The bridge is officially done! Actually, it was done quite a while ago, but I have been busy with other farming related projects since then, and have not had time to update this blog. I apologize for that, but want you all to know that myself, as well as all of the villages in my valley, really appreciate all of your donations and support throughout this process. The construction was finished in early February, and there are a few things that need touching up. It is a cultural practice here in Madagascar to slaughter a cow and host a party when a large construction project (house, school, etc.) is finished, and we will do just this in the end of May. The 5 villages involved in the building process will chip in and purchase a cow and provide rice, and I am trying to find some entertainment for the party. Before the party we still need to put some finish on the wooden parts of the bridge, clean up the surrounding area a bit, plant a few trees, and eventually the park staff plans to improve the trails on either side of the bridge.
We are all very happy with the results and design of the bridge, and the people in my village now enjoy strolling down to the river just to hang out around the bridge and take in the views from on top of such a nice structure. This is the first type of structure built in the area that has inspired such strolls, and I think it's an indicator of just how pleased they are with the results. They are very proud of themselves for accomplishing such a large project, and are realizing the potential for other projects in the area. The bridge has also made the work significantly easier for the farmers this rainy season in that they no longer have to worry about only getting half a days work in due to the rain and rising water level; they are able to work through it and use the bridge as a safe avenue home. The same goes for children going to school, people going to the market, etc. Something that used to be a big problem has turned into a non-issue, thanks to all of your help!
Alison Thieme, Andrew McBride, Angelika Young, Brent Beerly, Charlotte Danenberg, Elizabeth Beck, Erica Thumma, Courtney Lane, Gilberto Torres, James Smith, Joan Cagginello, John Gauger, Jonathan Lear, Julie and Isaac Dunham, Kelli Sterrett, Kelly and Jonathan Weiner, Kelsey McCutcheon, Kendra Broad, Kourtney Nelson, Lauren Munfa, James Rooney, Celeste Ruggierio, Lee Jelenic, March Ubaldi, Matt Rutherford, Maureen Shea, Meredith Bergman, Patricia Rooney, Christine Toomey (thanks sista!), Paul Parantala, Reed and Laura Armstrong, Robert Cummings, Robert Smith, Roseanne Meyer, Rosemarie Gimby, Rosemary Shea, Catherine Sheehan, Susan and Jim McCutcheon, Susan McDonough, Teri-OA, and Tina Maa. I had a tremendous amount of support from Maureen Shanley of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Connecticut—I couldn’t have done this without you! Last but not least, I’d like to thank my entire family, and especially my amazing mother, Lauretta Toomey, for all of her unwavering support, love, and for playing the role of spokeswoman for this project in the United States.