Gita – The Whole Story
October 21, 2011
In the fall of 2005, Jason Franasiak, recent graduate of the College of William & Mary, enrolled in the University of Virginia‘s School of Medicine. Over the next year, any time Jason wasn’t in class or studying, he was telling anyone who would listen about a new organization called Building Tomorrow. In fact, Jason spoke with nearly 150 organizations, classes, departments and groups of individuals during his first year “on Grounds.” All this Jason did because he happened to be a very good friend of George Srour’s and had every intention of establishing the first official Building Tomorrow chapter at UVA.
As a result of Jason’s outreach, groups from all across the University pledged their support. The School of Medicine organized pancake breakfasts, the libraries hosted bake sales, the Fraternal Council awarded BT half of the proceeds from their annual fall carnival and residence halls were even converted into haunted houses to raise moneyâ€¦not to mention the hundreds, if not thousands of students, faculty and administrators who planned, organized and participated in the chapter’s fundraising events: benefit concerts, soccer tournaments and, of course, Bike to Uganda.
In 2007, Building Tomorrow at UVA made its way into the classroom. Under the guidance of Professors Anselmo Canfora, Dana Elzey and Paxton Marshall, students in the School of Architecture’s Studio reCOVER and the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Engineering in Context Program worked together to fully design the future academy. In the years since, their collaborative efforts have been recognized by the National Association of Collegiate Architecture Schools and the American Institute of Architects and their work has been displayed at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.
This was just the beginning.
Jason’s efforts and those of the entire University community were rewarded when, in 2008, the chapter reached their fundraising goal: $45,000 for the construction of a primary-level academy to serve 325 children in rural Uganda.
The wheels were set in motion. Building Tomorrow’s team in Uganda began meeting with communities in the Wakiso District of Uganda, offering a challenge: we will fund the construction of a school if you volunteer to build it. Community members in the village of Gita agreed. It was time to get started. After negotiating the purchase of land for the academy and forming a committee of parents and local leaders to oversee construction, the official groundbreaking was scheduled. Hundreds of parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends of future students came out in droves to help. They cleared the land, dug trenches, laid the foundation, hauled bricks, carried water and worked tirelessly to give their children an opportunity we all-too-often take for granted: learning inside of a classroom.Â
A year and a half and approximately 20,000 hours of volunteer labor later, hundreds of students, parents and community members joined in a seven hour chorus of celebration to commemorate the opening of their new school. The Building Tomorrow Academy of Gita was officially open for class.
Fast-forward two years later and, under the leadership of former Gita resident, Mohammad Ssemuyaga, the Academy is thriving.