Learn more about Building Tomorrow

1. Tell us about your mission.

Founded in 2006, Building Tomorrow’s mission is to galvanize communities to support thriving schools in underserved areas in Uganda and ensure all children can access an inclusive, transformative education. A thriving school is one which is supported by the community, effectively managed by school leadership, accessible by all children, and committed to producing positive student outcomes. With the support of 150 Ugandan university graduates recruited as Building Tomorrow Fellows and a corps of more than 3,400 Community Education Volunteers (CEVs, see below), we have brought 55,143 out-of-school children back to school, built 81 primary schools, and drastically improved learning outcomes for 13,001 primary learners through our remedial literacy and numeracy program, Roots to Rise. This is all happening in a country that is experiencing its worst education crisis in a generation, with 1.2 million children out of school even before the COVID-19 pandemic (UNESCO and UNICEF, 2013). Primary school completion rates in Uganda are among the lowest in East Africa; only 35% of children will complete the full seven years of primary education. Most worryingly, of those children who attend school, only 6% of Primary 4 students can read a paragraph, and only 2% can solve a simple math problem. These troubling statistics are at the core of why we seek to unite school and community actors in pursuit of better learning outcomes for all children.

2. How is The West Foundation supporting your mission?

The West Foundation has been a dedicated partner since 2013, generously providing biennial, unrestricted operational support for our programs. Though the scope of our work has evolved since 2013, The West Foundation has been steadfast in their commitment to our shared vision of a world where every child can access their full potential through a quality education.

3. Considering your impactful work to eliminate poverty, how is the West Foundation’s philanthropic support providing you with sustainability and mobility?

Education is a global public good, and when adequately supported, creates a healthier and more prosperous society. The focus of our work has always been to ensure education is supported in the communities we serve and that our impact long outlives our programs.

Partners like The West Foundation help us to implement sustainable models, engage local community stakeholders and build their capacity to support access to quality education for their children. Our CEV program, for example, is comprised of some 3,400 parents, retired civil servants, and talented community leaders who wish to serve as a lasting voice for quality education in their communities. CEVs are empowered with valuable skills and an official platform through which they can effect positive change, and we have seen firsthand that CEVs can and will champion education long after our programs end.

4. How are you realizing your potential?

COVID-19 is exacerbating an already precarious education situation in Uganda, where nearly 1.2 million students were out of school and learning outcomes were severely lacking even before the pandemic struck. Today, some 20 million children across the country remain out of school, which is likely to continue until at least early 2021. The longer children are out of school, the more learning gains are lost. The international community recognizes the catastrophic effects of COVID-19 can only be fully reversed when education is a central part of the response, which is why we are scaling our efforts and launching the Tomorrow is Now initiative. The ultimate goals of Tomorrow is Now are to enroll all out-of-school primary children in school in five districts and to ensure they are up to grade level in literacy and numeracy. This initiative builds on achievements of the Thriving Schools program, which is a community-centered initiative led by Building Tomorrow Fellows and CEVs aimed at providing primary-age students with access to a thriving school. Tomorrow is Now will take place parallel to Thriving Schools by creating opportunities for local government – with the support of Building Tomorrow Fellows Alumni as Technical Advisors – to expand the reach of the CEV model and Roots to Rise program, thus making the program even more scalable and sustainable. This initiative is a massive undertaking, but the future of some 20 million students depends on us and other organizations setting the bar high to create a sea change.

5. What’s one important thing you want others to know about your organization?

Building Tomorrow’s work is continually inspired and informed by the communities we serve and partner with. We are locally led, as 70 of our 75 staff are East African. Everything we do is in close partnership with the Ugandan government because we believe it is the most sustainable way to enact systems-level change and scale efforts that are visibly improving learning outcomes for children.

6. How can people reading this help you?

The belief that we achieve more together than we can alone is at the heart of our work, which is why we are constantly looking to add new members to the Building Tomorrow fan club! Check out some ways you can join the team and support our work:

  • Network
    • Do you know some folks who might really like the work we’re doing and want to get involved? If so, we’d love to meet them and hope you’ll encourage them to drop us a note at info@buildingtomorrow.org.
  • Partner with Us
    • Our work comprises many components to improve student outcomes. In addition to the above, we also focus on making education more inclusive for some of the most vulnerable, including those with disabilities. We are currently busy adapting our Roots to Rise program for distance learning and working to develop Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) capabilities to bring learning to some of our most vulnerable out-of-school children. To learn more about areas for potential partnerships, please check out our website!
  • Join the Ambassador’s Council
    • The Ambassador’s Council is a group of motivated and passionate young professionals in the Indianapolis area who garner support for Building Tomorrow just because they want to! Click here if you’d like to learn more.
  • Become an Intern
    • Want to go a step beyond classic volunteering, and really contribute your time and talents to a specific project or two? If so, interning might be for you! Send us a note at info@buildingtomorrow.org.
  • Fundraise
    • Any contribution, no matter the size, will make an impact! You could donate for your birthday, organize a virtual 5K, or partner with a local restaurant for a dine and donate night – totally up to you! If you need help getting started, just reach out and we’d be happy to brainstorm the next best COVID-19 friendly fundraising opportunity.

7. What are your deepest needs as an organization?

We are working to achieve systems-level change, and our ambition is to eliminate all out-of-school children and help transform the way students learn in Uganda. Before COVID-19 struck, we had enrolled 55,000 learners through our Thriving Schools Program. Millions of children remain out of school as we write this, and we recognize how daunting this goal now seems – but this is why we rely on strategic partners to help us create expansive impact by investing heavily in local communities, teachers, and change-makers. We are always looking to add more partners like The West Foundation to our portfolio, partners who share in our vision and continually support our ambitious endeavors.

Photo courtesy: Building Tomorrow