Bridgewater-Raritan High School

This is from the article in the Bridgewater Patch News Paper by Audrey Levine:

They were looking for ways of making the students’ work mean something more than just serving as pieces to build and tear down at the end of the year—and they found it in Homes of Living Hope.

Leonard Herman, supervisor for business and industrial technology at the Bridgewater-Raritan High School, unveiled at the Nov. 22 board of education meeting the work he is doing with students to create a medical center out of a shipping container to be sent to Uganda.Herman said the idea came out of a desire to create a project for home improvement and other industrial technology students that they could be proud of and would last.“They did really neat things, but the problem was that there was no buy-in from the students,” he said. “They understand the value of the project, but the next year, they tear it down, so they don’t really look at it as being important and something they have to do exactly right.”

“We were looking for ways where we could build a room or a shed, and we bounced around a lot of ideas,” he added. “But they didn’t lend themselves to true and honest buy-in from the students.”And that was where Homes of Living Hope, a program that converts recycled shipping containers into livable and functional structures for needy communities, came in.Herman said the program uses these shipping containers to build shelters, clinics and educational facilities for such countries as Uganda, where 80 percent of the population is below 18 years of age, and the children are raising children.

“The adults that are still around will divvy up the children, as many as the houses will handle,” he said. “And at the end of the night, the kids are released to go back on the streets.”

But this program helps provide these people with facilities they need.“It is a way of packaging something up and sending it over so they have a much better quality of life,” he said. “These are shipping containers like what you see on the backs of trucks.”Fortunately for Bridgewater, Herman said, a company called Atlantic Container Line donated a shipping container that the students will use to create a medical facility for people in Pader, Uganda.

The container, Herman said, is currently sitting behind the 200 building at the high school, which, once completed, will be filled with humanitarian aid supplies, which the school is hoping to have donated.

“It costs $8,000 to send the container overseas whether it is full or empty, so why not see what we can do to gather supplies?” he said.

Once the container has been shipped, Herman said, volunteers in Uganda will transport it to where it will be based, while also cutting out windows and doors, which cannot be done in advance.

“Then the facility will be immediately available for use,” he said.

For the high school students, Herman said, they are looking to make this a project that is not just for those in the home improvement program, but for the entire community and district. He said there can be crossover with the art department possibly making murals for the facility, and the vocal department at the Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School has already volunteered to donate money to the project.“This will be a building people will look at every day, so why not make it pretty,” he said. “There are limitless possibilities. Teachers with the high school art program have looked into having the community or students paint it.”

Herman said there are ways to make this program cross-curricular, and he has even spoken to groups of people about possibly installing a sound system in the container.

“We have all been to the doctor, and we know how upsetting it can be,” he said. “Sometimes when children get sick, there is no hope of getting better in Uganda. To ease the tension, maybe we can put in music or some art.”The ultimate goal through the project is to get four containers built so there can be a quad with a community center, medical center, educational center and one other.“It’s a quad of four containers,” he said. “And then there’s tarp to have a dry place to walk beneath.”

Herman said it is now a matter of gathering contributions from community members, and getting the entire school district involved.

“We need to organize the contributions,” he said. “Maybe the FBLA could do some fundraising, and we can reach out to the Key Club. We are looking for opportunities to not only impact a small group of kids’ lives, but all of them.”

“We have to realize that we live in a world and community that is very affluent,” he added. “I am not talking about driving all the best cars or living in the biggest homes, but we all have homes and we all have things available. They’re living in the streets, and barely have enough to eat to survive.”
Herman said students will be involved in the outreach part of the project, and business teachers are already putting together a website with the students to get the word out. Right now, they are doing what they can to put the project itself together and figure out how to begin and move it along.

“I think people need to see some progress before we ask for help from the community,” he said. “We are looking to start framing this out in December. The important thing for this is it’s not in addition to the curriculum, this is what we are doing to teach the skills in the board-approved curriculum.”

Herman said he has some feelers out to pharmaceutical companies for donations, and has already received some commitment from Home Depot. They are looking to speak to Lowes, while also exploring grant opportunities, he said.

But this program will serve to teach the skills outlined in the department.

“We need to teach the basics of framing and meeting building standards, [among other work],” he said. “This is going to be a slower process that if we just got together on a weekend and went through it.”

This program, Herman said, allows the students to see who they are helping through photos sent back of people using the shipping container.

“It improves emotional maturity and intellectual maturity,” he said. “It teaches students the importance of helping someone even if they will never meet.”