In March 2001, Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) founder Ken Frantz saw a photo in National Geographic Magazine that moved him to action.
The image showed men dangling precariously, using ropes to pull each other across a wide, high and broken bridge span over a portion of the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia. Ken soon discovered that his brother, Forrest Frantz, had seen the photo and had the same thought: “I want to repair that bridge.”
Within three months, Ken, who owned a construction company, donated time, money and materials and enlisted eager family members, friends and his Rotary club to support the inaugural B2P project. This first project, Sebara Dildi, repaired the bridge crossing along the Blue Nile in Ethiopia and represents a vision that continues to inspire our team today.
In 2002, B2P founding members Zoe Keone Pacciani and Chris Rollins worked in partnership with the Swiss organization Helvetas (now HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation) to define and hone the cable-suspended bridge design and community training program. Helvetas is widely considered an originator of the concept that community bridge-building programs are an effective means to reduce poverty, and their perspective was an important influence in the development of B2P’s program model.
In 2006, while Bridges to Prosperity was still in it’s infancy, Avery Bang was a college student at University of Iowa and studying abroad in Fiji. During her time studying abroad, she encountered a community that had recently opened a trailbridge development project. She was able to see firsthand how a simple bridge was transforming the lives of the residents there. Upon her return, she found and joined Bridges to Prosperity as a university program volunteer and facilitated her first bridge build in Peru.
Today, Avery is the CEO and President of Bridges to Prosperity. The team has evolved from a grassroots effort to a dynamic family of more than 65 people. We have built bridges in 22 countries and have formal programs in Latin America and Africa.
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