Local high school students are building a library for African children without crossing the ocean to do it.
Construction is happening in Delran.
But what sits in the rear parking lot of the township high school does not look like a typical building. A steel cargo container is being transformed into a learning center for more than 350 students orphaned or abandoned in Aloi, Uganda.
“This is an amazing educational and service project — I call it an edu-service project — that is truly a pleasure to behold,” said Erica DeMichele, K-12 supervisor for Delran schools.
Students in the advanced art, engineering and industrial arts classes undertook the design, interior construction and exterior mural as a multifaceted learning project.
But during the recent Spirit Week, the project drew plenty of helping hands as more members of the student body got involved in an unorthodox but artful way to paint the mural.
They held out their palms for a brushing with latex paint in one of four colors. The students then placed their hands on a rainbow whose outline had been painted onto the mural on one side of the SeaBox-donated, tractor trailer-size container.
When finished, the green, yellow, orange and blue rainbow will spring from a stack of books and will carry the words “Read, Learn and Grow” in English. Their translation —Kwanu, Pwonyere and Dongue — will appear in Uganda’s Luo language.
Delran senior Emily Autner piggy-backed on classmate Amanda Workman last week to get her hands higher on the mural..
“It was fun but it also is really nice — especially with all the disease going on in Africa — that this will benefit other students and focus on something good,” she said.
To entice the entire school’s participation, project coordinators invited students to hand press paint on the mural last week, bringing the “hand” count to 398.
Meanwhile, inside the trailer, students screwed drywall onto wooden studs they had cut and mounted as framing.
Plans also call for electrical outlets, lighting, shelving, countertops, a door and three windows.
Engineering students are designing a rain barrel system for the Hope Alive Aloi School. And Delran Middle School is building stools for the library.
High school seniors Colleen McMahon and Micah Rodriguez drilled screws into the drywall last week while arts student Tyler Petrucelli concentrated on the mural.
“This has been a good experience for everyone and it opened my eyes to see how fortunate we are and what we take for granted,” he noted.
“We get to do things we love on this project and use our talents for people in need.”
For McMahon, the interior plan was a challenge.
“We had to figure how we could lay it out,” said the student, who worked on the interior design during her junior year.
Industrial arts instructor Pete Miles said the effort has allowed students to put into practice the skills they have learned in class.
The project began during the prior school year, when students started developing a design for the murals and a blueprint for the library interior.
The community is supplying children’s books, bikes, bike helmets, bike pumps, prescription eyeglasses and school supplies, such as crayons, pencils, rulers, notepads and paint.
“It’s not too late for anyone to donate,” DeMichele said.
The container will be ready between Thanksgiving and Christmas for delivery by the nonprofit Homes for Living Hope.
Delran High School took on the commitment after a 2013 visit from Ugandan Francis Nyang, a Christian aid coordinator and former official helping to provide relief to his countrymen.
Built by a Wyoming couple, the Hope Alive Aloi School is in war-torn northern Uganda. It has elementary and pre-K students, mostly girls.
Reach Carol Comegno at (856) 486-2473 or [email protected]