August 5, 2016
Authored by Paul McKay, a graduate engineer in CH2M’s London office who recently volunteered with Bridges to Prosperity on a suspension bridge build in Las Brisas, Nicaragua.
I’ve been back in the UK for just over three weeks and I have had plenty of time to reflect on my time in Las Brisas and there are so many highlights. The blogs would be endless if I tried to list them all. I often go through the photos to reminisce on what we achieved and the fun we had. But one of my favourite memories is the wonderful Las Brisas community and how we developed a friendship with them during our time out in Nicaragua. This was really highlighted by an email we received from Darling, a community member, just after we got back from Nicaragua [e-mail translated]:
Good afternoon family. I hope you have safely returned to your countries with your families. I wanted to thank you one more time your support for the project and specially the massive change you have made in the life of each member of my family and the community. You have left a bit of each of you in my family member’s hearts; don’t forget you have a home if sometime you come back to Nicaragua. Everyone at home fondly remembers you guys and in our memories we will keep the unforgettable moments shared with you.
A big hug and greetings from Nicaragua.
I’m sure if you speak to any of the other team members or read any of their blogs that they would agree the Las Brisas community were a great community. It felt like one big family who had so much respect for one another and who welcomed us with open arms. I will not forget them.
One thing the trip to Nicaragua taught me is to get out of your comfort zone and avoid routine! Embrace new challenges and the experience that goes along with it. It has helped me develop so much as a professional in many ways. I feel more confident in approaching tasks and how I work with people with all different abilities and level of seniority. In Nicaragua, I was working with some people with no or very little engineering /construction experience (including myself), yet I managed to communicate and help lead some tasks to complete them successfully and safely. This improved my leadership skills also as the team dynamics allowed me to learn from others actions as well as take control of a situation and make a decision when required. But I also learned when to step back and watch others, as you can absorb just as much information from that as you do from carrying out the task yourself – Jared, Pablo and Ana were great mentors for this and I learned a lot from their construction experience and advice. And finally, the trip has given me a few ideas of what my team back in London could benefit from.
I still miss the CH2M team and have had the odd phone call from a few of them which is really nice. Lesly seems to catch me always at the wrong time but we have had a good catch up a few times and it’s like nothing has changed! I had the chance to meet Tessa and a few other previous B2P alumni this week and heard many stories from their trips. Each person had a different story but all of us had something in common – we all saw the impact and happiness the bridges and the teams brought to the communities each time CH2M and B2P has visited.
It’s strange how it changes you as a person going on trips like these. I have always been one to look after the environment and not to be wasteful but now I’m even more cautious and hate wasting anything no matter how little it is. The trip served as a huge reminder of how lucky we are in the UK with everything we have and sometimes the things we take for granted in life really are the biggest things to others. I can only encourage everyone to at some point in their lives to participate in something like this or to this wonderful scheme in any way shape or form as you truly see the impact it has to both the community members and yourself.