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The Flores Rancho community in Bolivia was ready for the biggest market day of the harvest season, with the corn freshly picked and loaded in giant sacks. Then a severe storm rolled in from above, flooding the Cliza River that separated the cornfields and the market. Unable to cross the torrential waters for several days, half of the year’s yield went bad before it could be sold. With an economy highly dependent on corn agriculture, this was the turning point that made the Flores Rancho community realize they needed a bridge. The next summer, we partnered with the community and the local municipality to build a footbridge and make sure this would never happen again.
All people are not created equal, but we all dream of success. Success to a university student might be landing a job after graduation; for others, it may be passing secondary school to become a local teacher. Some of us can take the bus to school within ten minutes, while others must haul themselves while knee-deep against rapids for hours to get to school. We have a role to play in catalyzing change to make these dreams more achievable for all global citizens.
We are the Illinois Chapter of the Engineers in Action Bridge Program. Currently, we are planning for our fifth bridge build in Bolivia this summer. The bridges we construct build opportunity and empower rurally isolated communities who cannot safely access markets and public facilities due to an impassable river. Bridges built in the past by this program have led to a 12% increase in children enrolled in school, a 59% increase of women in the labor market, and an 18% increase in healthcare treatment for communities.
These projects build the leading engineers of tomorrow. Participating students gain experience in using engineering design software, planning construction and safety, coordinating with stakeholders, and more. Students also become more globally aware, as they overcome cultural and language barriers to work together with a community for something greater than themselves. The soft skills they develop on this project are ones that cannot be learned in a typical university classroom and prepares them to work in the industry. Having this initial exposure to working in a professional team setting greatly enhances the students’ career prospects.
The bridge projects are very expensive. Without your support, this program would not be able to exist. Any donation allows us to connect people around the world. In addition, please share this if you know anyone who might be interested in sponsoring our efforts and/or if you are unable to donate. The money is used directly for bridge materials, in-country labor, equipment, travel costs, and more. Thank you so much for your consideration of our program!
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