The commissioning of Building Tomorrow’s 15th primary-level academy started just like any other. Dignitaries offered welcomes as future students organized themselves and kicked things off with a medley of traditional Buganda songs. The line-up of speakers barely fit on one page, the January sun made its presence felt and a feast for the masses was prepared by a legion of women who not only fed hundreds, but even found time to offer a dance themselves. Par for the course.
Time came for Muganga, the Chairman of Mabaale’s building committee, to speak. Before construction begins, Building Tomorrow organizes a building committee to assist with the mobilization of community labor, involvement and resources to bring each school to this day of celebration.
“You have saved our children from studying under a tree, and we cannot extend enough thanks for the good work that has been done here,” the Chairman began.
“Thank you to the community members who have entrusted me with this position and for all the members who have worked so hard to build this magnificent place. School for our children has long been held on land of the Church of Uganda, on the community’s behalf, so they would have the shade of a tree. So you can see that it was humbling, as a Muslim, to be entrusted to lead this endeavor and it is joyous that people of all faiths have come together to prove how much more we can achieve when we work together.”
Five days later, as an energetic throng of children taught a small group of Building Tomorrow volunteers how to play the Ugandan version of Duck, Duck, Goose, more than a hundred adults packed the future P3 classroom. Joseph Kaliisa, Building Tomorrow’s Country Director, decided to hold a marathon parent’s meeting and my occasional peeks into the classroom tipped my curiosity. Mothers made impassioned speeches, fathers raised their hands and Joseph’s grin grew wider by the comment.
At its conclusion, I peered through the window and asked Joseph if the meeting was productive. Without answering, he turned away and asked the crowd, in the local language, to raise their hands if they’d made a commitment-anything from food to labor-in support of the new school in which they were gathered.
Every hand shot up.
Later that afternoon as our small team of visitors rode away, Joseph shared with us how the community couldn’t be more eager for class to begin. Grandmothers pledged to help make lunch, mothers talked of sewing uniforms and fathers of landscaping the school’s grounds before each term. There was a palpable variety of excitement in the air-the kind that lends credence to a tagline now prominent on our Website: “we’re not just building schools anymore.”
Truth be told, we’ve never just built schools. No, we’ve been lighting tiny sparks that spur the transformation of a community and it’s reality of what is possible for itself and the next generation. That’s exactly what happened at Mabaale just days ago, and that’s what Building Tomorrow will continue to do in 2014 and beyond.
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