From Australia to Africa
We had an idea to send a shipping container filled with educational and other useful supplies to Bor. It was only as we began the task of securing a container that we were met with comments that it could not succeed. Containers just don’t make it to places like that. It’s too expensive, they go missing, corruption reigns supreme and they are held indefinitely at ports. In our desperation to help, or perhaps in our naivety, we decided to give it a go and so began our drive to collect as much as we could to send to Bor.
We originally had a tentative offer of a container, whereupon we set to work collecting an assortment of goods, from clothing, shoes, educational supplies, blankets and medical supplies to 3 large tents and more than 400 solar lights. We introduced our ‘School Bag Project’, whereby we asked schools and people in the community to donate a school back pack filled with educational supplies for an orphaned child. We could never have imagined the success of this project and were blown away to receive more than 500 backpacks.
As our stockpile of collected goods grew and grew, we were devastated to learn that the proposed container was not seaworthy, leaving us with quite a dilemma. Our mountain of aid, then housed at the Holy Trinity Church in Moe had grown so much that the congregation had moved to another church.
We put out an appeal hoping that someone, somewhere, would have a container they were prepared to donate to the cause. Soon after, we were in communications with a local businessman who offered us a 40 ft container. He believed it was sea worthy and if we wanted it, it was ours. The man, who has chosen to remain anonymous, offered to truck the container to where the goods were being stored and provide a crane to offload it. Further to this, he told us that he would transport the container to the docks in Melbourne, once we had it filled and ready to go! We were astounded at his generosity!
The arrival of the container turned out to be a much more emotional experience than we had imagined it would be! It was so much more than an empty vessel to us at this point. It was a gesture of love and support, in fact it was to be a lifeline for the community of Bor.
Word of our cause was spreading near and far and we were soon contacted by a company in Bendigo with links to Ethiopia. They had collected hundreds of items, among them more than 100 boxes of new clothing & medical supplies. The cargo, destined for Ethiopia sat on pallets, unable to be shipped, due to costs and logistics and, having heard of our container, they were offering it to us. We set about finding a way to get the goods from Bendigo to the Latrobe Valley. After some networking we found a wonderful transport company prepared to collect and deliver the goods to our container free of charge.
Thanks Lisa Banks for your generosity in allowing us to take these things to the children of Bor. We know your heart lies in Ethiopia but as you said, these items are still going to where they are needed. And thanks too, to Willaton Transport for going out of your way to assist us by collecting this load of goodies!!
Throughout the process of gathering goods for the container we were met with the most amazing offers of support and each time we encountered an obstacle, we managed to overcome it! Another amazing supporter, who had a background in fitting out shipping containers, offered to remodel our container, so that it could be used as a functional building on its arrival in South Sudan. Willy Hita, along with his son Takahi and family, set about adding doors, windows & hinged shelving for beds. He added further shelving and partitions, enabling the container to transform into a small medical clinic and a little shop! It was all happening!!!!!!
It seemed like we were well on the way to realising our dream. A few phone calls to the shipping yards in Melbourne and we soon had a date confirmed. The container was to sail in November, just weeks prior to our team’s proposed visit to Bor!!
At this point we had thousands of dollars worth of donated goods, filling an entire church and it needed to be sorted and catalogued. Again, a growing number of supporters banded together, attending working bees, ensuring all goods were boxed, sorted and ready to go. It was decided we needed someone with expertise to ensure the container was packed properly. A local removalist company helped out, donating the workers time, and soon the container was packed, with barely an inch to spare. Thanks to O’Loughlin Removals, we were able to fit most of the donated goods in the container!! We wouldn’t have got half in if we’d done it ourselves!!!!
The container filled to capacity, was ready to head to the docks. What an amazing thing to see. A 40 ft container bursting at the seams with wonderful items donated by kind hearted people!!! Another emotional day for our team!! It would now sail via Singapore, to Mombasa, Kenya where it would continue its journey by truck to South Sudan.
We received word that finally the container was on the road to South Sudan. After some time sitting at the port in Mombasa and not without its problems, it would be met by Abraham Malual, who had travelled to South Sudan ahead of the BOCEP team’s planned trip in January. Abraham would meet the container at the Uganda/South Sudan border for clearance before heading to Bor. We were ecstatic!!
We continue to be touched by the kidness of people willing to support our project.The ultimate news for us was that the container had reached Bor. We had done it!! Little did we know at that time that there would be more hurdles! There were no cranes in Bor. The container could not be lifted from the truck. Team BOCEP arrived to find the container perched atop the truck in the town of Bor.
The task of distributing the aid in the village was not going to be an easy one. We were able to gather a small amount of goods from the front of the container, as some of the locals climbed a rickety ladder to grab what they could. The searing heat inside the container made it impossible to stay inside for any length of time, so we had to be satisfied with whatever we could reach quickly. Sadly, we were unable to secure a crane to offload the container until after our return to Australia.
Our CEO Abraham Maluk, who had remained stationed in Sth Sudan servicing the local community and building relations with officials, finally notified us that the container had been removed! This was exciting news for our team, our supporters & for the truck driver, who had been stranded in Bor Town for more than 2 weeks, unable to carry out his normal duties. He had been sleeping in his truck & Abraham had been taking meals to him and paying his daily wage to ensure he would not leave! This was such wonderful news for the orphaned children & the disadvantaged community of Bor.
Thanks to Abraham Maluk for keeping us updated on the BOCEP operations on the ground in Bor Village, technically named Jalle Payam. Most of the goods we sent & our kind supporters donated, have been distributed!! The solar lights have been distributed & are making ENORMOUS differences to people’s lives!! Clothing, shoes, blankets, pots, pans etc etc!! Medical supplies have been distributed to the local hospital, to enable them to better support people in need. Much of the educational supplies though, including all the filled backpacks remain in the container, along with donated chairs and computers. These have no place to go until out building is established.
Almost every day people offer us more goods for ‘the next container’! The effort required to send the container filled with goodwill and hope for the community of Bor, was such that we have no plans to send another container. Add to that, the cost of sending the container, all up, around $17,000. We saw it as a worthwhile exercise however as it raised much awareness for our cause; we were able to send thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and the container itself is a functional building. For now though, our focus is on raising the funds required to build the orphanage/school … AND THAT’S ANOTHER STORY!!!