Brooks Visual Journalism Faculty Member Teams with Bridging the Gap Africa to Serve Communities in Need

April 5, 2013

Bridging the Gap Africa

Brooks adjunct faculty member Alison Nigh Strelich shares the inspirational story behind the image above and her work with Bridging the Gap Africa.

The photograph above shows two Masai priests blessing a newly built bridge over the Sand River in southern Kenya. But this isn’t just any bridge – it’s part of an important and inspirational program designed to serve marginalized people in a walking world.

In rural Kenya, a pregnant woman might have to walk for hours to reach a health clinic. Children walk great distances to go to school. Families walk to market centers for food supplies and provisions.  Yet every village has stories of the men, women and children whom they have lost each year due to the treacheries of river crossing: hippos and crocodile attack, flood waters sweep loved ones away in the rainy season. 

Enter Harmon Parker, whose organization Bridging the Gap Africa (BGA) serves communities across sub-Saharan Africa by constructing pedestrian footbridges to overcome the dangers posed by impassable rivers and ravines that threaten their safety, limit their access to education and healthcare, and restrict economic opportunity. Parker was named a 2010 CNN Hero for his program, which has built 51 of these bridges over the past 20 years.

They are amazing projects. The communities that will benefit from the bridge have to approach BGA with their need and, by providing some of the funding, taking part in the building process, and working in cooperation with other beneficiary communities, all involved have the necessary sense of ownership that ensures that the bridge will be cared for in the years to come.

On the anniversary of our own family’s loss of my brother-in-law, Jack Aknin, I began a bridge project in his memory. Harmon was Jack’s best friend; we raised the funds over here in the States, and Harmon worked with the people who lived on both sides of the Sand River near Ololomptlagilagi in southern Kenya to pick a site and build a bridge.

I photographed the amazing dedication ceremony earlier this year and hope to use those images to spread the word about Bridging the Gap Africa.

Photo ©Alison Nigh Strelich