As our car pulled up to a brand new Building Tomorrow site at Mabaale on the Western edge of Ugandaâ€™s central region, more than 170 kids sat huddled underneath trees, divided in two classes, upper and lower. The BT-mobile climbed 250 more feet and pulled up aside the foundation of one of the future academyâ€™s two blocks.
Quickly, the 24 members who are assigned to work every Tuesday put down the bricks they were moving, the hoes used for digging and huddled around the car. Any visitor is expected to address those gathered and today was no different.
I thanked the team and issued a challenge to the men, easily outnumbered by about 2:1.
â€œFor every brick moved by these women, you should move four.â€
The women applauded, the men nodded and one man asked Building Tomorrowâ€™s Country Director, Joseph Kaliisa to translate a comment.
â€œTell him it should be ten.â€
When Building Tomorrowâ€™s work first began, engaging men in our work was one of the most difficult challenges facing our Community Development Officers. Yet at each new site, our team is finding more and more men who are embracing the all important role they must play in ensuring access to education for the children of their respective communities.
While touring completed construction at Lukindu, John, a farmer with his own demonstration farm minutes away from the site flagged us down to come in to his office. While he has no kids at the school, he has been elected Vice Chairman of the School Management Committee at Lukindu and is optimistic given the level of support parents have already pledged.
At Mayira, Building Tomorrowâ€™s newest site, a team of architects and engineers with the University of Virginiaâ€™s StudioRECOVER visited a three-acre plot to be used for the construction of the first permanent school in the sub-county. As the team from UVA explained the reasons for their visit to the site, an older gentleman stepped out of the crowd that had gathered and introduced himself in near-perfect English.
â€œI am Charles. I completed primary school in 1947 and later attended university in Nairobi. I am a meteorologistâ€”we are happy that you are here and I will be happy to tell you about the weather of this place.â€
In many ways, Building Tomorrowâ€™s work is all about stepping out of the crowd and engaging everyone in ensuring access to a quality education for every child whether youâ€™re a farmer, a meteorologist, a college student, a brick mason or avid supporter. In Mabaale, Lukindu and Mayira, men and women are stepping out of the crowd and putting communities on their shoulders in anyway they can. And given a report released by UNESCO just last week estimating more than 57 million children worldwide are still without access to a basic education, Building Tomorrow is working hard to bring onboard all the pieces we need to continue scaling our work and giving more kids the opportunity to learn inside a classroom.
With the addition of Africano Byarugaba and Brittani Russell, our new Program Director and Engineer in Residence respectively, our team of eight full-time staff in Uganda are poised to break ground on at least five more Building Tomorrow Academies by the end of 2013.
On behalf of our growing team in Uganda and the communities I had the chance to visit on this most recent trip, thank you for stepping out of the crowd and enabling so many in Uganda to do the sameâ€”we have so very much left to do.
Onward and upward,
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