Meet Bridge Builder Siboniso Simelane

Posted on: June 9, 2020

Truth be told, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life after I had finished high school. Coming from a place where career guidance was never brought to my attention, I was another brick in the wall. Enrollment in college was considered the gateway to being well off and attaining status by people in my community. Still, it wasn’t until my cousin, who was enrolled at a local engineering college, suggested that I study engineering that an interest awakened in me for the world of engineering. Following my instinct, I enrolled in Civil Engineering and I developed profound interest in what I was learning. Funny enough, even throughout college, I had not developed a clear picture of what I would do after I graduated. Despite this uncertainty, part of me had always dreamt about transforming the world through grassroots community development. Here I was armed with engineering knowledge but unknowing of how to use it, at least not in Eswatini engineering companies, which did not appeal to me in finding meaningful work. I was looking to connect the dots and find a job that appealed to me and my dreams. I tried to ignite my passion and started doing architecture where I was designing residential houses and making ends meet, but still had no sense of fulfillment.  

A year later, I found myself working with EIA university students as an interpreter and site liaison volunteer, building a footbridge in Eswatini, an experience that reaffirmed my desire to impact less privileged communities. Not only was the program changing rural lives for the better, it used engineering to do this. That was when I vowed to align myself with EIA and build more bridges. As someone who was looking to broaden his engineering spectrum, EIA presented me with the opportunity to forge relationships, exchange culture, and grow in the field of engineering. I first joined EIA as part of the mason team, acting as a site foreman and liaison with the students and community, while learning about the bridge design. With dedication and hard work, the Eswatini Bridge Program Manager worked with me and saw to it that our in-country partner organization (Micro Projects) took me on board as a Civil Engineering Technical Officer working under the EIA Department. I have now gone  through full technical designs and have led the design and construction of the Eswatini empowerment build. This is the very platform that has enabled me today to sustain myself, work with students, and learn to use online organizational platforms. I love building bridges.

The tremendous reaction and continued support from local communities and government is unparalleled, and it has been a pleasure to be caught up in that. Being up close and personal with top brass government officials whenever students are in the country remains a dream to many and has become my reality. There is no doubt that with EIA’s presence in the country, more lives will be impacted, and one can only hope that more frontiers will be reached for the betterment of the world.