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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Bridges to Prosperity: A Name. A Mission.

Bridges to Prosperity_Hannis Whittam

A leader in rural pedestrian infrastructure becomes a leader in COVID-safe construction

According to our June 2020 survey of Star rated nonprofits, 72% of organizations have suffered financially due to the pandemic. Additionally, 54% of respondents have cut back on program services due to the pandemic/economic shutdown. To overcome this disruption and to continue to serve communities, many nonprofits are adapting and innovating.

Today, we are honored to share a first-hand account of what innovation and adaptation look like during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis from Bridges to Prosperity (⭐⭐⭐⭐), an international relief and development nonprofit headquartered in Denver, Colorado.

From our first trailbridge spanning the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, Bridges to Prosperity has constructed pedestrian infrastructure in some of the world’s most remote settings above dangerous rivers that isolate surrounding residents and communities from the education, healthcare, markets, and jobs that they need to survive and prosper. Early on, we established a series of safety protocols that are world-class, easy to understand, and applicable in a variety of geographical and cultural contexts. Twenty-two countries and over one million people connected later, Bridges to Prosperity has embedded a culture of safety into every aspect of the operation, allowing us to build with precautionary measures in the midst of extreme challenges, including flooding and health crises like Ebola and, now, COVID-19.

Just as it has been for so many of our peers, the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis have, and continue to be, far-reaching for Bridges to Prosperity (B2P). From the very first reports of the virus’ spread, which we received early-on thanks to established partnerships with global health agencies, such as International SOS, we began planning adaptations to our global safety protocols to protect our workforce and beneficiary communities, including our construction team members whose work is essential in the address of, and recovery from, COVID-19 in the regions where we build. Following established risk assessment processes tested in geographies battling issues from political unrest to regional epidemics, and informed by corporate and government partners, we identified the highest value behaviors and activities we could implement and adapt to support our staff and local stakeholders in limiting the spread of the virus and its ill-effects on already vulnerable populations.

Immediately, while under stay-at-home orders, our in-country Health, Safety, and Welfare Managers in Rwanda and Uganda administered training programs for all staff to help them understand the disease, what it is and how it spreads, as well as detailed instructions on the process and reasoning for each new rule or mitigation we planned to institute (it is a priority for us that our people understand the importance of our health and safety protocols not just for the sake of compliance but to make safety of personal relevance). Then, once allowed to return to building, we ensured that every site had handwashing stations and controlled access, COVID-specific instructions on safe practices like safe distancing and mask wearing, health interviews to check for symptoms, new Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), a daily refresh COVID-19 training on how to safely prevent infection on the job and at home, and a dedicated COVID-19 Safety Representative who is responsible, in partnership with the site forepersons, for ensuring all of our mitigations are followed. Finally, we implemented a robust reporting mechanism should any team member experience COVID-19 symptoms or be exposed to anyone who is reported to be ill or exhibiting symptoms. This is all coordinated through our in-country Health and Safety teams and in partnership with our local government partners in compliance with each region’s prevention programs. This ensures that not only do our team members feel safe, but that our partner agencies and communities feel confident that we are doing all we can to keep us and them safe.

All of this comes at a cost, and not just monetary. As a result of our new COVID-19 protocols, we have had delays in our schedule as countries implemented restrictions on movement and operations to keep their citizens safe. We are doing all we can to absorb these immediate impacts for our current projects and are working with local and global partners to adapt timelines and cover the additional expense for future ones so that we can move forward with as little interruption as possible, as there is no time to waste. As experience has shown, for isolated communities around the world, connection through something as simple, affordable, and sustainable as a trailbridge, can mean the difference between life or death, and poverty or prosperity.


Written by Brandy Bertram, Vice President of Development and Talent for Bridges to Prosperity

Bridges to Prosperity envisions a world where poverty caused by rural isolation no longer exists. Rural isolation is a root cause of poverty, and they believe that connection is the foundation to opportunity. Bridges to Prosperity works with local communities, governments, partners and foundations, to build trailbridges that connect residents to education, health care and economic opportunity year-round.

Header Photo Credit: Hannis Whittam, Bridges to Prosperity. Used by Permission.
Second and Third Photo Credit: Bridges to Prosperity (Flickr). Used by Permission.


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