Bridges to Prosperity Bridge Builder Conference – by Katie Barrett

September 30th, 2014

The Bridges to Prosperity conference in Winter Park, Colorado was a very educational and productive weekend. In addition to learning a lot about the structure of the Bridges to Prosperity group, I learned a lot about humanitarian infrastructure work. This is something something which I already planned on doing, so it was good to be reminded of how big of a need there is. I was also made aware of how large of a undertaking it is to build a bridge of the scale we are planning. Ben and I made connections with a lot of other student groups who have already built a bridge rurally and also with bridge professionals involved in Bridges to Prosperity and other humanitarian civil engineering causes. Both of these connections will help us in the upcoming project year, as this is our first stress ribbon bridge the Collaboratory has built.

Over a billion people worldwide do not have basic transportation access. Rivers or canyons separate remote communities from basic educational, nutritional, spiritual, economic and health-related needs. The only effective way to make an impact on communities through infrastructure is to engage the local leaders in fixing the problem: use the local masons, constructors, and technical supervisors. Otherwise, the community will look at whatever was built or fixed not as their own project, but as the missionaries project. Problems tend to arise with this, as when something needs to be fixed again, the community often does not take ownership and repair the structure. They may just wait for the missionaries to come back and fix it. We also learned a lot about risk management and safety. This is extremely important in both our project and in our future jobs, as we will often have risk of falling during construction, inspection, or likewise.

Overall, I learned a lot from this conference. I learned that I think I will fit best in a more non-profit setting when it comes to my engineering job in the future, as I am most passionate about that aspect of civil engineering. It is extremely impactful on the world, and also is a good way to involve my spiritual beliefs with my career.

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