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A dream and a bridge connect

The rainy season came early this year to Lu Thi Xiu's village. After two days of heavy downpour, Xiu, a 7th grade student, sat at home on a school day. So did most of her friends.

The old bridge

"We usually have to wait and cross the bridge one by one," says Xiu, "but on rainy days, we don't dare cross at all." Missing school means missed dreams: Xiu wants to become a doctor, but wonders how she will achieve that dream if she can't even get to school when it rains.

Constructed poorly 30 years ago, the local bridge to the village centre had become so rotten that it could break any time, leaving local residents with a difficult choice: use the bridge and risk an accident, or stay at home without access to education, health care and markets.

For years, community members have wanted to replace the bridge. While other urgent projects took priority, the idea of a new bridge never left their minds. This March, the time had come.

Community volunteers contributed labour

Plan worked with community members to develop a plan. They agreed that Plan would finance the cost of the engineering and oversee the project, while 800 community members would invest the materials and labour to make the new bridge a reality. This participation fosters a sense of ownership among community members as they develop the skills and confidence to complete the project together.

"It was really hard work," adds Nhinh, a volunteer who helped carry heavy timber, "but the hardship disappeared when I thought of how my children will be able to go to school every day, and how I won't have to wake up at 3:00 am to go to market any more."

Students heading to school on the new bridge!

"After one month of hard work, our dream of 30 years has come true," says Leng Van Di, a local social worker.

With a brand new bridge engineered to last, the people of Hoang Su Phi no longer have to risk their safety to reach the centre of their community. For 13-year-old Xiu, the new bridge means she's back in school every day and closer to her dream.


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