Frantz is the founder of Bridges to Prosperity, a nonprofit organization that builds bridges all over the Third World. The group has built bridges in South America, Africa and Asia. And while not one of the literal kind, the group has even built a bridge into Southeastern New Mexico. That bridge will result in more bridges that have built more bridges that will build bridges far into the future.
“It’s amazing how things have come together in just a year,” said Norm Arnold, an Alamogordo Rotarian, who along with fellow Rotarians from Alamogordo and Ruidoso will be traveling to El Salvador Jan. 28, to build as many as five bridges throughout the area. The original plan was to build one bridge. According to Tammy Bean, another local Rotarian and the new development director at the Spencer Theater, that plan exploded once area residents got involved.
Bean said, originally, the White Sands Rotary club was looking at doing an international project that was to build one bridge in Guatamala at a cost of $10,000.
But through the efforts of local Rotarians, more than $62,000 was raised. More than that, the project also has resulted in a sister project that will send NMSU engineering students to South America to inspect bridges while earning college credit.
“It just keeps growing and growing,” Bean said.
At every step, however, has been someone who just wanted to see what they could do to make a difference in the world.
According to the Bridges to Prosperity website, Frantz was reading a National Geographic magazine in 2001 that showed men pulling each other across the Blue Nile River in Ethiopa. The photo shows a bridge that had been destroyed and was no longer usable. A retired contractor, Frantz decided that was something he could fix.
“Fittingly, the first bridge was built over the Blue Nile in Ethiopa, one which continues to inspire a new generation of bridge builders today,” the site claims.
Fast forward to 2009, when Arnold started looking for a way he could make a difference in the world. He discussed the idea with his brother, who had gone to school with Frantz.
“He reminded me of what Ken Frantz was doing and it’s just been kind of a natural process from there,” Arnold said, adding that it didn’t take long for Frantz to get him involved.
The first call Arnold made to Frantz ended with a commitment for Arnold to travel to Peru to inspect and make repairs to bridges. He came back from that trip inspired. He started raising money and raising awareness that has led to many more people getting involved. He met with Engineers without Borders, which has led to them taking on their own bridges project in addition to offering support for the Rotarians’ efforts.
Bean added that a meeting with the engineering department at New Mexico State University, even led to them getting in the project as well. According to Bean and Arnold, NMSU teaches the only college credit course in the United States covering bridge inspection. That meeting led to a program that will send NMSU students to South America as interns to inspect bridges built by Bridges to Prosperity.
“I’m just so excited,” Bean said. “I wanted to go do this and then all these people came to the table.”
She added that the project has been rewarding because the bridges projects can make such a huge difference in the lives of so many. The bridges they build help local communities in isolated parts of the world have access to food, markets and healthcare.
Afterall, Bean said, “We’re all linked together. The world is our world. It’s not just the United States we need to worry about.”