April 2, 2015
Authored by Erin Kitzmiller, a civil engineer in CH2M’s transportation group who will serve as the Project Manager for on the Gasura, Rwanda bridge build in June 2015. Erin received her bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from Penn State in 2012 and has spent the past three years working for CH2M in the ports group in Philadelphia and the highways group in Denver.
The CH2M Foundation is partnering with the non-profit Bridges to Prosperity to construct two pedestrian suspension bridges in Rwanda and Nicaragua during the summer of 2015. The bridges will be built by CH2M volunteers who applied for the highly-competitive roles on these skills-based volunteer projects.
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I am typing this from my standup desk in the air-conditioned, well-lit CH2M office in the outskirts of Metropolitan Denver. I easily can grab a glass of clean water from the faucet in the kitchen, help myself to leftovers from a catered meeting, and charge my smartphone from the outlet in my cubicle. I took a shower this morning from the comforts of my own home (while singing poorly, I might add), safely crossed paved roads at signalized intersections, and hopped onto the light rail without looking up once from my Kindle application on which I am reading A Thousand Hills to Heaven by Josh Ruxin. It is so easy to neglect these luxuries in my daily routine. I rest my mug back onto my USB-powered coffee-warmer which is connected to my laptop.
As sad as it sounds, maybe the only reason I am noticing these things is because my life is about to change in ten weeks. I will be much more concerned with the safety of my colleagues as we construct a bridge thirty-five times the length of our bodies than I will about my daily Twitter feed. I am not ungrateful for the privileges and opportunities available to me each day, but I know that after my trip to Rwanda my mentality will be forever transformed.
It is so crucial that we give back to those around the world who do not have access to clean water or sanitation, cannot commute to their jobs due to natural barriers, or cannot read the news due to lack of an education. Worst of all, some of these people cannot even receive food or medical care due to their community’s isolation. I want to change that, and I have never been prouder to stand alongside my professional teammates in allowing a society in rural Africa to thrive.
Upon hearing the news that I was selected as the Project Manager for the Rwanda bridge build, I was elated, of course, but I am the first to admit that I am intimidated by the task at hand. A natural-born “studier,” I was the first to grill Reece Bishop (last year’s La Conga Project Manager) with questions surrounding the design process and the role’s expectations. My nightly reading material is the Bridge Design Manual, and I am constantly looking up pictures and videos of the project area to familiarize myself with the Gasabo District. No matter how much I prepare before the trip, I realize that the most notable and defining moments will be recorded on-the-job.
I am so thankful to work for CH2M which provides me the resources to better myself by bettering others. It is time that I venture out of my comfort zone and throw myself into challenging realms. It is time that I think long and hard about how fortunate I am each day. It is time that we, as members of the human race, do our part in advancing civilization and taking care of one another.