The San Antonio River divides the 52 families of El Guayabo, El Porvenir and Tula from San Francisco and the adjacent Panamerican highway. During the rainy season, which lasts from June to November, the river will rise up to 2 meters, completely submerging the existing culvert vehicular bridge for up to four days at a time. When the crossing is flooded, the communities are left isolated. Children cannot cross the river to reach the school they attend on the other side and their parents are unable to sell their produce and purchase food and supplies. On her sixth visit to El Salvador, Duke Civil Engineering student Maria Gibbs was speaking to her longtime Salvadoran friend Gloria Sandoval, who mentioned the need for a pedestrian bridges in San Jose Villanueva. Gloria teaches in the nearby community of Los Naranjos and became aware of this problem when her students would miss school entirely for several days or come to class soaking wet after having waded through the precarious river crossing.
Maria brought this problem to Duke University's chapter of Engineers Without Borders and the Duke-EWB sister organization ExciteDevelopment agreed to take it on. An assessment team composed of Maria and fellow engineering students Jack Jamieson and Mauricio Villa visited San Jose Villanueva in October of 2010, surveyed the crossing and spoke with members of the community about the possibility of a pedestrian bridge. The Duke team will design the bridge during the fall 2010 semester and Bridges to Prosperity and the communities will begin construction in January, 2011. A team of Duke students will return to El Salvador for 8 weeks beginning in May 2011 to complete the bridge.