Harmon Parker is an American bricklayer who's using his masonry skills to save lives.In September 2010, CNN named Harmon one of the top ten CNN Heroes,
"I feel I'm blessed ... privileged to do what I'm doing," he said. "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.
Parker is a bricklayer who became a master mason early in his life. An everyday, average workingman, his life took a remarkable turn on the African continent. As a Christian developmental worker in Africa over the last twenty years, Harmon Parker has gained an understanding of the culture and needs of marginalized communities in Kenya that has led him to a unique and valuable role in offering them
hope so that lives will be saved through his bridge building efforts.
Parker, who has lived in Kenya for 20 years, builds suspension footbridges so that raging waters or hungry river-dwelling animals can't impede a Kenyan's access to health care, education and a better future.
"People at the bridge site today were shocked that I had been here so long," Parker said. "One of them said, 'Your skin is white, but you are African inside."
Parker was recently named one of the Top Ten CNN Heroes of 2010, a designation that comes with $25,000 and a chance for more
Since 1997, Harmon Parker has helped build 45 footbridges over perilous rivers in Kenya.
He's been robbed at gunpoint and had numerous break-in attempts at his home. He's contracted diseases ranging from malaria to dengue fever.
Harmon Parker has persisted through these challenges while building 46 bridges in Kenya, where he has begun a nonprofit organization, Bridging the Gap, to help communities traverse rivers filled with crocodiles and hippopotami more safely, giving them easier access to schools and marketplaces on the opposite side.
Parker, who has now lived in Kenya for nearly 20 years, persists in his bridge building, buoyed by a love for the work and a desire to save lives.
"They have transforming power, these bridges, for communities," Parker said. "That's the thing, people just don't understand it -- we all take bridges for granted. But especially my motivation is, first of all, I want lives to be saved -- lives that I'll never know about."