Building a Future
Esther lives in Gita, Uganda, where soon she will go to school for free. Her mother, Hariyet, is helping to clear land and dig foundations for Esther’s new school. Hariyet, who only went to school through 4th grade, wants better for her six children. This fall, Esther along with her siblings, will begin classes at Building Tomorrow Academy of Gita.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to one-sixth of the world’s children, but they make up half of the world’s uneducated children, in large part because of the lack of available educational facilities. Building Tomorrow works to reduce this disparity by connecting college students in the US with educational needs in Uganda.
George Srour was an undergraduate when he interned with the United Nations. Through the internship, he became aware of the vital need for educating the millions of children under age 15 in Uganda who make up half the country’s population. Returning to his campus, College of William & Mary, he organized a fundraiser which raised $45,000 to build a school in Kampala, Uganda. He went on to found Building Tomorrow to continue this project.
Although Building Tomorrow is supported by only two full-time staff in the US and four in their field office in Uganda (with interns rotating through), they have already built four K-7 schools, providing education for 1,200 students who have maintained school attendance higher than their districts’ averages. They are constructing four more schools to double the number of students served by 2010.
Inspired by the success of the first college fundraiser, Building Tomorrow relies on student volunteers at American colleges to raise the $45,000 needed to build each school. Thus far they have worked with thousands of college students on more than 15 campuses. When a college campus expresses interest in participating, Building Tomorrow provides significant support and resources to help students organize their chapter and achieve their fundraising goals. The US campus and the school it funds in Sub-Saharan Africa remain connected through ‘e-updates’ and sometimes following up with a visit by the college volunteers to the site.
Through an innovative and successful cost-sharing model, Building Tomorrow shares the cost of building and operating the school with the community where it is built and with the Ugandan government. Building Tomorrow purchases the land and building materials, and pays to maintain the school buildings. The community donates the approximately 25 thousand work hours needed to build the school; children of community volunteers get priority for admission. Once the school is built, the national government contributes by paying teachers’ salaries. Esther’s mother Hariyet has volunteered at the site of the Academy of Gita every week since construction started in October, 2008. Soon her work there will be done and it will be her children’s turn to apply themselves, but they won’t be digging ditches, they will be learning from books and from their teachers, and from the example of hard work that their parents have set.
Building Tomorrow hopes to maintain and expand its college presence, and to extend its student volunteer base to include elementary and middle school students. It has also begun involving young adults through the establishment of a Social Investment Council. In the future, the Building Tomorrow plans to take its work to other East African countries.