March 3, 2013
Seven years ago on my first trip to Uganda representing Building Tomorrow, I took out a pen and paper as my plane flew South over the Sahara. The sands beneath seemed to stretch forever, painting the skies a warm, mesmerizing orange. This morning, the deep ocean blue one would usually see crossing the Atlantic is shrouded by clouds on my way back to the USA, and though not as picturesque, the temptation to write persists. Along Building Tomorrow's journey, you have put us on your shoulders and carried us to places I never dreamt of on that first trip. Never is my sense of pride and gratefulness for what you have done as powerful as on the tail end of a visit with our staff and in our communities. I hope you'll allow me to start a new tradition with you—sharing my reflections after this and subsequent visits—giving you a glimpse into Building Tomorrow’s work on-the-ground. Each trip, I eagerly look forward to dropping in on our communities. On a visit to the Building Tomorrow Academy of Kyeitabya last week, we met with the headmaster, Emmanuel and his team of two other teachers. Just opened, the school has 76 students through P3, though Willy Kajubi, our Education Support Officer will tell you there could easily be 500 students one day. Emmanuel, a fiery twenty-something spoke confidently about the first month of class. Though the challenges are many, he spoke at length about an engaged community and the ‘beautiful classrooms’ that greet students each day. Affixed to the walls of Emmanuel's office were the usual signs-the national anthem, a school schedule and roles and responsibilities of each teacher. Littered in between were several quotes, one in particular which caught my attention: "Remember, today was built yesterday." I thought to myself, that's why we're Building Tomorrow. With 15 Building Tomorrow Academies built or underway and a desire to scale in the years ahead, much of our week was spent documenting the Building Tomorrow model and walking through how our work can be improved. Guiding us through this highly-technical exercise was our masterful Jack of All Trades, Maggie Kirkpatrick and Country Director Joseph Kaliisa. In total, we spent in upwards of 40 hours debating, writing and offering ideas for conversation. It was meaty, but timely, too. As we prepare to welcome a Program Manager to our team to oversee our construction-related activities and ramp up our investment in ensuring the delivery of quality education, the conversation was rich and the final product now much anticipated. In the coming weeks, we look forward to sharing this comprehensive document detailing our model with staff and supporters. Five months ago, we equipped our Community Development Officers (CDOs) with camera phones in hopes of receiving more regular updates of site progress and happenings. At first, I didn’t know if our plan would work given the location of our sites, the lack of electricity and network coverage. But like many times before, I was wrong. A message from Burungu, one of our CDOs hired last year made it to my inbox the night before our all-staff meeting: The picture in the background is showing you a well-constructed and finished school. Am happy to send you that picture and I think I've moved a step ahead as community development (officer). Burungu, arriving a bit late from Kidula on Saturday morning brought a pineapple from the site, which we collectively devoured in celebration. His colleagues offered him a round of applause and Burungu went on to speak of how the community expected great things now from their children, far more than they had before Building Tomorrow's work commenced. These are exciting times at Building Tomorrow. With commitments taking us up to 20 Building Tomorrow academies and a dedication to improving quality inside each classroom, we have a long road ahead—one made all the easier to travel with the support and friendship of all those who believe in our mission. Onward and upward,
Dec 28, 2012 | Kabasegwa Progress Report name the BT Academy of Kabasegwa supported by Kappa Kappa Gamma at UT-Austin location Kabasegwa, Lyantonde District, Uganda design 2 distinct classroom blocks groundbreaking September 21, 2012 status the walls are beginning to take shape October 2011 Kappa Kappa Gammas at UT-Austin, led by senior Ellie Chernosky, reached their fundraising goal of $45,000 for a new primary school for 325 students in Uganda. May 2012 In partnership with the community of Kabasegwa, Uganda and the local Ministry of Education, the future Building Tomorrow Academy of Kabasegwa was formally commissioned. Once the donation of land has been finalized, groundbreaking will occur! September 2012 Building Tomorrow's team in Uganda joined parents, family and friends of future students as they gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of their Academy. October 2012 The entire community has been working tirelessly since the groundbreaking. From clearing the land to digging the foundation, they've come out in droves to offer their help in any way they can. October 2012 Truckloads of bricks are delivered regularly to lay the foundation and build the walls of the Academy. A handful of skilled masons, assisted by community volunteers, are ensuring a high standard of construction. November 2012 The foundation walls have been built up around certain areas of the Academy to account for the slope of the land and ensure a level foundation and floor. November 2012With more than 800 bags of cement needed to mix all of the concrete for the foundation, walls and floor of an academy, water is brought in by the wheelbarrow-full and concrete is hand-mixed directly on-site. December 2012The community in Kabasegwa has proven to be one of our most active partners ever. To speed up construction and ensure everyone could help, they formed one of many assembly lines to move materials needed to build up the floor. December 2012Community volunteers are pouring the foundation and casting the concrete slab floor of the lower classroom block and the walls are beginning to take shape!
Nov 8, 2012 | Kidula Progress Report name the Building Tomorrow Academy of Kidula supported by UNC-Chapel Hill location Kidula, Luwero District, Uganda design single row of classrooms groundbreaking December 30, 2011 status plastering the interior breaking ground | nov '11 The community of Kidula broke ground on Building Tomorrow’s 12th academy amidst what they described as ‘many, many cheers.’ When local leaders asked the community to start work on Tuesday, they quickly protested. Monday sounded better. laying the foundation | jun '12 Construction continues like that of a well-oiled machine. The foundation has been set and walls are beginning to take shape. Bricks are brought in by the truck-load and masons are hard at work. making way for a road | jun '12 Joseph Kaliisa, Building Tomorrow's Uganda Country Director, addresses 30 volunteers on a Wednesday afternoon. Over the course of a week, more than 250 community volunteers show up, without fail, on their assigned day to work. On this particular day, they were clearing the way for a permanent road to the school. one year later | oct '12 This time last year, UNC students were rounding out the 7,000+ miles to Uganda and wrapping up fundraising for their first BT Academy. Fast-forward one year and UNC is $13,000+ towards their 2nd academy and their first academy is ready for the roof. raising the roof | oct '12 Timber was delivered on-site this week and construction began on the trusswork to support the roof. Before the tin sheets are attached, the timber will be painted with a sealant to protect it from termite damage.The Academy is beginning to take its final shape. heavy rains | nov '12 Although heavy rains have slowed construction, our team is still hard at work. The roof is up and soon they'll be installing windows & doors. pay it forward | nov '12 Last weekend, 20+ dads worked tirelessly on the nearly completed Academy. In their words, their time has 'expired,' so it's time to 'pay it forward.' Next up? Plastering, landscaping & finishing touches.
Last month, community members in the village of Kyeitabya, Uganda celebrated the completion & formal commissioning of their new school, the Building Tomorrow Academy of Kyeitabya, supported and designed by the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture.
Hear from Building Tomorrow-Uganda's former Education Support Officer, Apollo Muganiira, as he discusses what the celebration meant to him:
"It's a great day. It's a new beginning. Especially for achieving quality education. The community has received a facility which is a school classroom block and I think that it's going to facilitate in contributing towards the quality of education. And I also think that the community is happy because they are participating in celebrating what they have contributed, their physical involvement, the work they have provided. They are all so happy and everyone is happy.
...I'm so excited because this project has started from scratch and I can see now it has materialized into a real school."
(Click on the image below to watch the full video)
On his first trip to Uganda since 1998, President Bill Clinton and daughter Chelsea made a 90 minute stop at the Building Tomorrow Academy of Gita on Friday, July 20, visiting teachers and students in classrooms, watching dances by the school choir and greeting hundreds of community members gathered at the academy. “It is good to be back in Uganda,” President Clinton said while addressing the crowd. “…we are supporting Uganda’s progress and helping young boys and girls to live their dreams.” The Clintons, accompanied by a traveling delegation, visited several of the academy’s classrooms, dropping in on students learning about everything from varying types of soils to adverbs and adjectives. “Your teachers here are so good, I didn’t even want to leave the classroom,” President Clinton said. Read more about the visit on NBC World News and view photos online. This was absolutely incredible, for Building Tomorrow, for Uganda, for Gita, ... for all of us. But we have much more work to do, and hopefully President Clinton's endorsement helps us take a big step forward. We hope you can help us take a big step forward, too.
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