Finishing the bridge
Today we woke up fresh at 6am after our 8 hours sleep. After our usual warm up and construction briefing we started off installing the fencing by connecting it to the deck.
We initially estimated that this would take half a day but soon realised that the tops of the fencing were quite sharp and sticking out, this is likely to hurt the pedestrian and no suitable handrails material are available. As a result, we ended up spending the afternoon twisting the top of the fencing to ensure the sharp ends are pointed inwards and safe for users.
As for the removing of safety line, we ended up having to reassemble the scaffolding tower in order not to compromise health and safety which caused a slight delay in our programme. Despite these setbacks we managed to complete all the activities by 6pm, with only site clean up to do tomorrow.
We also organised a visit to the nearby school where we were warmly greeted by the headteacher. We had an interactive session with a group of incredibly well-behaved students. We all introduced ourselves, who we are and where we are from. We demonstrated the bridge construction sequence as well educating them on what “not to do” on the bridge. Our school session visit concluded with a 20 minutes dance session. Maybe we’re getting old but we were all exhausted afterwards but in agreement that this was the highlight of our journey.
Site clean-up, football and dancing
Only 8 of us on site at the start of today’s proceedings. We are more used to seeing construction workers and members of the community every day, and the site felt strange and empty without them. There were only few tasks left, including site clean-up, final tweaks on the fencing and some touching up of the paintwork. These was completed in the morning and we finally get some time to relax and admire the bridge from a shady spot after lunch.
In the afternoon we organised a football match against another team, the entire community came and watch and we were under pressure to perform. Our team comprised the ramboll team, the B2p team and community members that had helped building the bridge. We managed a 3-0 victory with Anthony scoring the first goal. An incidental detail perhaps but he was insistent this was mentioned in the blog!
Over the last couple of weeks Sulabh has become the most popular man in the community. Today he made quite a sight on the touchline when he was swamped by kids while distributing sweets.
After a tiring match, we went back to our accommodation for a lovely barbecue with everyone that had been involved in building the bridge. Not surprisingly the barbecue ended with a another Rwandan dance. The bridge community thanks us for our contribution and we returned our gratitude for making the venture possible. This was definitely a life changing experience.
It was a perfect ending to an unforgettable experience.
Tuzarwubaka, abana babanyarwanda. Turugire nkaparadizo. Kwisi yose we. Tuzarwubaka
Participant for the inauguration included the district engineer, representative for the district mayor, representing the Cheza and Muhanga sector which the bridge connects, B2p programme manager, local community representative, local community that helped building the bridge and of course the Ramboll team.
Prior to the inauguration the B2p engineer and District engineer went around inspecting the bridge. More nerve-racking, the schoolchildren also had a chance to perform a “load test” on the bridge during their break. By running and jumping across it. It passed!
The district mayor’s representative, B2p programme manager Mariale the and Ramboll team lead Roser cut the ribbon and officially handed the bridge over to the local District. The team then moved to an open field each party gave a speech. All parties expressed gratitude towards the collaboration between the Rwandan government, B2p, local community and Ramboll team that made this bridge happen. Bridges like this matter, and they do make a difference. The Rwandan government and B2p is committed to build over 300 bridges in rural Rwanda over the next 5 years.
It started pouring halfway through the speeches but didn’t dampen enthusiasm. The inauguration concluded with the handing over of the certificate to the bridge community which will be in charge of maintaining the bridge following our departure. Proceedings were wrapped up with a local dance.
Alas we had no time to hang around. We set off for Kigali straight after lunch. After an overnight stop in the capital we’ll be taking flights home to our home countries and back to normal life. It’s been a magical 2 weeks here, hard work sure, but rewarding in a way that other projects can’t match.