In June 2023, fifteen Bechtel volunteers travelled to Nyanza, Rwanda to build a 140-metre suspension bridge in partnership with Bridges to Prosperity, a nonprofit organization that connects rural communities through trail bridges. The Bibumba suspension bridge in Nyanza is the second longest bridge that the nonprofit has built with their partners, and the fifth bridge Bechtel colleagues have constructed with Bridges to Prosperity.
Fawzia Al Mashaikhi, a government relations manager based in Oman, was one of the Bechtel team members who helped build the bridge in only two weeks.
Fawzia was gracious to reflect on her experience and share it with us for this blog. We’ve included it in full below:
I was lucky enough to secure a place on this year’s Bridges to Prosperity trip to Rwanda alongside fourteen of my Bechtel colleagues from around the world.
Our challenge: building a 140-metre-long suspension trail bridge in Nyanza, Rwanda to connect communities, improve access to facilities, and empower local people. The catch? Building it in just 2 weeks.
I can’t pretend I wasn’t daunted by the task. Initially it seemed too ambitious, and as someone fortunate enough to grow up with running water, medical care, schooling, and a choice of places to buy food, the thought of leaving such comforts behind was a little overwhelming.
Then it occurred to me. Those necessities are the very things in life that many of us take for granted, but for some they are completely out of reach simply because of geography.
With this front of mind, the objective to help improve physical access to better facilities became crystal clear.
Knowing that upon completion the bridge would support over 3,100 people in the Bibumba communities in Nyanza by providing them safe passage to schools, jobs, and medical care across the Rubuyenge River, our team’s morale stayed strong. And when the soaring temperatures and tough conditions hit, our team worked alongside the local community, often using just bare hands to get the job done.
This shared goal of building the bridge, and in turn, supporting the local community brought us together as a team and kept us focused on and energized by the task at hand. We soon became friends, and then family as we saw the fruits of our labour developing and the bridge starting to appear before us.
Progress continued and with it our perspectives on life began to shift. Little things became magical – like a smile or hug from a local child. Knowing that together we were building something that would benefit generations to come pulled us forward and as the final hours approached. We all found the energy to keep going and get the project over the line, or should I say, literally across the river.
We started building the bridge as individuals, and we finished as one Bechtel team. A team delighted and forever changed by being part of such a humbling and unique experience.