For students working on the Homes of Living Hope project at the , they understand the benefits of putting together a medical center for those in Uganda—but it takes on a different meaning when they hear about conditions from an actual resident of the country.
Francis Nyang, general overseer of the Medical Clinic installation in Pader, Uganda, visited the high school Wednesday to talk to students about the conditions in his country, and to thank them for the work they are doing to help out.
“It feels real hearing from him, and it is not just something we are just doing, we are actually helping people,” said junior Joshua Chico, who is working on building the medical center in a container. “We did research, so we knew the conditions over there, but this presentation is verifying everything.”
This project through Homes of Living Hope came from a desire to create a home improvement project that students could be proud of and would last. Homes of Living Hope converts recycled shipping containers into livable and functional structures for needy communities.
These containers are turned into clinics, shelters and educational facilities, then put together into quads once they are sent over to Uganda.
Currently, the about 100 students involved in the program are working on creating a medical center in their first project, and Leonard Herman, supervisor for business and industrial technology at the high school, said they are hoping to move toward creating two different containers to send to Uganda each year.
Bart Wear, director of Homes of Living Hope, said Bridgewater-Raritan is the only high school working on this project to help Uganda.
“We try to provide an environment to connect to the community, and here our goal is to provide an opportunity for people to fit into that model,” he said.
Through the project, Wear said, Homes of Living Hope wants students to understand the benefits of the work they are doing to help others.
“We want kids to see that by helping others, they are helping themselves,” he said. “You need receivers, but you need givers too, people who get outside themselves.”
Nyang has experienced a great deal of hardship throughout his life in Uganda. In 1980, he was drafted against his will by the Ugandan military, and later deployed to work for the presidents office. When the government was toppled in 1985, he was sent to prison and sentenced to death.
Three years later, Nyang was released and sent back to the presidents office.
After working in refugee camps and attending seminary in Kenya, Nyang returned to Uganda and started the New Convenant Christian Center when he was put in a refugee camp. Since 2007, he has worked as chairman of the Peace and Reconciliation Committee under Northern Uganda’s Inter-Faith Joint Council.
Nyang told students that he was excited to be speaking to them, particularly as they are working on this project.
“I am very grateful for this school,” he told students. “You have to idea what this container will do [for the people].”
Nyang lives in northern Uganda, and he said this is the first time he has had a chance to speak to students about their work on this kind of project.
“I am so amazed that children of this age can give of themselves to help the other side of the world,” he said after the presentation. “I tell my friends that there are people who are concerned for you.”
Nyang helps people in Uganda, and he said during the presentation that his several trips to America have taught him about working hard.
“I saw how hard working people are, and I went back and said that we should start working hard,” he said. “We must teach people how to work.”
But in Uganda, Nyang said, more than 500 people wait for medical care at one container, and the work of the students will not be in vain.
“With this container, people’s hopes will be restored,” he said. “This container is going to bring great change to people in Uganda.”
Nyang said he considers the proverb that if you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, and if you give a man a net, he will eat for a lifetime.
“We want a net, and the net is what you are giving us with the container,” he said.
Junior Joey DeFilippis said he is proud to be part of the project, and to help.
“This shows us what we are working for,” he said. “It gives more motivation.”
Herman said the program is continuing, pairing art students in the high school with ones at to learn about layering and depth. They are working on the mural on the container, which was designed by Eisenhower art teacher Jason Draine.
“Every layer [of this project] has been an educational tool for us,” he said.
Nyang said, after the presentation, that he is proud of the work the students are doing, and what he can bring back to Uganda.
“I feel great about this,” he said. “It helps me speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. I am a voice for those people.”