Friday, June 3, 2016

Have Bridge (skills), Will Travel . . . to Haiti! - part 1

*** For new visitors to our blog, we are missionaries living and working in Honduras, but we recently traveled to Haiti to build a bridge there . . . our first international bridge project! 

The project we've been discussing and planning for several years is now completed! We praise God for the cooperative efforts of individuals in the US, Honduras, and Haiti, who have chosen to serve the people of Haiti in this way! 

Jimmy French and Jim Cofer, in Maryland,
collected and crated cable and tools, and shipped
them to Florida by truck. From Miami, these items
traveled by boat to Haiti, and arrived shortly 

before Allen and Russell did!

Brennon Garrett, a missionary to Haiti with the Foundation for
Missions, was in charge of purchasing the tools and supplies which
were available in Haiti, including lumber. Allen and Ed Williams
 constructed this stack of concrete forms from locally purchased lumber.

Brennon also contributed the welding work.
These welded pieces were eventually embedded
inside the concrete ends of the bridge,
and the cables were attached to them.

This was the second time that Allen and Russell have arrived at a bridge site, to build a bridge, without ever having visited the site prior to the start of construction. It is difficult for individuals without bridge building experience to determine what size of bridge is needed, and it's impossible to determine this information from photos . . . so we know to expect the unexpected, when coming in blind to do this kind of project.

In the case of the Haiti project, the bridge required was longer, wider and higher than had been projected. This added significantly to the materials needed, as well as to the total construction time, but these problems were resolved, and two additional work days were added to the schedule - but this also meant that Allen and Russell had to really push their crew of Haitians to work harder and for more hours each day than is their norm. Haitian culture is quite different from what we are used to in the mountains of mainland Honduras, but our time living and working on the island of Guanaja (2001 - 2005) helped the Sowers men work successfully in the Haitian island culture.

Another issue arose when we found that there was no Creole/English translator available to enable Allen and Russell to communicate with their Haitian crew! This was a major problem! After scrambling a bit, they found a man who spoke both Haitian and Spanish, and they hired him for the rest of their stay. Many of the words in his version of Spanish (from the Dominican Republic) were different from the words used in Honduras, so this was a challenge which frequently slowed the progress of the project.

Digging the footers/foundations on each side of the river

Every bridge project starts with good foundations, which
create secure, level bases upon which to build the landings
on each side of the river. You can't really tell, from this photo,
but there are certain spots in this excavation which are 3 or 4
feet deeper than the rest of it. Allen calls these "teeth," and
they help keep the whole structure from shifting.

All of the concrete was mixed on site, and carried to the forms
 in buckets. Concrete mixer trucks are for wimps! (We'd happily
be wimps, if the trucks were available, LOL)

In lieu of a concrete mixer truck . . .

Rods of rebar are added to the wet concrete, to increase strength

Brennon tries his hand at passing buckets of materials. 

Completed footer/foundation . . . ready for the next phase

Here the forms, which Allen previously constructed, are put into
use. The concrete will be poured (by the bucketload) into the
forms, creating the landings and ramps at each end of the bridge.
It takes MANY buckets of concrete!

 Smoothing the surface of the platform and ramp

The new ramp, with the forms removed. Dirt will be added
here at the end, to create a smooth walkway from
the ground, to the concrete ramp, to the bridge

Side of the ramp - you can see, with Allen standing next to it,
the extra height which was added here, to raise the bridge up
so that the part of the bridge over the water wouldn't be
submerged during times of high water and flooding.

View across the river from one of the landings to the other

Russell and Allen (way in back) with some of the Haitian crew

Each landing has two side walls, to which are attached the side-rail
cables of the bridge. Here the men are placing the forms and welded
pieces, prior to pouring the concrete.

The wire cables, which will support the bridge, will go around these metal
pipes, which are firmly attached to the concrete structure by pieces of rebar.
The strength of this concrete structure, and the welded pieces, is essential
to ensuring that the bridge can bear the weight it was designed to bear. The
wooden forms will be removed, of course, before all of this happens. 

Part 2, showing the completion of the bridge, can be found here.

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