The Flores Rancho Community Bridge Project was a 6-week bridge construction project in Bolivia in collaboration with the University of Iowa’s Engineers in Action chapter. We sent four members to build the 57-meter long footbridge that would help local community members access resources and facilities safely during the wet season.
As soon as we arrived on site, we began befriending community members on-site and during breaks. Having these relationships greatly benefited us whenever we lacked materials, manpower, and whenever we ran into other adversities. We wouldn’t have been able to finish the bridge without their excavators, cement mixers, volunteers, and political influence.
When we’re not benching excavations, shoveling gravel, loading cables, or lifting heavy masonry rock, we’re having fun in the nearby town and city. We were lucky to be ten minutes away from chicken restaurants and weekend markets and festivals. Some of our best memories on this trip involve learning and sharing our cultures with the community. While they occasionally took us to religious celebrations with grand parades and many fireworks, we showed them how to celebrate the Fourth of July with hamburgers and a warm campfire.
Through all the sweat, all the sick days, all the difficulties, and all the chicha, we finished laying the decking during the evening of our last workday. Before we left for the airport on the last day, we watched a motorcycle race from the bridge deck and said our last farewells to the gregarious community that hosted us. All of us walked away from this experience not only knowing how to build structural bridges, but also social, professional, and cultural bridges.