ANEW and World Vision steward surplus furniture to Burundi, East Africa

A former ANEW project manager shares this great story – the slide show is here.

On February 2, 2012, I received a call from Mike, one of our service providers, who had been tasked with removing furniture from 17 private offices. This particular client had no sustainability mission in mind and Mike turned to us for an alternative to sending this perfectly good furniture to landfill.

I had three days to present Mike with a solution for an estimated nine tons of furniture.

I have worked with World Vision for years and I only call them when I know I have something they can use. My instincts were telling me that they’d like this furniture, but I also had a feeling that there might be issues with the enormous quantity and time sensitivity. Fortunately when I called, World Vision’s African Ambassador was visiting their U.S. base office. They needed furniture badly, but had no idea how, or where, they were going to get it. The timing was perfect. I emailed photos immediately and it was exactly what they needed! In just 12 hours, we had secured a recipient for all the surplus furniture.

The task at hand quickly changed from who would get the furniture to how we would get all of this furniture to Africa. World Vision anticipated it would take two shipping containers and got to work securing those. Fortunately, Mike realized quickly it would only require one shipping container. A huge relief for sure. Next, he and his team got busy preparing the furniture for shipment. This was a mighty task because each piece had to be carefully dismantled, with each element labeled and all screws and hardware attached so that it could be easily put back together once it arrived at its final destination. Additionally, cargo shipping requires extra care when packing to avoid damage to the cargo during its journey. Mike and his team handled this beautifully and were nothing short of amazing.

By February 5th, the entire contents of 17 offices were dismantled, labeled, shrink wrapped and loaded into a shipping container headed for the port. We were all very touched by this experience.

On April 10th, I received word that the container had reached Tanzania, where it would continue its journey by truck to Burundi. That was my birthday and I could have never wished for a greater gift. We expect the furniture to arrive in Burundi any day, and it will be an honor to share that news with you. For now, our journey is coming to an end, however the next chapter in this story is just beginning for the men and women who will receive this valuable gift. A gift whose size equates to that of approximately three large African elephants; how poetic.