Providing great experiences and the best outcomes for clients, communities and our own employees is at the heart of what McCarthy does on a daily basis.
While our work takes place in the United States, a special project in the eastern African country of Rwanda earlier this year allowed our 11-person team, with employees from McCarthy Building Companies, Castle Contracting and McCarthy Holdings, to really demonstrate an amazing ability to serve the needs of others.
In June 2023, our team made the nearly 8,000-mile trek to Rwanda to partner with Bridges to Prosperity in building a 384-foot-long suspension bridge in less than two weeks. Since its completion, the G.S Mugunga Trail Bridge has provided safe passage for local residents, enabling more than 4,000 people to safely reach critical resources such as schools, markets and the hospital.
Bridges to Prosperity is a global non-profit agency connecting isolated communities through trail bridges.
This was much more than an opportunity to work hand-in-hand with new friends on another continent to fill a crucial humanitarian need. It was a chance to truly help make a difference in an area where that kind of impact is rarely seen, all while blending two vastly different cultures in support of a single important cause.
“The opportunity to work with Bridges to Prosperity to construct the G.S Mugunga Bridge has truly been an unforgettable experience,” said Eric Monsen, a Senior Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing Director for McCarthy Building Companies. “Seeing firsthand the impact this bridge will have on the local community has left us all with a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment.”
McCarthy Assistant Superintendent Annelise Barbieri agreed.
“Access leads to economic power,” Barbieri said, “so the better and safer access a community has, the better life they are going to have.”
Why build a bridge?
Safe access to food, schools and healthcare are taken for granted in many places, but not in many parts of Africa and elsewhere around the world. Globally, one in seven people lack safe, year-round access to the services and opportunities in their immediate surroundings for lack of transportation infrastructure.
The Nyarutovu River in the northern province of Rwanda is just such an area. The river floods often during the rainy season, making it too dangerous to cross. Many times, a bridge is the best and quickest solution.
Members of the communities surrounding the area where the bridge was constructed, including the children attending the G.S Mugunga School, faced tough decisions on a regular basis. Do they try to risk their lives to cross a river prone to excessive flooding many times during the year? Or do they wait impatiently for the turbulent waters to recede before finding a safe and accessible path across the water?
During the past three years, several people have been injured due to the unsafe river crossing. Partnering with local communities and Bridges to Prosperity, the team was able to provide the support, materials, logistics and understanding to get the job done.
The G.S Mugunga Trail Bridge now serves two communities with over 4,000 beneficiaries in the rural Gakenke District in northern Rwanda. The bridge connects these communities to the nearest hospital, government services, markets, and both primary and secondary schools.
“I think it just makes the world a little bit smaller,” said Colleen Martindale, McCarthy Vice President Preconstruction. “You’re getting to see how other people live and being able to use our education and our talents and our good fortune in life to be able to help others in another part of the world is so rewarding.”
What impact did the bridge have immediately?
- 4,000 people served
- 869 households affected
- 1,480 more children with safe access to school
- 416 more women with access to attended births
“Once I found out we were going to provide safe access to over 1,000 children it solidified the vision for me,” said Kelly Kirn, who helped chronicle the project as a photographer and videographer for McCarthy Holdings’ Marketing Communications Department. “It gives them much better opportunities to grow and thrive.” Seeing the smiling faces of residents and children helps bring the true nature of the effort home for many on the team. For others, it was the sound of singing and dancing made by children as they could safely cross a bridge not there a few weeks before.