges and they needed to use their bicycles to get medical supplies from a local hospital. Phil Kinnie reflects on the river crossing experience:
Arriving at the river, we roused a homeless man sleeping in the long grasses on the bank. He mumbled, “They dump sewage in that river. Don’t wanna go across there.” I’m sure I’m not hearing that right. Anyway, too late. This is our planned route, and we will forge – or wade – ahead. Believing the worst part will be getting the bicycles across the stream, this is easily superseded by thoughts of sinking deep in a soft unmentionable substance and going waist deep through a weedy, brown liquid. Ever the pusillanimous one, I let Fred and Tris go first to get a better understanding of where to put my feet when my turn came. Fred got the worst of it, falling over and nearly submerging under the chocolate water. Then the sludge slipped over my feet and ankles as with circumspection I lowered myself into this morass and focussed my attention on anything else I could bring to mind. We could just cycle across the bridge overhead but in an effort to emulate and understand what many people in Africa endure in order to get to vital destinations, we eschewed the link and made our way to our destination through this horror, re-enacting what countless people do every day due to a lack of what we, without thought, take for granted – bridges. In their case it’s far worse than dirty suffusion. Alligators and other denizens of the deep, strong currents, dangerous rapids and countless other life threatening dangers lurk in those waters, awaiting people trying to do what we do without a thought.
– Phil Kinnie, Surrey, Canada
Will you BE A BRIDGE and donate today to promote a higher standard of living for seniors?