Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) is a nonprofit that works with isolated communities to create access to essential health care, education and economic opportunities by building footbridges over impassable rivers. The B2P University Program, a student-led, club-based chapter program at colleges and universities spanning the US, Canada, and the UK, has been an integral part of what B2P has accomplished in their seventeen-year history. Avery Bang, current CEO but then student at the University of Iowa, spearheaded the first university team, building a bridge in Peru in 2006. Since then nearly three dozen universities and hundreds of students have engaged in the Program, supporting the construction of 77 bridges that serve hundreds of thousands of people. The contributions of those students to the B2P vision of a world free from rural isolation has been immense, and B2P is deeply grateful for the ingenuity, dedication, and enthusiasm the students contributed.
As they developed plans to meet the global need and accomplish their mission, B2P honed in on the activities which would require their focus — developing their expertise in bridge building, expanding their collaboration with partners, and refining the way they measure impact. One fact became clear to them through this exercise: excelling in these areas left them few resources to allocate to giving university students the world-class experience they deserve, as they embark on projects in communities across the globe. In a brilliant twist of fate, at about the same time B2P was discovering this, they also discovered Engineers in Action (EIA).
EIA is a nonprofit that works primarily in Bolivia and Ecuador on community-based water, sanitation, and infrastructure programs. EIA’s mission is to work with indigenous professionals and partner organizations to improve the lives of people in need through community-inspired programs that help to build their capacity and provide sustainable solutions. At the same time, EIA strives to facilitate development of a stronger global awareness among community members and program participants, very much including university students. Since 2016, B2P has helped train EIA in the construction of rural pedestrian bridges.
The B2P Bolivia staff and the local EIA team have co-hosted a number of University Program student teams, with the ultimate aim of transitioning the program to EIA management. Both organizations are excited at the potential such a transition holds to expand and improve the bridge-building experience for students who participate in the program, and while the B2P family is sad to say goodbye to a group that has meant so much to the organization, they are also confident that EIA is prepared to give the students who join their ranks a meaningful and unforgettable experience.
Effective September 1, 2018, management of the University Program will be transferred from Bridges to Prosperity to Engineers in Action, and EIA will assume full ownership of what will henceforth be known as the EIA Bridge Program. EIA’s programs focus on university teams, and they are thrilled for the opportunity to add these teams and pedestrian bridge-building skills to their already-robust network of student teams who have to-date primarily focused on water, sanitation, and hygiene projects.