The buzz words 'monitoring and evaluation,' have become so hip within international development organizations we've coined them a nickname: 'M&E.' No doubt, it is a critical function in assessing the impact of a particular model and one in which Building Tomorrow practices. But as this latest trip reinforced, we'd be remiss to expect only statistics, percentages, and numbers to define our work; there's more to the story.
Statistics overlook the story of Muganga Nasanaili, a thin-figured, reserved lifetime resident of Mabaale who himself never had the chance to attend primary school. Vincent, our Community Development Officer (CDO) posted to Mabaale asked him to come forward just as a building committee meeting wrapped up.
"This man, he is an inspiration to me," Vincent said as he held up Muganga's callous-ridden hands. "You see, not only did he give us the land on which we are building this structure, but he has been here working each and every day without fail." Muganga and Vincent embraced in what is now one of my favorite Building Tomorrow images.
Percentages fail to capture the ingenuity of William, another one of our CDO's who after two hours of visiting his soon-to-be-completed Bugabo site, insisted that I go see the pit latrine. Reluctantly, thinking there could be nothing different about this pit latrine than the countless others I've seen before, I followed William. Steps later, he turned around, beaming.
"I designed this toilet," William said. "I've heard parents and students saying we need to make the latrine even more private, so I added a return wall on this side for girls, and on this side for boys for this purpose."
William's emphasis on ensuring an instilled sense of dignity for each future student didn't end there - he outfitted Bugabo with a wheelchair-accessible ramp and proudly asserted that every Building Tomorrow site to come will not be considered done until it too has a ramp.
Numbers don't capture the moment a handful of children at our future Building Tomorrow Academy of Kabasegwa shared with another as they cautiously moved toward our parked car, nestled under the shade of a jackfruit tree. Standing inside one of the classrooms, I knelt down as their forward progress would cease if they looked around and spotted anyone watching their harmless inquiry.
At first, one by one, the children made faces at the back window of the car. After each, they laughed hysterically. The younger ones discovered the same phenomenon looking eye-level with the body of our car, one daring enough to reach their hand out and make contact in a scene reminiscent of E.T. Half the crowd turned away unsure of what would happen, the other grew wide-eyed when nothing did. Peering out of a hole left in the wall for a window, I realized it was likely long before I first entered a classroom that I'd had the chance to see my reflection in a mirror.
Indeed, I learned, this was a first for many at Kabasegwa that day.
I've always believed the work of social change is peppered with split seconds of fulfillment - unexpected, goose bump-inducing moments that reaffirm the sometimes crazy notion that a small group of committed individuals can make an incredible impact. Indeed, the work of Building Tomorrow continues to prove as much, with statistics, percentages, numbers and a whole, whole lot more.
Onward and upward,