News from UNC


Hear from Julia Heelan, current Co-Director of the Building Tomorrow chapter at UNC-Chapel Hill, about why she got involved, what her chapter is up to and her goals for the future.

When I talk about Building Tomorrow, everyone always asks me, “Well, have you been to Uganda yet?” And sadly after 2 years, my answer is still no. But that’s not what is important in Building Tomorrow. It’s the fact that because of Building Tomorrow 1,800 more kids are going to school and are having a blast learning, even on Saturdays.

Julia Heelan (in blue), co-directs the Building Tomorrow chapter at UNC-Chapel Hill

Julia Heelan (in blue), co-directs the Building Tomorrow chapter at UNC-Chapel Hill

A friend came to me at the end of freshman year because she had heard about this new group starting on campus and it sounded like something we might be interested in. At first, I have to admit I was skeptical of how the organization would turn out and was nervous to be on a committee and have a big responsibility, but soon I realized I had to be a part of this organization and now I can say, I am Co-Director of the UNC Building Tomorrow chapter and wouldn’t have it any other way.

There was an excitement surrounding BT during my sophomore year at Carolina because it was our first year for the chapter. Oh and well we had a super awesome Inaugural Bike to Uganda that fall that raised around $30,000… It was Natalie’s vision for UNC to be the first chapter to raise $45,000 in one year to fund a school in Uganda and the students quickly adopted that goal as well. The students and community helped us get so close to reaching that goal, but it wasn’t until our 2nd Bike to Uganda that we raised it all, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who had tears in their eyes when the total was announced at the end of a long week.

Last summer I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya for a study abroad program. While I know this isn’t Uganda, it still gave me an image of what East African schools can look like. Seeing kids excited to learn and helping my little Kenyan brother learn English by identifying objects around the house got me even more excited to come back to UNC and spread the word about Building Tomorrow. My Kenyan mother is a teacher at a School for the Deaf, and as I watched those kids sign poems and cheer for one another, I further realized that everyone should be given the opportunity to an education. This passion came back to UNC with me as we completed our 2nd Bike to Uganda and I began to think about larger leadership roles, including becoming Director.

In the Spring Building Tomorrow and the chapter at UNC was invited to attend the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in D.C. As Co-Director, I was lucky enough to attend, hear new advice, and learn new strategies to make BT at UNC a success for years to come. From this experience, the chapter at UNC committed to finish raising $60,000 by May 2013 to fund our 2nd school in Uganda. It would mean the world to me, and those kids, if we were able to accomplish this goal in time for my college graduation. We’ve got a long way to go!

As I get ready for my senior year, I get excited about recruiting new students at Fall Fest, hosting our 3rd annual Bike to Uganda in October, planning new events, and telling more and more people about who Building Tomorrow is and what we do. Thank you to everyone who has helped support BT—you are making a difference in so many lives. If you haven’t yet been a part of Building Tomorrow, please let me know if you would like to help us achieve our goals—I would love to talk to you!!


– Julia Heelan
University of North Carolina

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