Gran Pacifica and Rotary supports Notre Dame team changing the lives of a community with a bridge

Posted by Kent Payne on Sep 12, 2011 3:04:02 PM
A few weeks ago, Gran Pacifica had the unexpected pleasure of assisting seven engineering students from the Engineering School at Notre Dame in the United States. They, along with a professional advisor from Bridges to Prosperity, Engineer Mike Paddock, came to Nicaragua months ago to select a location for a suspension bridge. The final location was made after a long process involving community meetings and surveys. The primary factor is where the most community residents had the largest need of crossing a river to sustain their livelihoods and make their village more accessible during the winters (rainy seasons).

San Bartolo and San Diego Communities, which are located about a mile outside the gates of Gran Pacifica, were ultimately selected as the location for the bridge. Over a football field wide, the San Diego River and its valley separates San Bartolo from the rest of the world. Residents have to climb down and up over 300 ft of slippery slope and ford what is a one-foot deep stream in the dry season. In the rainy season it flows to 15 feet deep during thunderstorms and frequently strands residents on one side or the other until the waters subside.

The Notre Dame students, show here with some of the local volunteers and Gran Pacifica staff, generously raised their own transportation money and living expenses, by various fundraisers in Indiana. They even sat outside Notre Dame Football games and solicited donations for this worthy cause from attendees and alumni of the school. They arrived in Nicaragua fully expecting to sleep on cots as the guests of local campesinos and residents who live nearby. Gran Pacifica was approached, and gladly participated by offering the use of our model home as a more comfortable quarter in which the students could sleep.

Every morning, they grabbed a cold cereal and headed out to the jobsite. Almost every morning that is. On Sundays, my wife and I treated them to a huge pancake, bacon, eggs, and toast breakfast to let them have a small taste of home. A team of local residents showed up the first day in their, Sunday go to church finery, expecting a word-filled rally about what the school was going to do. What the locals did not know was that these students came to work, and work they did. Huge, deep, steel reinforced anchors were place, and over 410 linear feet of heavy steel cable were pulled across the chasm. Then planks weighing over 50 pounds were bolted into place, allowing for foot traffic, motorcycles, and even herds of Brahma cattle to cross.

The first few days were accented by huge, heavy downpours, a portent of more rain to come, and the students came to the home caked in mud. It was interesting to note that they had to use an outside pressure hose to clean up just enough to come inside and take a shower. Then it was off the restaurant or back to the home of one of the local volunteers for a meal. The model home was fitted with some extra beds and the students enjoyed wireless internet and a surround sound system for evening entertainment.

Gran Pacifica is pleased to have been a small part of this engineering marvel, and recognizes that these generous students and graduates have made a difference in the lives of our neighbors for decades to come. Thank you: Megan Smith (Illinois), Michael Kochanski (Illinois), Garrett Quick (Michigan), Jon Barry (Michigan), Tony Ayala (Missouri), Brittani Russell (Pennsylvania), Enrique Descamps (Guatemala) and engineering sponsor Mike Paddok.

This wonderful 120 meter pedestrian bridge was made possible thanks to the support of the Warwick Rotary Club, Managua Tiscapa Rotary Club, Notre Dame Team, Bridges to Prosperity -Milosz Reterski, Gran Pacifica Resort, UNI University, Villa El Carmen Municipality and local community. Below you will see part of the construction process in pictures.

To find out more about Rotary in Nicaragua click here

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Kent Payne

Written by Kent Payne

Topics: Living In Nicaragua