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Building bridges with impoverished communities

22 July 2010

Toni Ruttimann

Internationally renowned bridge builder and humanitarian Toni Ruttiman visited Monash University to present a seminar about his work in impoverished communities – a labour of love that has seen him build more than 500 suspension bridges around the world.


Mr Ruttimann, in a rare public appearance, discussed his experiences in building bridges across some of the poorest and most isolated locations in the world including Columbia, Vietnam, Laos and Mexico.


With the bridges now serving more than 1.2 million people, Mr Ruttimann provides communities with not only bridges, but information and support in construction techniques to assist them to maintain existing bridges or build new ones in the future.


Mr Ruttimann sources local people to build the bridges, teaching them new skills, and providing support to undertake much of the construction. He works with businesses worldwide to provide the required supplies in order to facilitate the projects.


Mr Ruttimann now has a team of support ‘volunteers’ across several countries who help him build the bridges. His team includes a former Khmer Rouge child soldier in Cambodia, a retired Viet Cong solider in Vietnam and a former Buddhist monk in Myanmar.


“I dedicate my life to building bridges with men and women who are among the poorest on the planet. Yet my dream is not just about building bridges but about alleviating suffering, healing wounds, joining goodwill and energy from different horizons to create something beautiful, something useful,” Mr Ruttimann said.


With no home of his own and just two suitcases filled with possessions and clothing, Mr Ruttimann travels from country to country.


Mr Ruttimann’s visit was sponsored by Monash University’s Department of Civil Engineering and his seminar included discussion on community development and humanitarian aid projects in developing countries.