Building Bridges Together

Alberici & Flintco — Connecting Communities

In our business, the sense of accomplishment of completing a major construction milestone, or the feeling of pride in finishing a project, is tangible. Often our work is transformative for the end user and the larger community beyond the physical building or infrastructure we’ve built, like a bridge. We can all share in that emotion thanks to our international community partner, Bridges to Prosperity, and the 10 Alberici and Flintco volunteers, who completed their 2-week mission (safely) to help finish a life-changing bridge for a community in Rwanda in East Central Africa. By all accounts, the effort was a resounding success! Thank you to everyone who supported our team and the organization behind it. Together we’ve made a positive impact in the lives of many people in our global community.

The following are the journal entries from Flintco Project Engineer Abby Cook, who served as the Communications Lead during our 2024 trip to Rwanda with Bridges to Prosperity and our colleagues from Alberici.

February 17, 2024

Well, we finally made it. It was a long 48 hours: small plane seats – 8 seats across – 60+ rows of people, screaming babies, and time changes. We were greeted with great smiles even at 9 p.m. Rwanda time as soon as we walked off the plane onto the runway. Little lights surrounded us. The runway was on top of the highest hill. It looked as if we were looking down on stars. After getting through customs, we loaded down 3 cars with 25+ bags. Our drivers stuffed bags in every available inch including the roof! After traveling over 10,000 miles we couldn’t bear the idea of the bags flying off the roof as we drove to the hotel. (None did.) We were warned in our prep meetings about the busy roads, but still couldn’t believe it when I saw it with my own eyes. Cars stacked next to each other, coming from every direction. Then every available 3 feet between cars became a makeshift motorcycle lane. Motorcycles whizzed by and before you knew it, 3 more passed. Rwanda is known as “the land of 1,000 hills.” It’s true. Every turn is either straight up or down. Imagine driving in the dark with people walking everywhere. After arriving safely at the hotel, we found our rooms and grabbed a bite to eat around the corner and went to bed.

February 18, 2024

The next day we walked about 15 minutes to the Rwandan Convention Center in Kigali. The Tour de Rwanda is underway, so we got to see teams from all over the world bike up and down the hills. Tents, camera crews, and children lined the fencing of the route to watch as competitors raced by. A truly great experience. Watch a clip from the race here. We left for lunch with our B2P guide, Zura, then the market and finally started making our way to where we’ll call home for the next 2 weeks. As we drove farther and farther out of Kigali, the more smiles, pointing and waving we received. We were greeted at the cars by many people. We had a lot of double takes with wide eyes, but they were always followed with a huge smile! We got about halfway to our homebase but were delayed by the bike race; we had to get another hotel for the night.

February 19, 2024

This morning we left for the job site to start work after checking out of the hotel. The team woke up with pure excitement! Some even wanted to skip breakfast. We faced a couple of unforeseen challenges on the way: road closure, traffic, and people wanting to stop and meet us. We finally got to the site 2 hours later than we had originally planned. Once we arrived on site, we got straight to work after our opening song and stretch and flex. It was about 75 degrees all day with a couple sprinkles of rain around lunch. Our goals for the day were putting together the scaffold, cutting some of the 206 pieces of rebar, and assembling the tower. We weren’t sure if we could accomplish all of that with a late start, and the strict cut off time of 4pm. By 1pm, we had the tower about halfway assembled, the rebar about half-way cut (all by hand), and the scaffold about 1/3 of the way done. Lunch was a combination of rice, spinach, beans and veggie mix. By 4pm, we had hand-cut 164 pieces of rebar, assembled it, and given the tower one coat of paint; we had just 2 levels left of the scaffold to complete. We were back on track even after having a late start. Our journey back to our accommodations was so rewarding. Children chased our cars with waves, smiles, and pure joy! During our daily debrief during dinner, I asked the team some of their personal goals, plus/ deltas, and lessons learned. The positives mentioned were meeting all the locals, the encouraging songs they would sing once we began our stretch and flex, and the curious children. They were reluctant to give “high-fives,” but once the first brave child stuck their hand out, it became their favorite thing to do! Some of our deltas and lessons learned were to make sure we integrate the locals while working. It is important to share with them how to maintain the bridge once we are gone. Another was to rotate people in and out. Day one everyone was full of energy and excitement. We can’t work too hard and tire ourselves out right out the gate. We discussed rotating people in and out more and how to incorporate the locals more. We ended our debrief on a positive note by sharing our favorite memory, which was having everybody jump in to lift the tower pieces at the start of the day. It took just about every single person. It was such a great way to start off the project together as a whole team.

February 20, 2024

Day 4 was filled with lessons learned and excitement for hitting the tower milestone. We finished cutting the rebar that holds the swing steps on the bridge. For context there are 103 swings, so that’s 206 pieces of rebar, each requiring 6 bends, (if done correctly). That’s 1,236 rebar bends that are bent by hand with handcrafted tools. The bender is a galvanized piece of pipe, pushed against vertical pieces of rebar that are precisely hammered into a tree stump. Nails are used as guides to place the rebar and where to push or pull it to get the desired bend. Using available resources to finish the task, means locals can take the skills they have learned, and maintain the bridge without needing specialized tools that may not be available. The physical action of bending is so precise that every millimeter counts. Measuring and double checking is a must so that both sides of the swing are even. Turns out, each person bending rebar has a slightly different style of pulling or pushing, which can cause the bar to bend differently and change the overall length of the rebar. Once we created a system that worked, we kept the process consistent, which is key. Getting the tower erected was a great achievement. While the rebar team was learning the bending process, the tower team laid out a plan for erecting the tower safely and effectively. We had a tower safety team of 5 and a wrenching team of 6. Everyone else watched as the massive tower was raised to the sky. At the final wrench, and the tower standing tall, locals and children yelled in excitement! The “wrench team heroes” gave high-fives all around. The day ended once again with countless smiles and waves on the way home.

February 21, 2024

Day 5 was a big one. It really put into perspective the true physical challenge this bridge would present us. The morning drive started off beautifully. We watched as the sun rose over the thousands of hills. It was a truly breathtaking view. I keep catching myself saying the same thing over and over, “I feel like I am in a movie.” This experience feels so unreal that a lot of times, I am at a loss for words. It feels like I am living in a movie. And I know that I am not alone in this feeling. The whole team has their moments like this. Once we got to site, we had our daily song and stretch & flex. Godfree, our site civil engineer and superintendent from B2P, let us know it was cable day. All 35 of us gathered around these five 3000-pound cables, all looking at each other like “now what do we do.” It didn’t take long for Godfree to get us lined out and ready to work. We slowly dragged this incredibly heavy cable up and over this river, then up the banks. This dragging routine was to take out some of the front then create slack towards the middle, then take some more up the hill and finally straighten out the end. Now remember all the challenges other that the physical one. We have language, fatigue, heat, and a limited number of people to stretch across each 110-meter cable. After the first couple of drags, we realized we had to learn to say stop and start in Kinyarwanda (Hagarara & Gutangira). The first cable took over an hour to complete. It's safe to say that the first cable kicked our butts. I know it threw me around like a ragdoll. I was doing all I could do just to hold on! But after stepping back and regrouping, we absolutely crushed the next 4 cables. Even during this insane situation, the team stayed positive. In between pulls, Earl and I would take a look around and talk about how crazy it is to be here right now in the middle of these mountains along this riverbank. We were so thankful just to be here, even after being thrown around by this 3000 lb. cable. After this great morning, we stopped for lunch. We talked about how thankful we were that no one had gotten hurt or fallen too far into the river. After lunch, we continued bending rebar and creating the swings. Finally, we set the sag. The cable sag must set for 24 hours before we can continue to work on it. The sag was another big push for us to finish. Those 3000-pound cables are now passed up the scaffold and through the tower, then pulled back down the other side and through the anchors. The local team would yell at each pull to keep the rhythm of pulling. It brought so much motivation to the team overall. At our debrief, we talked about our communication with the cables and how we could improve. Our highlights were no one got hurt, we got better at bending rebar, and a lot of the local workers started telling us about their families. This great day ended with a cutthroat game of uno and a lot of laughs and smiles all around.

February 22, 2024

I never thought I would have been this excited to go back to school. Day 6 was our school visit day. After working a couple of hours in the morning, we broke work for “teatime” at 10 a.m. and walked up the road to the school. As soon as we got in their view, it was game over. Hundreds of kids came sprinting to see us. Everywhere you looked, an excited kid was hopping up and down. Before we knew it, we were surrounded. As we shuffled closer and closer to the middle of the courtyard, we found the teachers standing in their long white coats, the same kind of coats a doctor would wear. We met the headmaster, and she brought us in the teacher room to tell us the history of the school. The school was built in 1950 and had little renovation since. The school holds 684 children, 18 teachers, and Nursery 1 and 2. Most of the children walk 2 kilometers to school one way every day. She mentioned that many children had fallen, but no child had died from crossing the river, and this bridge made sure that it would never happen. She thanked us over and over for the bridge and told us how much this meant to her and the children. She thanked God and our company many times over and over for giving them this bridge. After this, we walked outside to all the children lined up around the flagpole. A teacher whistled to get them to line up straight and began to sing. This was an out-of-body experience for me. It gave me chills. I was so blown away by the voices of 700 children singing and smiling, all for us being there. They sang over and over “Welcome, welcome, visitor, we are very happy because of you.” This started the waterworks for me! Then, they brought out the little kids to sing the daily opening song. This was a whole other level of beautiful. I don’t think anyone on the team had a dry eye after this one. Next, we held hands with the kids as we walked up into the trees to watch what they had prepared of us. I at least had one hand gripping around each of my fingers. As soon as we got up there, I couldn’t help myself— I had to sit amongst the children. They surrounded me. I think I had 5 different ones leaning against me or in my lap. We all watched as they sang more songs, poems in French, and presented speeches for us. Then, the girls showed us the dance they had prepared for us. At the end they all grabbed one of us and we all as a team joined in on the dance party! I've never seen kids so happy and full of energy. We sang and danced for over an hour straight. We talked about how we were going to need another stretch and flex after that workout! As we were saying our final goodbyes, the students and teachers had gifts to give us. We each received a drawing from a child to take home with us. We all agreed this was very special to us. A moment of pure joy. My face hurt from how much I was smiling all day. This was the perfect motivation to keep us going on the bridge. The team went back for lunch and knocked out a lot of items for the day.

February 23, 2024

Friday was dedicated to preparing for Monday and tying up loose ends from Thursday. Tower side finished up on the swing detailing then followed up with hanging the rest of these swings. The east side crew carried decking over the river and up the hill to the laydown area. I was on this crew. I have to say this sounds simple; it was not. Each piece of decking was roughly 80lbs. It was a tall task to carry it all the way over and then vertically up the hill. The locals were blowing our minds with how easily they were doing this. They would just throw them on top of their heads and never stop until they got there. After we got a good amount over to the east side, the east side crew started laying down decking. This was a slow start, but things went a lot faster after finding a rhythm. We worked until we brought all the decking over that morning. After this we all hopped in the cars and headed out for our 7 hour drive to our weekend getaway. Majority vote from the team was to go on a safari ride in the Eastern Provence of Rawanda at the Akagera National Park. We arrived at about 9 p.m. at our hotel right outside of the park. The team bonded over food and drinks while swapping stories about how awesome the first week was. This was a great memory. As I sat at dinner with the team, I stared off into space going over in my head all the different things I could write about in this journal for day 7. I thought about the amount of red dust absolutely covering the rest of the team driving around. I thought about how funny it was that the entire team was excited just to see a bathroom while we were swapping the SUVs out for the safari trucks. Lastly, what I truly wanted to write about was the pure joy that the team had at dinner. This team glowed with pride and excitement. We were at our halfway point and ahead of schedule. We all sat around this table, exchanging laughs and stories of the past week. Our dinner was the Jimmy Buffet special, cheeseburgers, and margaritas. We had been talking about these two for days, so as soon as we saw it on the menu, we were ready to order. We headed to enjoy our showers and beds shortly after dinner.

February 24 - 25, 2024

The team slept in a little and headed out at 7 a.m. with our packed lunches. After getting our briefing at the welcome center, we headed out on the trails. It didn’t take long until we found some zebras and rhinos. We were all like a bunch of kids on a field trip, yelling and pointing with excitement at everything we saw. We would ride down the trails, and as soon as one of us saw anything, we would yell out the type of animal, and our driver would slam on the brakes. Our driver Eddy made it his personal goal to show us every species in the park. We drove around all day, covering over half of the 433 square mile Akagera National Park. We saw zebras, rhinos, crocodiles, hippos, giraffes, leopards, baboons, water buffalos, impalas, elephants, and more. After our 11-hour bumpy day in the trucks, we arrived at our new hotel at about 6 p.m. that night. This hotel was overlooking Lake Ihema inside the national park. This was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever stayed. The team all got our rooms, showered, and walked to dinner. It was the dinner of our dreams, buffet style. We laughed at how we hadn’t even seen ourselves in a mirror or sat at a normal table and chairs in over a week! We couldn’t believe we were already at our halfway point. We had been preparing for these two weeks for several months. Many long calls and hours were dedicated to this. I felt like I blinked one day and was landing on the runway then blinked again and now half the bridge is done. It was a bittersweet moment. Overall, it was very nice to relax together after our long first week. We woke up to a nice buffet breakfast and felt recharged to finish this race. We drove 7 hours back and got ready to work again on Monday.

February 26, 2024

Day 10 worked out perfectly in our favor. The East team worked on laying down decking while the West side tore down the scaffold. Once the scaffold was down, the West side started decking just like the East side. Now, the real race was on. A little friendly competition on which side could get to the middle first. East side had the disadvantage of working at a downhill angle while West side had less swings to put decking on, but they had some hiccups along the way. While this was going on, locals carried rocks to backfill the pit on the East side abutment. This was no small task. For teatime, we sat with the locals in a circle on the ground and passed around Rwandan donut holes and coffee. Eventually someone pulled out a speaker and our teatime turned into another dance party. It slowly started to rain, but that didn’t slow down the dancing. We danced and danced as more rain fell. It was a true movie scene moment if you will— the locals and us dancing all together as one team. Once the rain stopped, so did the dance party. After this, a few people broke off from the other teams to put together the stabilizing pipe. Each pipe must be screwed together with a coupling, so one person on each end to hold and twist on the coupling. At our dinner debrief, DanO mentioned that while he was working with this team, one of the locals, Augustine, was lifting DanO off the ground while twisting these together. DanO was amazed by Augustine’s pure strength. The decking crew only had a few left to finish when it was time to leave, so the race to the middle had to wait until tomorrow.

February 27, 2024

Day 11 began with finishing the race between the West and East side deck teams. It was neck & neck. Eventually, the East side took the lead to victory. Next through each swing we pulled the support and fencing cables. Once this was about halfway done, the concrete crew started. The concrete was hand-mixed at the top of the hill on the east side. A team of 20 or so locals carried all the cement, water, and aggregate up this huge hill and then started to mix the concrete on the ground. Once mixed, two guys would shovel the concrete into little buckets that were carried and dumped into the backfill. This worked like a well-oiled machine. At about lunchtime, a storm came and shut us down. We all huddled together in our wood and plastic shelter as the thunder and lightning came down. We ate our lunch a little earlier than normal, and some of us took a nice nap as the rain hit against our plastic roof. After about an hour of rain delay, we went straight to work. Little did we know what the afternoon had in store for us. All of our tasks that afternoon were on top of the decking. It was basically like having the electricians, plumbers, flooring, painter, and ceiling guys all working in the same small office at the same time. At the end of the day, we sat down and planned out the order of these task so we could work effectively the next day. It was definitely one of our harder days, but we came out with a good plan.

February 28, 2024

On Day 12, we were ready to execute the plan we had worked on the night before. We were excited to jump out of the gate and get to work. As soon as stretch and flex was over, we all teamed up, got all of our materials ready, and headed to the East side. We all worked East to West. First, the piping was pushed and secured for stability. Then the deck bolting team went, followed by the U-bolts team. Lastly, the handrail team went. Each team worked at different speeds, but we were all prepared to switch areas if needed. This system worked well, and we got all of our tasks done. After teatime, we started fencing, which took up the rest of the day. We also started on the finishes by applying the first couple of coats of paint on the East side. We planned the work out and worked the plan well. We headed back to our accommodations to find a surprise— no power. No problem for this team. All the headlamps came out. We even had a fancy candlelit dinner on our plastic table and chairs to end the night. Not a single complaint from this team. We just roll with the punches with smiles on our faces, ready to serve.

February 29, 2024

This was a great day for celebration. The day before the inauguration of the bridge, we held a huge BBQ for the local workers to show our appreciation for all their hard work during the past two weeks. We wrapped up some finishing touches on the fencing and dirt work around the bridge. We stopped working at about 2 to start passing out the plates of food. It was a feast! 5 goats and 6 chickens later, with countless sides, everyone was full. We all sat together on the ground, eating with the locals, and talking about the past two weeks. I couldn’t believe this day was here. Truly, I didn’t want this experience to be over. Right when I thought it was time to go back to work, the music started, and so did the dancing. Song after song, dance after dance. Locals screamed the lyrics at the top of their lungs. It gave me chills to watch them rejoice. I couldn’t understand a word they were singing, but the joy and happiness radiated through their smiles and dancing. And then came the rain. Another movie scene moment to the end of this journey. Zuhra told us the rain was God blessing the bridge. Full on singing karaoke in the rain and acting out the lyrics to the songs. We had all endured a tough and exhausting couple of weeks together, but it was time to celebrate our hard work. When we showed up, we didn’t know them, and they didn’t know us. We all came from different worlds and situations. We all had different backgrounds and knowledge. But we all had one goal in common: to finish this bridge. None of us had done anything like this before, but none of us backed down from the challenge. After two weeks, we all share these memories and this unique experience. The locals told us all how much they would truly miss us. We took countless Polaroid photos to leave with them to keep the story of this build alive. I think the whole team would agree with me when I say we would do this experience all over again in a heartbeat. Don’t get me wrong, this was extremely hard work and definitely the hardest thing I’ve done in my 25 years, but I wouldn’t trade these two weeks for anything. I’m proud to say our mission is complete, and we finished the race.

Flintco’s 2022 Bridge Building Mission

Mucyabahinja, Rwanda  |  February 17th – March 6th 2022


In 2022, a team of 10 Flintco volunteers helped complete the 86-meter Mucyabahinja (Moo-cha-bah-heen-ya) Suspension Bridge in the East-Central African Village of Giseke. Before the bridge was built, an average of 10 people were dying each year trying to cross the river to go to school or seek healthcare. Not anymore.

“Your bridge is looking good today!” said Marielle Rodriguez, Industry Coordinator with B2P, in a follow-up email to Flintco with a video from the village six months after the bridge was complete. “And the reason we know that is because we decided to go back and ask the community how their life has changed, what is different now, what services they can reach, and how they feel.”