Published: Feb. 3, 2017 By

The infrastructure of bridges and roads that we rely on in the United States connecting us to work, school and health care is often nonexistent in rural, poor communities around the world. 

To make a difference in the lives of the people living in those communities, CU Boulder students Madison Sankovitz and Alexis Ahlert volunteer with Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) to help people safely and conveniently reach the resources they need. 

The CU Boulder chapter of B2P is a student-led university chapter of the national organization that builds pedestrian bridges over impassable rivers in communities unable to afford them. 

CU Boulder engineering students sit on suspension bridgeA suspension bridge with a CU Boulder flagCU Boulder engineering students stand on completed bridgeCU Boulder students construct the base for a suspension bridge

Students’ involvement provides opportunities to expand their world view and extend their education and skills into other countries.

Sankovitz, a senior studying ecology and evolutionary biology, is a student volunteer with B2P and manages the organization’s social media networks and website. “For people in the communities we survey, on the other side of the river is education, health care, jobs and food sources,” Sankovitz said. “We are creating access, which increases opportunities for the people who live near the rivers.” 

This summer, CU Boulder B2P will send two groups of students from the chapter to build a footbridge in Swaziland, a small kingdom in Africa, and one in Bolivia. The bridges in both countries will connect rural towns with larger towns. 

The Swaziland bridge will be the sixth one built by CU students. Five bridges have already been built in various locations in Bolivia. The seventh bridge will be built in Surumajchi, Bolivia. The students have to fully fund the bridges themselves in order to go abroad and build them.

A sophomore geology major, Ahlert serves as the fundraising coordinator for the B2P Bolivia project. Last summer she traveled to Bolivia to help build a pedestrian bridge and got to see the results of their work. 

An elementary school was across the river from where the student volunteers were building a bridge. Every day while constructing the bridge, the volunteers watched children walk along the river to get to an access point where they could safely cross and get to school. 

“When the bridge was done,” Ahlert said, “we watched all the kids just run across our bridge and get to school so much easier and safer. I wanted to be part of this organization because no one should have to be worried about crossing a river to get to their house or school. The pedestrian bridge is life-changing.” 

To help fund the pedestrian bridges this summer, two crowdfunding campaigns have been launched to send students to Swaziland and Bolivia, and to purchase building materials in the respective countries. 

Find out more by reading the Bridges to Prosperity crowdfunding page