The medical clinic created by Bridgewater-Raritan High School students last year as part of Homes of Living Hope has arrived safely and successfully in Pader, Uganda.
According to Len Herman, supervisor of fine and practical arts at the high school, the clinic officially crossed the border into Uganda and arrived in Pader Nov. 26 after leaving Bridgewater on Aug. 3.
The project was done through the home improvement class, and in connection with Homes of Living Hope, which 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.
In the program's first year at the high school, the about 100 students involved created a medical center, and Herman said they are hoping to move to creating one, or even two, containers to send to Uganda each year.
“It began on July 28 with the loading of an incredible amount of humanitarian aid that was donated by our sponsors, Atlantic Container Line and Valeant Pharmaceuticals, and by our very generous BRRSD students and staff, district residents and many area charity organizations,” he said. “On a very hot Aug. 3 morning, the medical clinic was loaded on a flatbed tractor trailer, and it was off.”
In September, Herman said, he received word that the clinic was in the port city of Durban, South Africa, with backlog issues while it waited to be shipped out. It headed to Mobasa, Kenya, on Oct. 10, and arrived there Oct. 18 where it had to be cleared by customs before heading to Lira, Uganda.
Unfortunately, Herman said, it then sat in customs in Lira for a while.
“The customs officials felt the medical clinic did not have the proper paperwork because it appeared to be a finished home and not ‘just’ humanitarian aid as the paperwork stated,” he said. “Thankfully, Frances Nyang, head of the Non-Government Organization that we work with in Uganda, knows some influential people, including the president of Uganda.”
The container was finally released, Herman said, on Nov. 20.
On Thanksgiving, Herman said, he received a text from the director of Homes of Living Hope that Nyang had taken possession of the medical clinic.
“Although it was still not in its permanent home, control of the clinic was back in our hands,” Herman said. “Although it is only a short trip to Pader, Frances incurred a few problems and the truck was stuck on the unpaved roads for two nights.”
After much maneuvering, Herman said, the medical clinic was installed in its permanent home in Pader Nov. 26.
But the students are not done yet.
This year’s class has already begun work on a birthing center/nursery to send to Pader in a container that was donated by Atlantic Container Line on Aug. 31.
“[It is to] aid hundreds of impoverished women and their newborn children in Pader, Uganda,” Herman said. “It, too, will travel half-way around the world and take its place next to the medical clinic in Pader.”
Herman said he thinks it is amazing to finally have one center in place.
“It was a long and winding road, but the trip was worth it,” he said. “I think the enormity hit me when we saw the second trailer delivered and I realized where we had started from on the first one.”
“The kids are really excited, and I am so glad that we have even more Bridgewater-Raritan students involved with this year’s project,” he added. “It is still growing.”
For more information about the project and donations, visit the program's website through the high school.