A bridge has many purposes, lending itself to be the connection between two distinct objects. Whether built to withstand millions of cars or merely to cross a trickling creek, each is built for a reason. David Kakuko had very meaningful intentions for his bridges, to create a crossing point over the very river that killed his parents. In an area that is often flooded in West Pokot, Kenya, Kakuko created a footbridge that connected the two lands divided by the raging rapids.
Originally from Kentucky, Kakuko came to Kenya in 1989 and began to address the isolated communities that were unable to reach towns for schooling, goods and even medical care. In desperate times, many have tried to cross the river but have lost their lives in the battle. Kakuko was led to bridge building by his friend, Jay Hindson. They witnessed first hand that building bridges could change communities. In 2003, he developed Bridging the Gap. Since 1997, his team has built over 45 bridges connecting the land separated by the deadly waters.
Kakuko missions is more than a footpath. It provides communities with the resources necessary for survival and a thriving environment. He is often compensated with a sacred gift, a goat. Even though Kakuko has witnessed how much his bridges have helped a multitude of communities, it does not come without a price. He is often kept away from his family and has been in dangerous situations, including being robbed at gunpoint and malaria. Despite it’s obstacles, Kakuko notes that he seems himself as privileged and that “a bridge is a beautiful metaphor for many things. There are bridges of hope, bridges of peace, bridges of life. To me, bridges are beautiful” (Kakuko, 2010).
To learn more about Kakuko’s story, visit:
Before the activity described below, show this documentary to your students.
Scroll to Bridging The Gap: The Galana Bridge Story, which gives a detailed view of the bridge building process and the impact the rivers have on their communities.
Kakuko’s mission offers insight to an unfamiliar culture and can expand students’ knowledge of other lives. Present the video below to your class and discuss the symbolism of a bridge. To enhance a writing lesson, have students create a poem behind that idea of a bridge, both its metaphoric meanings as it relates to its literal. Urge them to connect it back to Kakuko’s mission and the cultural aspects of Kenya. How did a bridge sustain life for those in the isolated communities in Kenya? By visiting Kakuko’s website, students can help his cause by donating to his cause. To raise money to build bridges, have an open poetry night where classmates and faculty can come hear students read their creative writing pieces or poems and make a donation. Not only will students contemplate the symbolism behind his work, but they will make an impact for the many people impacted by Kenya’s rivers.
What bridge have you crossed in your life? What was its significance?