Make a World of Difference

June 15, 2010

Civil Engineers make a world of difference. However, we can sometimes feel a bit removed from the benefit delivered to society. The engineers that volunteer with Engineers without Borders (EWB), on the other hand, create a direct bond with the communities that they help.

Ryan Hopeman, a structural engineer in Chicago, is about to embark on the final stages of his team’s commitment to the people of Canchias, Honduras. Read below for more about his team’s impact on the community.

By Ryan Hopeman (and Chicagoland Professional Chapter, EWB)

For the last several months I have been working with the Chicagoland Professional Chapter of EWB on the design of a bridge in Canchias, Honduras.

Canchias is a rural, mountainous community of about 680 people. Many in the village live below the poverty level and are barely able to raise enough food for their families. A local NGO, called Heart to Honduras (HTH), has purchased land for the community to use to raise crops as well as for a dairy farm.

EWB - Canchias Bridge Page 001

Unfortunately, because the region is so mountainous, this land is only accessible by crossing the Yure River. While a footbridge is present, it is unstable for the farmers who have to carry heavy loads and dangerous for children carrying the free dairy products back to their schools. In addition, while the river can be forded during the six month long dry season and a few months out of the rainy season, crossing thru the river often causes expensive damage to the underside of wheeled vehicles and is dangerous for fully loaded beasts of burden.

The community of Canchias requested the assistance of EWB to work with them to design and build an 120’ vehicle bridge over the Yure River to access what has been known in that area as “The Promised Land.” The bridge will allow the people of Canchias access to the farm land and allow the villagers to not only raise enough crops for their families, but also to sell to others. As a result, the bridge will help to increase the health of the people of Canchias and improve the economic stability of the region.

EWB - Canchias Bridge Page 002

Members from the Chicagoland Professional Chapter of EWB have gone on several site assessment trips to Honduras and completed the bridge design. This July, I will travel with a team to begin construction of the bridge. The plan is to build the bridge in two phases, with the first phase in July and the second phase taking place after the completion of the rainy season next spring.

Many volunteers have joined together to make this project a reality, including the community members of Canchiaas who will provide the necessary manpower and local materials. Likewise, the members of EWB will donate their time and pay their own travel expenses to join in the construction activity.

The Chicagoland EWB Chapter is raising money for the bridge construction. 100% of the fundraising will go directly toward construction costs. If you are interested in contributing to the effort, please donate to the Canchias bridge project by going to; Keyword: Honduras; Select: Santa Cruz De Yoja, Cortes, then Canchias Ag. Bridge or mail a check to:

Engineers Without Borders USA – CPC
P.O. Box 7740
Chicago, IL 60680-7740
(please write “Canchias, Honduras bridge” in memo)
EWB will issue a receipt for your tax records for any donation over $250.

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