Denver — Walking is frequently the primary mode of transportation for rural community members. When rivers swell, walks to school, trips to work or visits to a doctor can become life threatening without a safe bridge to cross. The CH2M HILL Foundation has partnered with the not-for-profit organization Bridges to Prosperity in a skills-based volunteerism program to construct a pedestrian suspension bridge in rural Panama this June.

Bridges to Prosperity has found that building a footbridge leads to an 18-percent increase in women employed, a 24-percent increase in healthcare treatment, and 12 percent more children enrolled in school.

Funding for the 45-meter pedestrian La Conga Suspension Bridge is provided through a $50,000 CH2M HILL Foundation Grant. A team of 11 CH2M HILL Transportation Market employee volunteers from Anchorage, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Calgary, Toronto, Dubai, London and Sydney, will travel to La Conga, a community approximately one hour from Panama City and located within the Panama Canal Zone, for one week in late June 2014 for the building phase. The volunteers will focus on tower erection and deck construction to complete the bridge. The completed bridge will serve approximately 200 people, enabling them to safely cross the Rio Trinidad to reach the nearby municipal town of Capira — providing access to an elementary school, medical clinic and markets.

“As an organization committed to building sustainable communities and leveraging our engineering expertise to strengthen non-profit organizations, we’re thrilled to support Bridges to Prosperity’s mission to build footbridges to eradicate poverty caused by rural isolation,” says CH2M HILL Foundation Executive Director Ellen Sandberg. “The overwhelming response from our global employees was fantastic and reinforces our commitment to provide skills-based volunteer opportunities to use their technical expertise to provide the vital infrastructure that lays the foundation for human progress and paves to way to improve quality of life.”

“With 100,000 such bridges needed worldwide, completing an average of 32 bridges a year isn't going to be the end solution,” says CEO Avery Bang. Instead, the Denver-based non-profit is working with industry partners to create training manuals and teach local governments how to replicate projects locally.

Visit the Bridges to Prosperity website at http://bridgestoprosperity.org

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