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. They 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 modules 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.