NSBA Organizes Third Bridges to Prosperity Volunteer Trip, Will Construct Suspension Bridge in Bolivia

NSBA's 2016 Bridges to Prosperity Trip to Panama

The National Steel Bridge Alliance (NSBA) is collaborating with Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), a nonprofit organization that builds footbridges in isolated communities across the world, to travel to Bolivia April 13-28, 2019. This is NSBA's third volunteer trip with B2P; the first two trips went to Panama. The new bridge will provide access to healthcare and schools and will also allow local residents to get their goods to market.

In most agrestic environments, walking and sometimes riding horseback are the only forms of transportation, which make crossing most bodies of water precarious--especially when the rivers swell. According to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, inadequate infrastructures thwart inhabitants from leaving their community to access agricultural, educational, economic and healthcare resources, perpetuating poverty. Three-quarters of the world's chronically hungry live in provincial areas, according to the International Forum for Rural Transport and Development, so enabling farmers to trek to the marketplace to sell their crops and livestock is an effective means of reducing hunger, poverty and a myriad of related issues. This is where B2P comes in.

"Bridges to Prosperity trips in the past have been nothing short of amazing," said Jeff Carlson, NSBA regional director, who went to Panama in 2016 and 2018. "They are a great way to get to know a unique group of individuals and organizations and give back to society all in one. Knowing that the community will have safe access across a water crossing for the foreseeable future is very rewarding. And building a lifelong group of friends with a common connection is unforgettable."

The volunteer team will be lead by project manager John Hastings from NSBA. The other members of the team include Craig Stevens (DelDOT), Craig Smart (HDR), Anthony Schoenecker (Modjeski and Masters), Brad Dillman (High Steel), David Almadea (Fought and Company), Curt Duncan (TDOT), (plus three additional soon-to-be-filled volunteer spots and a photographer to capture the tremendous experience). This group is unique to B2P's Industry Partnership Programs because of the diversity in the type of organizations involved. The team is currently working with local Villa Azurduy community members and  B2P staff, who have already been preparing the bridge site and building the substructure, to finalize construction plans before their arrival.

The team will fly into Sucre, Bolivia, and drive seven hours to the mountainous Villa Azurduy, about 8,000 ft in elevation and the closest city to the bridge site, where they will provide the labor and skills to construct the bridge. For their two-week stay, they will be staying in a community building and the team members will live similarly to the local community. They will purchase their groceries when they arrive in Sucre and take them to the village where they are staying. Without running water and electricity and limited cell phone service, they will use outhouses, take bucket showers and only be able to access electricity periodically. The team will build a 110-m (361-ft) suspension bridge, the largest yet for an NSBA-sponsored team.  

The team plans to work full days, six days a week in order to complete the project, which is more than double the size of the bridge constructed in Panama. On the team's off time, they will likely do some sightseeing and enjoy the local culture with the residents.

Hastings is very excited about his second trip with B2P.  "I enjoy volunteering and building things, so this was an opportunity to do both of those and use my engineering skills to help a community have access to the basics," he said. "It is also an opportunity to build relationships with a diverse group of individuals in the bridge industry."

To learn more about B2P and how you can become a volunteer or industry partner, visit And you can read about NSBA's two previous B2P projects by clicking here for the 2016 trip and here for the 2018 trip.