PITTSBURGH, Nov. 1, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Michael Baker International, a global leader in engineering, planning and consulting services, partnered with Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), a nonprofit organization dedicated to constructing footbridges in remote, underdeveloped areas of the world, to sponsor the construction of a suspension footbridge in El Zarzal, Nicaragua. The team chronicled their experience in images and an interactive timeline, available on Michael Baker's website.
Twelve volunteers from across Michael Baker geographies and practices traveled to Nicaragua to aid in the construction of a 190-foot-long bridge over the Rio Calico to dramatically improve mobility and access for nearly 2,000 residents, including 139 families in El Zarzal and 244 families from nearby communities. The bridge now serves as a vital link that provides residents with safe, year-round access to essential resources and services that become inaccessible during the rainy season. "Although it may sound cliché, our trip to Nicaragua was nothing short of life-changing," said Danielle Cemprola, an environmental specialist in Michael Baker'sGreenville, South Carolina office and logistics coordinator for the trip. "The experience challenged me in every possible way and forced me to examine the way I see myself, my career and the world. The faces of the community members as they crossed their bridge for the first time was something I will never forget." For two weeks this summer, Michael Baker team members worked alongside B2P's team, in-country staff and local community members to build the bridge. Working from a context-sensitive, cost-effective and sustainable bridge design provided by B2P, the diverse team spanned cultural and geographic divides to accomplish every aspect of bridge construction, from prepping the job-site to setting the main cables to installing the decking and fencing. Where locals once made dangerous crossings or forfeited their ability to reach school, work, emergency health services and each other due to a flooding river, the footbridge now provides safe passage over the previously impassable Rio Calico. "The El Zarzal suspension bridge represents our team's hard work, passion and dedication. The bridge serves as a humbling reminder that our commitment to making the world a better place, one project at a time, can have a profound and immediate impact on people's lives," said Kurt Bergman, CEO of Michael Baker International. "I'm very proud of Michael Baker's partnership with Bridges to Prosperity. Their mission resonates with our commitment to demonstrate how 'We Make a Difference' to give back and empower communities around the world to grow and thrive." The success of this initial project has led to a three-year partnership between Michael Baker and Bridges to Prosperity, which will result in additional builds in different countries and regions where B2P has identified the greatest need, with new team members each year. "We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Michael Baker as one of our newest partners," said Avery Bang, CEO of Bridges to Prosperity. "We appreciate and value Michael's Baker's commitment to volunteering their resources and expertise to help create a world where rural isolation is not a barrier to growth and development." In 2016, B2P will build 40 new footbridges, increasing the overall total to more than 200 bridges in 20 countries, increasing access to vital services for more than one million people worldwide.