Bridges to Community
Bridges to Community, Inc. is a non-profit cultural exchange organization that takes volunteers to developing countries to work, learn, and reflect. Through the process of living and working with local communities on construction, health and environmental projects, Bridges promotes cross-cultural learning, a deepening awareness of our global interdependence and a commitment to the common good. Bridges to Community has brought more than four thousand North American volunteers to Nicaragua since 1993.
Bridges to Community organizes and facilitates international service learning trips in which volunteers live and work in materially poor communities. Currently, efforts are being focused on trips to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
The goal of a Bridges to Community trip is for its participants not only to see first-hand the hardships facing a vast majority of the world's population lives, but also for the students to take action and work to improve the lives of these communities. Volunteers are encouraged to think critically about global interdependence, foreign policies, economic impact and stereotypes. Though Bridges trips are typically thought of as service trips, volunteers are encouraged to think of service as an experience of "what we can do together" rather than "what we can do for them."
Most trips to Nicaragua are 9 days in length, and include an orientation upon arriving in the host country, the experience of living in and working with a local community, and a little sightseeing. Volunteers find themselves sleeping on cots, eating staple foods, using outhouses, and most importantly, creating friendships that will lead to a greater sense of global community. Bridges volunteers are fully exposed to the realities of living in a materially poor country. As noted on the Bridges website, “We believe that it is only through this level of engagement that we can learn from and be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters living in contexts that are radically different from our own.”
Since 1993, thousands of volunteers from many different groups have participated in Bridges experiences. In addition to many public trips, groups from businesses, religious groups, colleges, universities, and high schools have traveled to both Nicaragua and Kenya.
Involvement in Nicaragua
Since its start in 1992, Bridges to Community has worked in various sites in Nicaragua, including Acedades, Bluefields,[El Bluff, Jinotega*, Nindiri*, Masaya*, Nandaime, Ometepe, Puerto Cabezas, Santa Lucia, Siuna*, Solingalpa, Teustepe, Tierra Colorada, and Ticuantepe. Those denoted with asterisks are sites where work is currently being done. Bridges began work in San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic in 2012
- Construction work
Bridges’ construction projects are present in all four active sites in Nicaragua.
A Bridges house costs $5,000 to build. All loan repayments are channeled into a Bridges fund that is used to pass the gift forward and finance additional community development projects in that same community or future homes in a different community. All families are required to participate in each phase of the construction process. Their participation is effectively treated as a down payment.
Medical and public health work
Medical and public health work involves clinic work, home visits, public health education, and working with local practitioners. New initiatives in home health and environmentalism are currently being developed with smoke-free stoves, improved latrines, and filtered water projects. Medical projects are currently active in the Siuna and Ticuantepe sites.
Bridges employs both American and Nicaraguan staff.