Indy-based "social profit" organization building schools in Uganda

Courtesy Photo

Currently, 41 million sub-Saharan African children go

through their lives without attending school, but one Indianapolis organization

is working brick by brick, school house by school

house to make education a reality in the region.

"It's safe to say we all were challenged physically by the

labor and heat, but we were repeatedly humbled and impressed by how skilled,

efficient, strong and persistent the Kyeitabya (a

Ugandan community) community members were," David Deitz said.

"They taught us how to perform each task and it was always

clear that no matter how hard we worked, they could always do more, faster, and


Deitz is a rising senior at DePauw University — where

he helped form a chapter of Building Tomorrow, a social-profit based out of

Lockerbie Square. The organization raises money to construct academies in


So far, the organization's coordinated efforts have built

five schools in Uganda in which 1,500 kids receive an education every day,

according to founder and executive director George Srour.

Five more schools are under construction, with each costing about $50,000 to

build and about 14 months of labor to complete.

Building Tomorrow (BT) bills itself as a social profit

— emphasizing the work the organization does to define its impact, Srour said.

The organization can be described as a vast network with a

tight nucleus orchestrating the action between two continents, multiple college

campuses, some high schools and the city of Indianapolis. Building Tomorrow

utilizes two full-time workers, four interns and a staff of five people in

Uganda (the primary nation BT works in) in order to coordinate their efforts

with 25 college campuses across North America. On top of that, a social

investment council plans and coordinates events in and around Indy, including

the BT Chip-In golf fundraiser sponsored by PriceWaterhouseCoopers

at The Trophy Club in Lebanon on Aug. 20. There is also a board of trustees in

the loop.

But the differences between BT and other philanthropic

organizations are not unique solely because of its cause. The capital for

construction is given to Ugandan communities on the promise of 20,000 hours of

their labor. Furthermore, the college students that help fill BT's school

budgets have the opportunity to see their work come to fruition.

College students who help organize

a campus chapter of BT like Deitz has, participate and help raise money for the

Building Tomorrow academies can pack their bags and go to Uganda to turn the

work they have done in the United States and the cash they have raised into the

end product.

Deitz experienced many challenges while helping build an

academy. He practiced one of Uganda's 54 languages, encountered the phenomenon

"Ugandan Time" in which being an hour late was considered punctual (he said the

entire trip ran about an hour behind schedule) and had no running water.

Facing these challenges is Building Tomorrow's goal to help

others receive equal education and learn in a better environment. While helping

provide a better learning experience for others, Deitz learned much himself. He

said it was extremely rare for westerners (his group's opportunity was a

rarity) to participate in construction so the organization could "minimize the

cultural and economic footprint of BT's work in the community, and ultimately

leave behind a schoolhouse that the community feels ownership of."

Local Ugandan materials are put to use by community members,

as well as local skilled laborers, Deitz said.

But he saw firsthand the power of the American dollar, where

in Uganda a buck bought nine bricks, and he was taken aback by the community's

level of optimism.

"Kids who were

probably too young to even be around a construction site couldn't be turned

away because they were so excited about the prospect of going to a school

nearby them where they could actually afford to go," Deitz said.

Just by making the trip, Deitz was working to overcome one

of the organization's challenges that not-for-profits that work

on U.S. soil donÕt have to strategize around. "We aren't like Habitat

for Humanity who can get you to a site close by and show you the house and say

'here's what you helped do,'" Srour said. "We have to

bring the story home to people."

One story Srour likes to tell

involves shoes — a big pile of shoes, to be exact. On a visit to an

up-and-running BT academy, he observed a large collection of shoes sitting

outside of a classroom. He points out that the classroom floors are simply

concrete slabs. Srour asked a colleague what was

going on, and the children, by their own volition, chose to not wear shoes in

the classroom to keep it clean and tidy.

"In a lot of

ways that story says a lot about students' perceptions in school," Srour said.

But schools where stories like that originate did not just

materialize without setbacks and hurdles to jump.

Srour said getting different

Ugandan communities to buy into BT was a problem early on.

"Trust is another big challenge, in the sense that you have

to earn it with the community you work with.

"We faced a number of situations initially where communities

believed we would not make good on the promises that we make."

He said once communities saw results, the people there were

quicker to garner support for BT, as well as donate land — one of the

most valuable possessions in Uganda.

As their efforts move the new schools toward completion and

communities across the ocean rally around BT, the Indianapolis community has

shown its support.

The social-profit's investment council,

comprised of young professionals, plan fundraisers — from ugly sweater

parties to happy hours at The Rathskeller on Mass

Ave, as well as the upcoming Chip-In, Srour

said.The council has become the

dedicated workers fighting for the cause, according to Srour.

"Often times

you need people to help you. You kind of need foot soldiers, people who are willing

to wave the flag and say 'yeah, this is a cause that I believe in. Forty-one

million children in sub-Saharan Africa don't have access to education. Count me

in as someone who wants to make a difference and change that.' And that's what

our social investment council has become," he said.

The biggest BT event to be found in Indianapolis throughout

the year is "Build a School Night," which takes place annually in April. Srour said the event, which includes a silent auction and a

live band, raised almost $30,000. That's right around two-thirds the cost of a

single Building Tomorrow academy, but monetary capital is not the only resource

that furthers BT's goals.

Stretching out from this nucleus of philanthropy, college

campuses are adding their cash and talents to the pool of resources BT draws

upon to keep moving in a positive direction. Srour

said their contributions to the program are not just about capital for

purchasing the bricks and beams a school requires.

"Often times the perception of philanthropy is about how

much money you can give, and that's totally not the case.

"I think one of the real life applications of Building

Tomorrow is that philanthropy is about being able to apply your time and talent

and treasures towards something for which you're passionate."

Srour said different schools

contribute what they can to the social-profit. If a school has a particularly

gifted architecture program that can work with BT to design an academy, they

do. Have a talent for film and documenting? The ability to tell a story and

reach out to an audience is more than welcome. Some colleges manage to dig

really deep into their pockets to help fund BT's schools, raising $70,000 in a

year, Srour said.

"We're nowhere near content in terms of what we've done," Srour said.

He said Building Tomorrow is continuing to work on the

education itself, within the classrooms it builds, possibly by setting up an

"enterprise" in which the education pays for itself and continues to improve

communities. Ask Srour, and he'll say BT's crowning

achievement is yet to come.

"One of the things I'm always looking at is how can we

innovate to continue to enhance what we do."


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