Beyond the chaos of congested freeways and multi-million-dollar bridge construction projects exists a form of transportation that, for most of people in North America, is increasingly uncommon—walking. But for many living in rural villages around the world, travel by foot is the only way to get to school, work, and medical care.
Recognizing the need for safe commuting footbridges and qualified construction professionals to help build them, PCL granted Seattle project engineer Brooke Shore a leave of absence to travel to Nicaragua to help. Shore worked as a volunteer intern with Bridges to Prosperity, an organization whose mission is to provide isolated communities with access to essential health care, education, and economic opportunities by building footbridges over impassable rivers. Shore worked on the Ducuale Grande pedestrian footbridge outside of Condega, Nicaragua.
Community members crossing the Ducuale Grande
Bridge for the very first time.
Celebrating and dancing at the inauguration of the
Brooke Shore enjoying her volunteer experience in
“Participating in the Bridges to Prosperity program was a very rewarding experience,” said Shore. “Being able to use my skills to help people elsewhere in the world is an honor, both as an engineer and a PCL employee.”
The completed 220-foot span Ducuale Grande cable suspension bridge project solved severe isolation and safety issues for the nearby community. During the rainy season, between May and November, residents were unable to safely cross the Rio Ducuale to attend secondary school or reach health care facilities. The new bridge also provides neighboring farmers with year-round access to the markets in Condega, the regional capital just beyond the bridge.
RELATIONSHIPS AND EXPERIENCES
Shore stayed with a local family throughout the build, immersing herself in the culture and the realities of commuting around rural Nicaragua. When meeting residents of Ducuale Grande, Shore received an overwhelming number of comments on the need for the bridge. Residents regularly told her stories of men jumping in the dangerously high water to swim across to get to work and of families calling loved ones to hurry home when the river started to rise.
“It was gratifying to get to know the people of Ducuale Grande personally and see the improvement in their lives my work helped to produce,” said Shore. “Living for three months with just the things I brought in a large backpack helped reinforce what is really important in my life—relationships and experiences.”
Although Shore is now back at work in PCL’s Seattle operations office, her experience and memories of the project endure. She plans to return to Condega next summer to visit her host family and the bridge that she helped build.