UPDATE: West Bloomfield Woman Using Savings to Build School in Africa
The Crane Centre, borne out of missionary efforts, gives young adults in Mbarara, Uganda a chance for vocational training in the hospitality industry.
Editor's Note: This article originally published July 24, 2012. It is one example of the many people making a difference in West Bloomfield. Tell us about others in the comments.
The Huffington Post has chosen Sandra Crane of West Bloomfield as its "Greatest Person of the Day" — an honor recognizing people who confront issues in their community with creativity and passion.
Constructing walls from handmade bricks underneath an equatorial sun, thousands of miles away from home, is where Sandra Crane feels that God has asked her to work this summer.
A longtime member of Orchard Lake Community Church, Presbyterian who still volunteers to teach Sunday school there, Crane, 75, used her life savings to purchase property in 2005 for the purpose of building a school in the African nation of Uganda.
Far away from the serene lakefront setting in her hometown, Crane will return to Mbarara (with a population of 83,000) this August to continue construction in the church's longstanding tradition of mission work.
After she had first traveled to Uganda in 2001 in support of a friend's mission efforts, The Crane Centre was built in 2007 using about $150,000 from Crane's personal savings and fundraising efforts.
"The people I met there were so intelligent and so wanting to learn, so that’s when I really developed a heart for them," Crane said. "I have people who say to me, why don’t you work with the people over here (in Michigan)? But we have a lot of people working with the people over here."
Since initial construction, the school has served a maximum of eight students in a three-month semester and been established as a Michigan not-for-profit corporation.
Its mission is to provide Ugandans ages 18 to 20 with training in the hospitality industry after high school — from culinary arts to catering to management. The school's vice president, Marj Dolbeer, of Glen Ellyn, IL, said that one teacher and one administrator, both native to the area, have been retained.
"It's a good fit for that area, because Ugandan culture is known for throwing large parties for different things like weddings or business meetings. It's training to benefit Ugandans, to keep them there and build up that area," Dolbeer said.
Dolbeer will travel to Uganda for the 18th time in August with Crane when they expect to meet with Ugandan architects and plan future construction. Upon finishing the first floor of the school, Dolbeer said, the school could teach a maximum of 40 students.
However, due to the costs of construction, Crane explained that most future growth will be the result of a collaborative effort between the school and already-established businesses in the area in order to house students, some of whom travel great lengths within Uganda to attend.
Although she must now work two part-time jobs to support herself after going through her savings, Crane said that she does not regret the decision.
"I still find time to volunteer," she said. "This is where the money belongs."
Dolbeer said that the school has already began to make an improvement to the life of one graduate: a 22-year-old woman opened her own tea house in a nearby town, which she operates to sustain herself and her mother.
For more information or to donate to the Crane Centre, visit thecranecentre.org.