Saturday, February 6, 2016

Have you ever built a bridge in one week? Would you like to?

Allen and Russell build bridges: big ones, little ones, some for vehicles, some only for pedestrians, some with solid concrete decks and others suspended by wire cables. Occasionally, they do a project where a team comes down to help, and an entire bridge is built in just one week! We've done this twice now, have another bridge-in-a-week on the schedule in a few months (in Haiti!) and we'd love to do more!

Before our bridge was built, people crossed using this log
Here's the scoop on the bridge that was built during the final week of January, 2016.
Bridge between the villages of Platanares and Santa Rosita,
built January of 2016

Although we call it a "Bridge-in-a-week," we
actually started this project over a year ago. We knew there were some churches interested in sending teams to build bridges, so we did some research to find locations which fit the specifications: first, we were looking for a situation where there was a real need for a pedestrian bridge; second, it was important that the local villages could and would send in sufficient volunteers to work alongside the visiting gringos; and third, the local government had to be willing to contribute part of the cost for the purchase of materials (the rest of the money needed would be raised by the team).

About six months ago, the bridge location for this particular team's project had been determined, between the villages of Santa Rosita and Platanares. Russell traveled out to the site to measure the exact distance that the bridge would need to span, and to choose the spots where the two ends of the bridge would be built. Then the men calculated the quantities of materials needed.

Russell met with the government leaders of the two nearby villages and explained what items they needed to have collected, by volunteers in their villages, to have on site when the gringo team arrived. This included quantities of sand, gravel, stones slightly larger than soccer balls, and rough hewn lumber. All of these can be collected locally, for no cost when the labor is done by volunteers. Russell also instructed them as to where the holes for the footers of the bridge anchors were to be dug, so that this part of the work would be completed in advance of the arrival of the team.

A few weeks before the team was scheduled to arrive, Allen, Russell and their work crew collected the pieces of rebar and metal pipe needed to make the weldments. Weldments, for this project, are welded together metal pieces, which are partly encased in concrete and partly exposed. The bridge cables, which hold up the bridge, are securely attached to the exposed parts of the weldments.

Making weldments: First, the blacksmith work of heating and hammering
the rebar to bend around the metal pipe

Making weldments: Second, attaching the rebar to the pipe by welding   

This photo is from the actual construction week, showing the weldments
in place and ready to have the concrete poured around them

We gathered up the weldments, the cable, the concrete forms, the cement mixer, and all the other equipment and supplies, and ran a heavy load out to the bridge site a week before the construction was to begin. We had another team scheduled immediately prior to the bridge team, so the menfolk needed to have everything in place a week ahead of time.

 Read about how the actual week of construction went, HERE! 

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