The Bridge Program has its own distinct identity within Engineers in Action (EIA), rooted in its heritage with Bridges to Prosperity (B2P). B2P is a nonprofit that works with isolated communities to create access to essential health care, education, and economic opportunities by building footbridges over impassable rivers. The B2P University Program, a student-led, club-based chapter program at colleges and universities spanning the US, Canada, and the UK, was an integral part of what B2P has accomplished. Avery Bang, the current CEO but then student at the University of Iowa, spearheaded the first university team, building a bridge in Peru in 2006. Since then over three dozen universities and hundreds of students have engaged in the Program, supporting the construction of more than 75 bridges that serve hundreds of thousands of people. The contributions of those students to the B2P vision of a world free from rural isolation was immense, and B2P is deeply grateful for the ingenuity, dedication, and enthusiasm the students contributed.
As they developed plans to meet the global need and accomplish their mission, however, B2P honed in on the activities which would require their focus — developing their expertise in bridge building, expanding their collaboration with partners, and refining the way they measure impact. One fact became clear to them through this exercise: excelling in these areas left them few resources to allocate to giving university students the world-class experience they deserve, as they embark on projects in communities across the globe. In a brilliant twist of fate, at about the same time B2P was discovering this, they also discovered EIA.
Until then, EIA had worked primarily in Bolivia and Ecuador on community-based water, sanitation, and infrastructure programs. EIA’s mission is to support development of sustainable systems and infrastructure with underserved communities, local expertise, and global partners. Their vision is a world where everyone can live healthy and dignified lives with access to essential services.
Starting in 2016, B2P helped train EIA in the construction of rural pedestrian bridges. The B2P Bolivia staff and the local EIA team then co-hosted some student teams with the ultimate aim of transitioning the program to EIA management. Both organizations were excited at the potential such a transition held to expand and improve the bridge-building experience for students who participate in the program. While the B2P family was sad to say goodbye to a group that has meant so much to the organization, they were also confident that EIA was prepared to give the students who joined their ranks a meaningful and unforgettable experience.
Effective September 1, 2018, management of the B2P University Program was transferred from B2P to EIA, and EIA has assumed full ownership of what is now known as the EIA Bridge Program. EIA’s programs focus on university teams, and they have been thrilled for the opportunity to add these teams and pedestrian bridge-building skills to their already-robust network of student teams focusing on water, sanitation, and hygiene projects.