Oct 20, 2017

How to turn a cargo shipping container into a classroom

From the USA to South Africa, with love

Over 100 Henkel employees, 830 hours, one goal: Transforming an ordinary cargo shipping container into a classroom for kindergarten students in South Africa providing underprivileged children with access to education. The project was a cooperation between Henkel employees in North America and the non-profit organization “Cargo of Dreams.” Find out how the project started and what has happened so far.

Bridgewater employees celebrate the completion of the Cargo of Dreams construction

Bridgewater employees celebrate the completion of the Cargo of Dreams construction at a ribbon-cutting event.

2013 – How everything began:
The first exposure to Cargo of Dreams occurred in 2013 when a group of Henkel employees from Bridgewater, New Jersey, visited a local high school, where students worked on transforming a cargo shipping container into what would become a birthing clinic destined for a new home in Uganda. The team was impressed and soon thereafter secured a grant from Henkel’s “Make an impact on Tomorrow” (MIT) initiative to support the students’ efforts.

2014 – More than donations:
At this point, the seed was planted and employees began to think about transforming their own container. After securing approval and a MIT grant, a tremendous amount of internal and external coordination set the foundation for the work to begin.

2015 – Let’s get started:
On November 3, 2015, the container, measuring 40 feet long, 8 feet wide and almost 9 feet tall arrived at Henkel’s site in Bridgewater.

2016 – Hard work pays off:
“We are all connected in matters of the heart” were the words spoken by a Bridgewater employee two years ago, when Henkel was recognized for another MIT community project. The words resonated strongly with the team and provided inspiration for the design.
Starting earnest during the summer, employee volunteers learned new skills to make this transformation happen. Guidance and donations – not only from the Cargo of Dreams team but, also, from customers, suppliers and Henkel’s Consumer Goods business – contributed to the successful transformation.
For 13 months in total, the volunteers worked for more than 830 hours to convert the container into a kindergarten classroom. Interior work included installing walls, insulation, electricity, plumbing, ceilings, cabinets, flooring, windows and moldings. In December, a ribbon-cutting event took place to mark the completion of the transformed shipping container. The interior includes sections for the classroom, a kitchen and a bathroom.

2017 – Transport to George, South Africa
After months of hard work, the container was ready to be shipped to Cape Town, South Africa, where Henkel employees will supervise the transport to its final destination in George, South Africa, and then complete the final cutouts for windows and doors. The container travelled almost 13,000 kilometers and arrived in Cape Town in September.

“The Cargo of Dreams project has become a truly global Henkel initiative that has brought together hands and hearts from over 13,000 kilometers apart. Its continuation in South Africa illustrates Henkel’s dedication to giving back on a global scale. It has been an amazing opportunity that I am honored to have been a part of and is made possible not only by MIT funding, but also Henkel employees, partners and friends from all over the world,” said Joanne Georgiana, Henkel’s coordinator for the Cargo of Dreams project.

Joanne Georgiana, Henkel’s coordinator for the projec

Joanne Georgiana, Henkel’s coordinator for the project, bids the container-turned-classroom farewell as it departs Bridgewater.