The purpose of our project in San Jose, Guatemala is to construct a bridge over a river located in the community. San Jose, located just off of a main highway, is divided by a river that floods during the rainy season, from May to September. While most villagers live on the side of the river closest to the highway, a few families reside on the opposite side, where they cannot safely cross the flooded river to reach the highway or the community’s school. Most of the community’s workable fields are also located on the sparsely populated side of the river. Thus, during the rainy season, the townspeople of San Jose are unable to reach their main source of income—their crops. By building this bridge, we will be linking the community year-round and facilitating a safer and easier farming process, thus stimulating the local economy and providing more food for the villagers.
Starting the Project
We were introduced to this project by Dr. April Veness of UD’s Geography Department. After visiting San Jose, Dr. Veness learned of the village’s dilemma, and presented it to us for an engineering solution. In August 2009, we travelled to the village to speak with the community’s administrative council, the Comité. We completed a Memorandum of Understanding signed by both EWB-UD and the Comité, which describes the required work for the project, how the project will be completed, and who is responsible for specific aspects of the project. During this trip, we also collected soil samples and conducted water surveying. A lot of time was spent becoming familiar with the village by getting to know the area and becomming familiar with the locals. In January 2010, we conducted concrete and material testing at the construction site. After conducting a hydrological study in January 2011, we were able to complete a feasible design.
We built a 60-foot concrete bridge wide enough for one vehicle to cross the river at a time. We chose this approach over a timber suspension bridge based on the sustainable nature of the material and on the community’s familiarity with concrete construction. Crucial design help was provided by Dr. Allen Jayne, a faculty member at UD with professional experience in bridge design.
Construction took place over our January 2012 implementation trip. Students worked from dawn to dusk with local community members to move earth, lay rebar, a pour concrete. Work continued right up until our depature, so unfortunatly we were not able to see the dry concrete until the community could send us pictures weeks later.