Sukhasan: 1st Bridge.. Anything is possible with old cloth..
Every year… routinely floods devastate people living on the banks of the rivers across India, whether its Ganga, Brahmaputra or Kosi. But sometimes the intensity and sheer scale is shocking.. The recent floods of Kashmir by Jhelum or the floods of Kosi some years ago, are some examples. In 2008, the Kosi river changed its course and started flowing on a new path. Hundreds of villages falling in its new path got displaced while thousands of houses submerged and millions of people and cattle lost their lives.
For the people of Sukhasan Village in Madhepura district (Bihar) on the banks of river Sursar (a tributary to Kosi) the swollen river in the monsoons was a fact of life. Since there wasn’t any bridge on the river, the children of the village would swim across to reach their school on the other side. When 13 children got drowned in this dangerous journey people were scared to send their children to school!!
Goonj initiated big scale relief operations after the Kosi floods and by December, 2009 it was clear that we would work long term in the state. This is when we met the villagers of Sukhasan and shared the concept of ‘Cloth for Work’. When they mentioned the shocking story of their children, we asked them if they could build a bridge over the river. This was a first for us as well… But we were clear that the villagers had the wisdom and the resources to do this. Over 6 days when more than 50 villagers came together, they built themselves a bamboo bridge of 240 ft x 6ft. The bridge suddenly connected 7-8 villages while hundreds of people, cycles and motorcycles crossed it. It ended up connecting a lot of dots for the local education, economy, infrastructure, communication and countless other aspects. Inspired by this experience, many other village communities have since built 3 such bridges in the region under Goonj’s CFW program.
Today when one goes to Sukhasan one finds a pukka bridge in place of the bamboo bridge which remained for three years till 2011.
For us this was a perfect example of using local resources and wisdom of people. It also gave us a deeper understanding of the power of the so called discard cloth. Today, in Bihar alone, there are more than 14 initiatives of people building, repairing or maintaining their bridges under CFW. The work has since spread to other states like Uttarakhand, Odisha and West Bengal where a lot of bigger and better bamboo & wooden bridges have been made. The Sukhasan bridge is special because it’s the first…
It reminds us that anything is possible with cloth as a tool…#100storiesofchangebyGoonj #clothforwork


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