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Rio Missions Panama
Rio Missions Panama. Building bridges in off-the-grid mountain communities is no easy task, but the harsher reality for many Panamanians is the daily crossing of swollen rivers to get to school, church, the store, or medical help.
This year, Rio Missions Panama, completed their second pedestrian bridge in the remote Rio Negro Valley of Veraguas. This Christian non-profit organization, registered in Panama and the US, seeks to cultivate relationships with local Panamanians in poor and marginalized communities and encourage like-minded groups within the country to provide resources and support.
The Mariato Mayor, Angel Batista, contacted the organization with requests to supply clean water, build a church, and construct two pedestrian bridges in and around Bajo Grande, with the help from schools in Panama City, churches and universities from the US, and other non-profit foundations.
The community of Bajo Grande is the largest of the very small towns in the valley and is accessed on both sides only by crossing the Rio Negro. Many children cross twice daily on their way to and from school and the only stores and medical care are in Bajo Grande. This required residents to choose to either wade through the river or shimmy across primitive wire and rope bridges.
In 2015, a 72 meter bridge was built over the lower reaches of the river. This involved teams of college students, professional engineers, B2P employees and representatives of Rio Missions traveling to and living with the people of the valley for eight weeks.
In 2016 they built their most ambitious bridge with a span of 80m and two towers on each side.
Men, women, and children came out and did everything from carrying buckets of water, mixing cement, moving river rock, bending rebar, bringing food down on late nights, and taking care of bug bites and injuries. The integration and unity of the diverse people on-site was an amazing picture of how change can happen.
By Dan Cotton