Sanzara Bridge Build: Providing Safe Access for a Ugandan Community

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In February, McMillen Jacobs Associates partnered with Traylor Brothers and Bridges to Prosperity to assist in the building of the Sanzara Footbridge. The team spent two weeks backfilling foundation trenches, preparing decking planks, tensioning and leveling the suspension cables, laying decking, installing bridge fencing, concreting access ramps, and pulling down temporary scaffolding. It was hard work under the hot African sun, and we were rewarded by seeing the bridge grow and the community’s excitement. The bridge was completed on Wednesday, Feb. 19, ahead of schedule. The construction was enabled by volunteers from McMillen Jacobs and Traylor Brothers, fundraising, and financial contributions from both companies.

The McMillen Jacobs team included David Corkum, Frederic Marquis, David Sullivan, Jennifer West and Sarah Wilson. The team arrived in Uganda to a constant 86℉ (30℃), clear skies, and high humidity. The Sanzara Bridge site sits in Central Eastern Uganda, approximately 62 miles (100 km) from the border of Kenya. The Sipi River emerges from the mountainous terrain of the Mt. Elgon National Park and flows downstream onto the plains. The site is backed by luscious green mountains on one side and surrounded on the other by the open plains dominated by goat and cattle farming and abundant banana, cassava, sugar cane, and vegetable plantations. The area is largely off-the-beaten-track in terms of tourism, so the community was excited at our arrival. Many different languages were spoken—including Kupsabiny, Lugishu, Swahili, and varying levels of English. We worked hard to learn some phrases so that we could communicate.

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The team was fueled by mashed banana, whole banana, Spanish style banana, sweet banana, nuts, rice, bean mix, and goat or fish stew. We also had daily “break tea” stops where we were treated to a Ugandan delicacy, Rolex, an omelet wrapped in a flat chapatti-style bread. In the afternoons, school would let out and the local children would gather to visit with the team. They loved having photographs and videos taken and would laugh at the sight of themselves and their new friends on the screen. There were also soccer matches and frisbee games played after work and on the weekends. Forming teams was not all that necessary as a clean shot at the ball could equally send it to either end of the pitch.

McMillen Jacobs and Traylor Brothers are proud of the Sanzara Bridge and the opportunity Bridges to Prosperity gave us to help this community. Over 1,000 bridges are needed in the rural areas of Western Uganda. Almost 1 billion people around the world don’t have safe access to critical resources like healthcare, education, and employment because of an impassable river. We recommend this experience to anyone.

This report appeared in the McMillen Jacobs’ Underground Division newsletter, “Segments.” It was written by David Sullivan, Project Geologist in MJA’s Sydney office. For more information contact segments@mcmjac.com.

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