When a friend approached him about building an orphanage in Liberia, Bart Wear was eager to help. As a contractor, he had the necessary skills, but the logistics of sending materials and people for the project were too big an obstacle for Wear and his friend.
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The experience spawned Homes of Living Hope, which retrofits shipping containers for a recipient’s intended purpose and fills them with equipment and supplies.
In 2009, the organization took on its first project: helping a church in Cheyenne build a medical center for an orphanage in Uganda. Wear realized that the most valuable thing his organization could provide was not just the shipping container, but a stronger community.
“It ended up being way more about connecting their own community than just about sending the medical clinic over there,” Wear said.
Since that first project, the organization’s mission has shifted to focus on opportunities to bring communities together in service to people in need.
“While we always use the recipient as the target for what we’re doing, our real goal is to bring people together on this end and create connection, create service opportunities, and create a heart of giving,” Wear said.
Today, Homes of Living Hope helps community groups, churches and high schools build and fill shipping containers to meet the specific objectives of a community that needs support. The containers are stocked with the equipment and materials needed to operate in its destination, and shipped to communities in need.
The process starts when a sponsor organization reaches out to Homes of Living Hope. Often, these groups are looking for a team building or community connection opportunity and don’t have a recipient identified. Wear’s team can connect them with groups around the world that have a need, and the ability to use the shipping container when it’s in place.
The organization supports sponsors in creating materials lists, soliciting materials and volunteers, seeking donations and promoting their projects.
Some projects entail multiple containers with a second story, or a free span or truss between them. Builders and structural engineers help the sponsors and their groups modify the containers to function safely in their end locations.
For companies and other non-school groups, projects typically last about two months, Wear said. When working in schools, the project is designed to last the whole school year.
Homes of Living Hope has completed about 20 projects since its early days, and has sent containers to various communities in Africa, Mexico and the United States. The organization doesn’t try to impose its will on sponsors or recipients.
“We try to go into it with a pretty blank piece of paper, and just say, ‘What is it that you’d like to do?’” Wear said. “Our hope is that we can create some sort of connection for the people who are working with it to the recipient.”