Ground Breaking Ceremony for Bridge in Negele

NEGELE, Ethiopia (22 August 2011) -- Women and children from Negele pose for a photo around the stone marker unveiled during a bridge dedication ceremony August 22, 2011.  The bridge connecting the villages of Negele and Borena will allow the villagers to cross the river during the rainy season for school, going to the market and seeking medical treatment. (US Air Force photo by Captain Jennifer Pearson) CJTF-HOA Photo NEGELE, Ethiopia (22 August 2011) -- Women and children from Negele pose for a photo around the stone marker unveiled during a bridge dedication ceremony August 22, 2011. The bridge connecting the villages of Negele and Borena will allow the villagers to cross the river during the rainy season for school, going to the market and seeking medical treatment. (US Air Force photo by Captain Jennifer Pearson)
NEGELE, Ethiopia (22 August 2011) -- Maj. Antonio Gonzales, civil affairs team chief, and Negele Mayor Ato Tesfaye Eyane conduct a bread cutting ceremony as part of the Negele Bridge dedication ceremony August 22, 2011. The people of Negele expressed their gratitude to their government for working with the U.S. to make this bridge a reality. (US Air Force photo by Captain Jennifer Pearson) CJTF-HOA Photo NEGELE, Ethiopia (22 August 2011) -- Maj. Antonio Gonzales, civil affairs team chief, and Negele Mayor Ato Tesfaye Eyane conduct a bread cutting ceremony as part of the Negele Bridge dedication ceremony August 22, 2011. The people of Negele expressed their gratitude to their government for working with the U.S. to make this bridge a reality. (US Air Force photo by Captain Jennifer Pearson)
NEGELE, Ethiopia (22 August 2011) -- Village leaders, elders and bridge committee members gather around a stone marker to recognize the beginning of the bridge that will span a local river bed. The bridge will enable villagers on both sides safe access to the school, markets and medical facilities. (US Air Force Photo by Captain Jennifer Pearson) CJTF-HOA Photo NEGELE, Ethiopia (22 August 2011) -- Village leaders, elders and bridge committee members gather around a stone marker to recognize the beginning of the bridge that will span a local river bed. The bridge will enable villagers on both sides safe access to the school, markets and medical facilities. (US Air Force Photo by Captain Jennifer Pearson)
NEGELE, Ethiopia (22 August 2011) -- While dry today, during the rainy season the river bed separating Negele and Borena will have between three and seven meters of water making it extremely dangerous and at times impossible to cross.  (US Air Force photo by Captain Jennifer Pearson) CJTF-HOA Photo NEGELE, Ethiopia (22 August 2011) -- While dry today, during the rainy season the river bed separating Negele and Borena will have between three and seven meters of water making it extremely dangerous and at times impossible to cross. (US Air Force photo by Captain Jennifer Pearson)

The people of Negele, Ethiopia, celebrated the hard work between the governments of Ethiopia and the United States August 22, 2011, during a ground breaking ceremony signifying the start of construction for a much-needed bridge that will connect two local villages and ultimately improve commerce while saving lives. The bridge will span a 22-foot wide river bed that during the rainy season can be as deep as seven meters and presents significant challenges for anyone trying to cross. "I farm on one side of the river and live on the other," said Mohammed Abadi, a local villager. "During the rainy season, if the river is full I cannot make it to farm and our kids have to either stay at the school or stay at home and miss school because it is too dangerous to cross."

Abadi has lost livestock while trying to cross the river and has seen fellow community members drown in attempts to cross the river. The river crossing is used by 17,000 people and the bridge will benefit villages on both sides of the river, giving them safe access to school, markets and medical services. Additionally, the livestock will be able to cross safely, maintaining the livelihood of many villagers.

"So may this bridge tie together the two communities, so may it tie together Ethiopia and the United States," said LT j.g. Brandon Gosch, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB 5) Negele detachment Officer in Charge, said during the dedication ceremony. The event included traditional dance specific to the community, a bread cutting ceremony and the ritual coffee ceremony.

Many village elders and leaders thanked the Ethiopian government for inviting America to help make this bridge happen together. They continued by welcoming the Civil Affairs team and the Navy Seabee team to their community and expressed that the Negele community is now their home.

"This is a day of beginning," said Mata Muelea, a local community elder. "We all feel bad because we have lost livestock and our children because there was no bridge. "Kids couldn't go to school and our women couldn't make it to the hospitals to give birth," he said. "We are glad our government invited you and we will make this bridge happen together."

Another village elder continued the sentiment by adding his thanks to the civil affairs team and Seabees for coming to Negele and working with their government. He emphasized, "this is the construction of a bridge and of friendship. Members of CJTF-HOA kept meeting with us and keeping us informed on the progress. We have gratitude for this and we don't forget the other CA teams who helped to make today happen. We all say yes for development and friendship."

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