Reflections on the bridge project in Ti Péligre
By Matt Capelli
Bridges to Prosperity at Virginia Tech recently celebrated the successful completion of its first project – a 60-meter suspended footbridge in Ti Péligre, Haiti, during March. Stone by stone and nail by nail, a bridge was constructed until a year and a half of effort by countless individuals became a reality.
As I smile thinking about the Haitians’ new bridge, I am left with a chance to reflect on what the project means to me as a Virginia Tech student and engineer. What started as a simple project to help villagers gain access to their most basic needs became something much greater in my own life and at Virginia Tech.
My involvement in the project has inspired me to always use my education as a blessing that I can give back to the world. The project gave me the opportunity to apply my engineering education to a real-world problem and allowed me to witness the beauty and meaning behind a completed bridge. The image of the bridge serves as a permanent, physical metaphor that reminds us all that gaps can be crossed and challenges can be overcome by working together. Being a part of a real and positive project that brings a brighter future to Haiti has been life changing.
The people of Haiti are nothing short of inspirational, and I am often overwhelmed with how special the Haitian culture is. I have never met people with hope that never runs out and a relentless willingness to always serve others first. Haiti will forever and always hold a special place in my heart.
The power of the bridge can be found in the countless individuals forming partnerships necessary to complete the project. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the Haitians on the ground who led the majority of construction and logistical coordination throughout the design and building stages. The work of each of the Haitians involved is a testament to the true strength of the bridge, which lies not in the materials it was made out of, but in the unification of communities and the long-term relationships that came together with the common goal to serve others. The bridge connects much more than the village of Ti Péligre and the town of Casse. It reaches back to Blacksburg and beyond, connecting contributors from around the world.
Witnessing the transformation in our own lives led us, just a group of students, to found a chapter of Bridges to Prosperity at Virginia Tech. Our hope as a chapter is to provide an outlet for students to gain unique professional experiences while using the degree that they have been blessed with to serve others. We hope to not just bridge rivers, but also to “bridge the gap” in students’ lives to a life of service and the ultimate fulfillment of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). We founded the chapter with the simple belief that everyone is blessed with special talents and skills and that every individual plays a role in making the world a better place. We want to encourage people to step out, develop relationships, and form partnerships with people across the world, and together, create something of greater value than what each can build individually.
Building bridges is not the solution to changing the world, but we believe that there is a silver-bullet solution we all can achieve: good leadership and meaningful long-term relationships. We are very proud of the model we have helped to develop and are excited to be a part of helping Virginia Tech “bridge the gap” to world prosperity.
Matt Capelli is a graduate student in civil engineering as well as the Pamplin College of Business MBA program.