Written for Homes of Living Hope by Linda Schulte
BRIDGEWATER, NJ -It was a life changing lesson in compassion, awareness and humanity as the team of Art Teacher, Mary Lynn Hawkinson and Home Improvement Teacher, Mark Dubyna, of Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School (BRHS), brought the best student talent together to work diligently for nearly two years to complete two trailers that ended up half way around the world to benefit the people in Pader, Uganda for The Homes of Living Hope organization.
Hawkinson recruited BRHS’s 22 National Art Society students to assist her with designing the murals for the outside of the two trailers, while Dubyna had the vision to have a working classroom by building inside the trailer with his Home Improvement Class since his actual classroom is a computer lab. The trailer would allow his 60 students to apply their knowledge of framing, electrical, plumbing and flooring. After giving the assignment to his classes several years ago to find a group that could benefit from receiving the trailer, one student came up with the Homes of Living Hope organization.
During class, BRHS students saw videos of how the people in Uganda live; this created awareness for them as many students broke into tears seeing how difficult their life is. It also gave them an appreciation for what they have and how they can truly make a difference.
“The reason we’re doing this is for the people of Uganda to help the community in ways our youth could never understand – poverty that is so horrendous that it can never be understood, in many cases children are raising children due to all the unrest and the AIDS epidemic. They live on sheets on the ground like traveling gypsies and spend the whole day looking for food. The two trailers we just finished are being used as vocational centers to help educate Uganda’s children for future careers or trades,” said Hawkinson.
Outside, the trailers were colorfully graced with art work featuring Ugandan life with inspiration coming directly from their culture – African women with pots on their heads walking into the sunset, and the crested crane bird of the country as a predominant theme. One student even dressed up as the bird itself and was the living model so the other students could draw it better. Inside, the Home Improvement students did shelving, flooring and the electricity; making the trailer completely functional. Hawkinson and her team created pastel pictures dedicated to African life, people, birds and the landscape which all decorated the interior.
Community Day in April, brought the BRHS art staff, students and families together as many hands and hearts helped paint, and celebrate all that went into the trailers. In total there were more than 50 in attendance. Lowes generously donated several gallons of paint for the project and many staff members volunteered their time that day.
After completion of the trailers, they were filled with donated bikes, games, books, toys, gardening tools, and medical supplies. The 8’ wide 40’ long trailer left BR and headed to Uganda at the end of April.
Hawkinson said that it’s like bringing culture to their world, since they’re not exposed to it, commenting that when the trailers arrive the people are so excited to see it that they touch it in amazement.
Dubyna stated, “First, I love that we have a hands on project that gives the students the opportunity to try the skills we go over in class. Second, it does feel good to know that we are building something that is going to help a lot of people, and make their lives a little better.”
Both teachers plan to continue doing the project as it had such an impact on their lives and their students