Olivia Takes on Bolivia: A Word from our InDev Team

To imagine that we are just a week away from our departure is exhilarating! Working abroad is a valuable experience for any student and an opportunity that I will value throughout my education and career. As an International Development student, I have been exposed to countless case studies related to the hardships of those living in underdeveloped countries. Poverty fuelled by rural isolation is a common problem that far too many communities struggle to overcome. Being a member of the Bridges to Prosperity team has been an enlightening experience that has presented me with so many new opportunities. I’ve built strong relationships with a diverse group of peers who all share the common goal of alleviating the pressures of rural isolation, which hinders community development. This project is an outlet that will enable me to take the knowledge and skills that I have developed in the classroom, and put them to work in reality.

There are countless organizations dedicated to supporting underdeveloped communities around the world, but Bridges to Prosperity’s commitment to enriching the lives of students and communities across different cultural backgrounds is the main factor that first drew my attention to this team. Our support does not stop at building a pedestrian bridge. Rather than simply providing the community with the necessary infrastructure, our team is devoted to improving the lives and sustainability of these communities now and in the future. Together we recognize the value of this cross-cultural experience. Most importantly, I have come to recognize that while there are many resources and skills that we can provide to the community, this experience is a two-way street. I’m looking forward to engaging with the community and being exposed to the indigenous values, skills, and knowledge that is unique to the community of Coiyuma. I can only imagine how much we will all learn from the community over the course of this experience. Overall, from this experience, I hope to gain the skills to ignite positive social change without compromising the cultural integrity of diverse and unique communities around the world.

It takes a unique experience like this one to spark innovation. Bridges to Prosperity has become a vital player in my transition and success as a first-year university student. As I embark on this journey, I open my mind and my heart to the new experiences that await me in Bolivia, and the eternal imprint I will forever carry from this opportunity.

Hasta la vista!

Olivia Trudeau

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A New Year – A New Goal

It’s a new year! Full of the potential to get healthier, grow stronger, and help those in need. So much has happened in the last few months, and we’re so excited to share it all with you!

Our team got back from Chimore in August 2015.

Here's a picture of them leaving.

Here’s a picture of them leaving.

They spent three weeks in Bolivia, and during that time, our team constructed the tiers for the bridge. Two members of the UofT chapter joined our team for the build. This experience was meant to be a mentorship opportunity for us to assist UofT in establishing their chapter and understanding how all the fundraising, sponsorship, and bridge building process worked.

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Our team with our UofT counterparts in front of the completed tiers.

Although the weather was not optimal for the build, the team and the community kept their spirits up and managed to get a lot of work done!

The base of the tiers.

The base of the tiers.

Building the tiers up!

Building the tiers up!

Throughout their time there, the team also got to hang out with the community and explore the city as they traveled for supplies!

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In the school house. Hands up!

Storming the city!

Storming the city!

Water fight!

Water fight!

Although our team was not present for the full bridge construction, we made great headway in our time there. On top of that, we assisted in teaching the community about safe practices before and during construction. The bridge was officially completed mid-September, and an inauguration ceremony was held for the opening of the bridge!

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Our sponsor banner.

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The bridge’s plaque of completion!

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The opening ribbon cut. The bridge is done!

Since our team’s return, our new travel team has been hard at work training and preparing for our 2016 build. The team is made up of both experienced and new members this year, and they hit the ground running, attending workshops on how to design a bridge, the different aspects of location, materials, and equipment, as well as safety and how to use equipment during the build.

Our team was also invited to speak at the 2015 Engineering Without Borders Conference. Our members Marc, Kathy, and Marianne spoke about our team and the work we have done since our chapter’s inception in 2013.

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The UW B2P Chapter is excited to get started on the new year! We’re anticipating our new community assignment (which will be announced as soon as we get word on it), and we’re hoping to run some awesome fundraisers this year. We will also be working a lot more on our social media presence this year, so check back throughout the next few months to learn more about who we are, what we’re doing, and where we’ll be going next!

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General Update: UofT, Design, Travel and more

In the fall of 2013, the B2P University of Waterloo chapter was created with the intention of building bridges in Bolivia. These bridges were to help poor communities access healthcare, resources, education, and more. After a successful build in Totolima, Bolivia during the summer of 2014, the UW team was contacted by students from the University of Toronto who wanted to begin their own chapter. Later in the fall term, the UW chapter connected with the U of T students several times over Skype. TheyDSC_0680 decided to bring two U of T members with the UW team on the next build, with both teams creating separate designs for the bridge. This would show B2P’s building regulations to the U of T chapter. However, UW’s design will be used during the 2015 summer build.

Throughout this partnership, we have provided guidance and support whenever necessary to the U of T team. This includes teaching them how to structure a chapter, fundraise, design, navigate the country, form relationships with the host community, construct a suspended pedestrian bridge, and have them participate in calls with technical experts from B2P. Currently, we are attempting to schedule meetings every other week so that both teams can provide updates regarding TAB calls, fundraising, and logistics. This will bring the two teams closer together and allow for a closer relationship.

The design team is currently completing a detailed design of the bridge by applying the knowledge and skills learned in class to this real life problem. Building this bridge could potentially help hundreds of people in the future. We are also preparing a team that will travel to Bolivia in August by reviewing construction training modulesDSC_0689 provided by Bridges to Prosperity. This will help with understanding and completing the bridge once we arrive. The team will venture outside of their comfort zone by learning about Bolivian culture and how to speak Spanish. By understanding the language and culture, communications will be improved and language barriers reduced. Additionally, there many physical, communication, and team building skills that can be transferred to future co-op jobs and volunteer positions during the actual construction of the bridge. As such, this a very practical learning experience for all of us.

We are very excited for what is in store for next couple months as we continue to evolve as a team and a chapter.

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Travel Team Update

We are happy to announce that a travel team has been selected to travel to Chimoré, Bolivia this coming August 2015! The 2015 travel team from the University of Waterloo consists of the following members:

  • Marc Johnson- Project Manager
  • Kevin Honsberger- Construction Manager
  • Diana Valdés Valle- Relations Manager
  • Kunjan Mehta- Safety Manager
  • Kathy Lin- Technical Manager
  • Emma Inacio- Quality Control Manager

In addition, two University of Toronto students, as well as two Technical Mentors will also be attending Bolivia as part of the 2015 travel team. Alongside the University of Waterloo students, the two University of Toronto students will be taking on the roles of project manager and technical manager.

Some of the responsibilities for the various roles include:

Project Manager: responsible for coordinating the project such as logistics, scheduling, material procurement, and oversight of their fellow team members under their authority

Construction Manager: responsible for executing the construction plan throughout the entire project

Relations Manager: will be responsible for all communications done between the travel team members and the local vendors, and community workers

Quality Control Manager: responsible for making sure that all materials for the design meet the proper requirements

Safety Coordinator: responsible for ensuring that all safety equipment is operable, and that team members wear all personal protective equipment during all stages of construction

Technical Mentor: responsible for providing support for challenging construction tasks, as well as any design issues

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About Project Chimoré

Hey everyone! Here is a little more information on the area for which the 2015 bridge will be built and the lives this project will impact within the community.

In August 2015, University of Waterloo Bridges to Prosperity will be going to Chimoré, Bolivia to help build a suspended pedestrian bridge, with the community, that will span 80 meters over one of the main rivers in the area. The river separates the community from basic services in surrounding and larger towns and cities.

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A massive contributor to the community’s economy is fish-farming and agriculture. The bridge will give farmers a chance to trade and sell their products in Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, as well as more local markets. In addition, many children in the area are currently unable to go school without being forced to cross the river. However, they will soon have access to the school in Chimoré, which lies across the river, where they can learn, play, and one day help provide for their family. Medical clinics aren’t readily accessible in this part of the country either, so the bridge would also help locals gain access to hospitals located in La Paz and Cochabamba. The pedestrian bridge could bring endless possibilities to the community and will give hope and excitement to many in the area.

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The whole team is very excited and humbled to be a part of this amazing opportunity. We hope you can all share in the experience with us by keeping up to date, so stay tuned for more frequent updates on the project as well as fundraising and fun activities.

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UW 2014 National Philanthropy Presentation & More UW Coverage on our Totolima Footbridge

After being asked to present at the University of Waterloo’s National Philanthropy Day (NPD) 2014 lunchtime lecture, Relja and Marianne enthusiastically worked to get together a one-hour presentation about their trip to Totolima, Bolivia. They connected their adventure to the overall vision of philanthropy that this chapter strives on spreading. The audience was composed of Staff, Alumni, Faculty, and Retirees of Waterloo who were invited to hear what UW students are doing in relation to Philanthropy. In addition, many of our sponsors attended the presentation. This year, they defined philanthropy as the love of people, and on November 12, 2014, Marianne and Relja shared their love for the people in Totolima. Here are some photos of our presenters in action:

Marianne and Relja presenting for National Philanthropy Day

Relja and Marianne presenting at the UW 2014 NPD (National Philanthropy Day) lecture

Relja and Marianne presenting for National Philanthropy Day

Marianne and Relja explaining the steps taken to build the Totolima footbridge.

Relja and Marianne had a great time sharing their experience and meeting some of our supporters.

Relja states, “For me, it was a great opportunity to showcase our successes and the inspiring work B2P and our chapter does and is still continuing to do.”

Seeing how well the presentation was received, we plan to attend and host more events like this.

The University of Waterloo also made a video on our trip to Totolima in honour of National Philanthropy Day. You can view it here: http://youtu.be/wKQVNpuhhgg

After our travel team’s return, the university also wrote a article summarizing our trip: https://uwaterloo.ca/alumni/node/2544

We will work hard to get our next footbridge with our future community to reach the same successes as we did with Totolima!

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Update: Totolima Trip Successful

From August 16th to September 6th, our travel team was residing in the rural areas of Totolima, Bolivia, completing the first build for Bridges to Prosperity’s University of Waterloo Chapter.

Our travel team was comprised of 5 members:

  • Dilan Badshah – President and Quality Control Manager
  • Relja Lukić – Project Manager
  • Arthur Li – Technical Manager
  • Sion Chung – Construction Manager
  • Marianne Baucas – Safety Manager

With the help of our Technical Advisor, B2P staff, and volunteers from the surrounding communities, our team was able to complete the bridge in a timely manner, and the results were amazing (and extremely colourful!).

We’d like to thank all of our sponsors once again for their support throughout this project, as well as B2P for assisting throughout the entire process – from finding a location to surveying the area to building the final product in Bolivia.

Our team is excited to share their experiences! You can find a photo journal of their adventure here, but also look out for their journal entries, which were written daily throughout their trip to Bolivia, as we will be posting them within the next week.

Until then, here are some photos that our travel team took in Totolima, as they completed our first bridge! To see the complete gallery, click here.

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