Building Communities


Last summer, Natalie Sutton founded a chapter of Building Tomorrow at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and in one year, raised nearly $36,000 with the help of her classmates and friends to support the construction of a new BT academy in Uganda. Natalie graduated this past Sunday and we wanted to say WEBALE NYO and good luck (not that she needs it)!

I learned about BT through my sister, Michelle Sutton, who goes to UVA. I was so inspired by their mission and loved their non-profit (or what they call social-profit) model – which is for high schools and universities to fundraise to build schools and then for the members of local community in Kampala, Uganda to contribute 20,000 hours of labor to building their school. Also, I’m passionate about children’s issues and the incredible need for access to education in Uganda compelled me to get involved. My favorite aspect of UNC is its focus on public service, so I knew it would be the perfect place to start this organization! I knew that I could find passionate students at UNC who would want to get involved in building a school in Uganda and literally building a community to help give vulnerable youth access to education.

One thing that I love about BT’s mission is that it strives to get YOUTH involved in supporting infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa. I think it is important that youth in the US (especially high school and college students who are mature enough to give back) realize how blessed we are to have such incredible educational opportunities and also be aware of the lack of access to education in countries such as Uganda.

It was definitely challenging to open the chapter. I had to figure out a lot of logistics with the national headquarters of Building Tomorrow in Indianapolis, IN as well as apply to be an officially recognized student organization on campus at UNC. I had to find an advisor (Carol Magee in the art department) and meet with university administrators. I had to lay the groundwork for our organization by crafting a constitution and other documents explaining the mission of our organization, how we will benefit from the official recognition, and how the campus will benefit from the recognition. In terms of recruiting students, as I mentioned, I wasn’t too concerned because we have a contagious spirit of public service here and a strong inclination towards leadership. I knew people would find this cause important. I first reached out to my good friends and then basically networked from there, talking to friends of friends. I then set up a Facebook event and group and held interest sessions. It was all downhill from there! I have learned an incredible amount from this process. I’ve learned about myself, about the challenges Uganda faces, how to motivate others, how to conquer obstacles, and basically what it is like to run a non-profit organization. It was unbelievably meaningful and worthwhile in every way!

Natalie Sutton (2nd from right) is Building TomorrowWe wanted to be the first university chapter to build a school in one year. This means raising $45,000 this year. I wanted to execute a successful Bike to Uganda fundraiser at UNC, and we were able to involve over 800 individuals and raise over $30,000! We also held several other fundraisers, such as restaurant benefit nights and a Putt-Putt fundraiser in the spring. I am so awed and excited about what we’ve accomplished thus far and can’t wait to see BT at UNC grow in the future. My main goal is for Building Tomorrow to be sustainable at UNC. I want the organization to thrive into the future after I graduate, so I am working very hard to ensure that it will continue to be successful and that we can establish annual traditions on campus such as Bike to Uganda. We have a wonderful new leadership team in place, so I am excited to see what they accomplish. Also, on top of raising funds and building schools, awareness of our cause is extremely important to me. Even if I impact one person by explaining Uganda’s situation, I feel that I will have been successful.

One memory that really stays with me is when George and Joseph came to visit UNC and speak about BT. It was almost exactly one year since I started the UNC chapter, and I was about to graduate. Everything really came full circle. I had been talking to George for so long and it was almost surreal to actually meet someone who has had such a profound impact on the world – especially someone who is truly a mentor and only a few years older than me. I think all of my committee members (and definitely me!) felt a profound sense of gratitude for George and Joseph’s work and also for the opportunity to be part of this cause. After working hard all year to raise funds and awareness, their visit meant the world to us and made us so proud to share our passion for such deserving children in Uganda. It made everyone even more motivated to raise the remainder of the funds for our own school in Uganda.


BSBA Class of 2011
Kenan-Flagler Business School
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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