Phase II - Site Visit
San Fransisco, Esteli, Nicaragua
Geographical Coordinates: 13°10.684'N, 86° 25.645'W
San Francisco is a river crossing north of the city of Esteli. The crossing serves 7 communities, nearly one thousand people. During the rainy season, the river is swift and deep, making crossing difficult by horse and nearly impassable otherwise.
When conditions are like this, several villages are stranded without access to markets for food, clinics for health care, and school for education. It has happened where people are stranded for weeks at a time without the basic necessities for life. Our bridge will provide the safest crossing of this river to the people who live near San Francisco.
Phase I -
ND SEED was formed in
partnership with the non-profit organization
Bridges to Prosperity (B2P). According to
their mission statement, "Bridges to
Prosperity is a volunteer-based charity that
seeks to empower poor, ruralAfrican, Asian, and
Latin American communities through
footbridge building, thereby advancing
personal responsibility, community public
works, economic prosperity, and access to
schools, clinics, jobs, and markets." B2P
was a driving force in the preliminary
efforts by providing a contact person and by
making ample resources available through
ND SEED established a
support structure within the University of
Notre Dame of interested faculty and
administrators to assist in their efforts.
Throughout the fall of 2010, the
team members worked to raise the
necessary funds and visited the site over fall break. Even during this spring semester, the fundraising remains a large focus of the team.
In October of 2011, NDSEED travelled to visit San Francisco, Nicaragua for the first time. Our NDSEED team was unsure of what we would find. What we found was a community in need. During the trip, from October 15th through the 20th, our team learned much about its future project site. Flooding, which accompanies the heavy rains of October in the country each year, was particularly bad in 2011, and northwestern Nicaragua was hit the hardest. In San Francisco, the community our NDSEED team will work with, over 500 families were cut off by the raging river, isolated for over a week from outside food, medicine, or other vital needs. We witnessed one man attempt to cross on horseback, only to turn back; another man crossed by clinging to branches and wading through. The only good news coming out of this is that we now know what a positive impact our bridge will have. Without it, San Francisco may survive, but they cannot flourish.
Several other functions were also fulfilled by this exploratory trip. We found sources for nearly all the materials we will need for the bridge locally, keeping with the principles of our partner organization, Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), which suggests we support the local economy. Furthermore, NDSEED met with the mayor of San Francisco, who shares our goals in the construction of the bridge. He assured us that the community will be on board to help us, and they are excited about the prospect of the bridge. The members of the NDSEED team will be staying with host families in the community during our return in the summer of 2012. While conducting a site survey was made impossible by the impassable river, B2P representatives have completed a site survey, so the design schedule should be unaffected.
Several unique engineering challenges face our team due to the site's topography. The river does not have steep banks, so the towers on each bank will need to be built high to keep the deck of the bridge several meters above the highest flood stage. The bridge will also be designed with less sag than a typical bridge of this type, to address the same issue. Finally, a gabion wall to prevent erosion must be erected to protect the lower tower. The community will begin work on the wall long before our NDSEED team arrives.
The October trip served our NDSEED team as a great inspiration, and we eagerly anticipate the positive changes our bridge will make in the lives of so many.