Building Bridges to Save Lives

The Nithi River used to claim as many as 50 lives each year near the Kenyan villages of Kajuki and Mutino. But a Matching Grant project carried out by the Rotary clubs of Meru, Kenya, and Middleton, Greater Manchester, England, helped fund a bridge that allows villagers to cross the river safely, transforming the economies of the villages in the process.Before the bridge was constructed, Mutino villagers had to make a 30 mile roundtrip journey to cross the river at a safe point, making it difficult to reach Kajuki for supplies and medical services. Often in emergencies, villagers would try to ford the river, and many died as a result.During the July opening ceremony for the bridge, Mwithimbu and John Brooker, district grants subcommittee chair, stood side by side, struggling to hold back emotion as they watched a group of Kenyan women helping a pregnant friend wade across the river. The women were demonstrating what their lives had been like before the bridge’s opening. The idea for the project, dubbed the Elliot-Poole Bridge, came to Brooker in 2005 after he saw an episode of the BBC television program Blue Peter. The show featured a boy named Elliot Inglis, who was visiting Kenya to help out with humanitarian projects. Brooker contacted the Inglis family and learned of the need for a bridge between Mutino and Kajuki.

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