Thoughts from Team Kazabe Bridge

Since returning to the UK, Team Kazabe bridge have had time to reflect on the project and consider the wider impact or their work both personally and for the community back in Rwanda. 

Can you describe a typical day on site? 

The day started with us waking up at 5:30am ready for breakfast at 6:00am sharp. Then we would drive for 15 minutes through the village, through the market, across a small stream and onto off-road terrain as far as the solid ground would take us. We parked up and walked another 10 minutes down to site. Then everyday would start with morning exercises and stretching followed by a daily briefing on the day’s activities and key health and safety point. The team then would delegate the days tasks and crack on. Lunch would be around 12. Often followed by a game of football or rugby with the local kids. Then we would continue until 5:30/6:00pm when we would pack up for the day and stretch down for the day. Just before the sun set so that we would have a safe journey home. 

Was there a stand out meal of typical Rwandan food from the trip? 

The typical meals were vegetarian and high carb – rice, plantain, potatoes, vegetable stews, and I developed a minor addiction to Akabanga chilli oil. The standout meal was the barbecued goat we ate with the local workers after the bridge was completed. Partly because the goats were barbecued to perfection – including the liver and intestine – and partly for the singing and dancing that followed. 

How did the bridge build compare to how you had planned it in London?

The concept and theory of building the bridge was heavily analysed before the trip, translating the technical construction drawings into hand sketches that could be easily understood. This painted a picture of what it would be like, learning from previous experiences. But the reality of building the bridge was an eye opening and invaluable experience. To be able to read a drawing and materialise the drawing is an incredible experience.  

What was your personal highlight of the entire trip?

The highlight was the team barbeque. It was such an emotional evening spent with the local workers that you had bonded with over the past two weeks. It was great to eat and dance with them and enjoy each other’s company away from site. We ate barbequed goat and potatoes. There was some amazing dancing and singing from the locals. The ex-chief made an incredibly emotional speech about the project and getting to know so many people from different cultures. He said to go tell our family, friends and strangers about the wonderful country of Rwanda. 

What was the best thing you did away from site?

The hike over the bridge and into the hills beyond our site. We saw some beautiful countryside and walked through villages and met the people who would be using the bridge. The markets were also amazing – so vibrant and lively.

Were there any challenging moments?

Sometimes, there were moments where the construction plans didn’t necessarily translate as expected on site. The rebar bending was a challenge to replicate the dimensions as specified, but after some trial and error we managed to figure out a method that worked. On a personal level the whole experience was a challenge, with an opportunity to learn and be taught new skills and gain new experiences through doing. 

How did it feel to see the bridge complete and in use?

Incredible, especially when we heard the speech from a local representative at the inauguration who talked about people crossing the river to go to market and being unable to go home for days sometimes, whilst waiting for the river to go back down to a safe crossing level.