Last Wednesday, as we made our way to the community of Butiiti, Henry Katongole, our Chief Community Development Officer let out a high pitched exclamation.
“Ahhhh! Here is where we got stuck—right in this spot!”
We kept rolling along and so did Henry’s telling of what he’d classify as just another day at the office.
After three years at Building Tomorrow, Henry has seen it all. Or so I thought.
Recently elevated to a position managing logistics at all of our active construction sites, Henry spends his days haggling with cement dealers, directing truck drivers and ensuring thousands of bricks are delivered to our future schools each week.
On one such delivery just a couple weeks ago, heavy rains led to ravaged roads and those roads snarled the day’s delivery plans. What looked like a late afternoon drop-off of a number of materials became a precipitous trek on the last several kilometers of moonlit mud.
And that’s where Henry and one of his newly acquired, truck driving friends got stuck; a good 20 minutes away from Butiiti and another 30 from the nearest town.
At two in the morning. Pitch black.
No matter, a new truck was dispatched and nearly three hours later, after manually unloading one truck and reloading the other with only the aid of a cellphone’s flashlight, reinforcement bars, bricks, timber and more made it to the village of Butiiti.
“It was serious,” Henry said. “But we made it, everything made it.”
Henry’s story is no different from another that came to me just days before, via email, from Vincent, another one of our Community Development Officers. Work at his site, Kibimba, had come to a standstill in the absence of water for use during construction. That’s when the community, according to Vincent, took things into their own hands:
“They said to the district leaders, we are not leaving your offices until you’ve given us water for the school.”
Hours later, a hand-dug reservoir lined with a donated tarp was filled to the brim with 45,000 liters of water. Their sit-in a success, buoyed by the notion that a collective voice could precipitate change, construction commenced once again. Four days later, the entire foundation of the school had been set.
Recently The Economist ran a story detailing the successes of a pan-African business currently realizing great success. The company’s CEO was asked about the business model that had brought significant profit increases across the continent. Its as though he’d just spent time with Henry, Vincent, the community of Kibimba and our Building Tomorrow Uganda crew before the interview.
“Persistence—that’s the model.”
Each day, by necessity, our work is defined by an ethos, a team and a resolve to persist through the greatest of challenges. And they are mounting. More than 250 million children have spent three years in class and can’t read, write or do basic math. In sub-Saharan Africa, 31 million children are without access to a primary education all while aid to primary education has fallen 10% in the last two years. Girls aren’t expected to achieve universal primary school enrollment until 2076.
We have little choice. Truly Building Tomorrow takes all kinds of resources, for doing so is indeed a tall order. But with persistence at the heart of our model, our sights are set high and we’re grateful for your support all along the way.
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