Bill Clinton Visits U.Va.- Supported Building Tomorrow Academy of Gita

July 20, 2012

July 20, 2012 — On Friday, former President Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea Clinton, visited the Building Tomorrow Academy of Gita, an eight-room schoolhouse in Uganda funded and designed through Building Tomorrow's student chapter at the University of Virginia.

Undergraduate students in the Initiative reCOVER 2008 spring studio in U.Va.'s School of Architecture, led by associate professor Anselmo Canfora, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science's Engineering in Context program, led by associate professor Dana Elzey, handled the design. Students had raised more than $50,000 through Bike to Uganda, a 7,500-mile stationary bike "ride" held on the Lawn each spring, and other events.

Building Tomorrow is a Indianapolis-based social-profit organization that, since 2006, has raised more than $1.5 million, empowering communities in Uganda to donate 30 acres of land and volunteer 200,000 hours of labor to build schools for their children.

In his first trip to Uganda since 1998, Clinton visited teachers and students in classrooms, watched dances by the school choir and greeted hundreds of community members gathered at the academy.

"It is good to be back in Uganda," Clinton told the crowd. "… We are supporting Uganda's progress and helping young boys and girls to live their dreams."

Joseph Kalisa, Building Tomorrow Uganda's country director, said, "This was absolutely incredible. We have much more work to do, and hopefully President Clinton being with us this morning helps us take a big step forward."

At the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting, Building Tomorrow committed to launching "BT 2.0," an initiative to build 60 Building Tomorrow Academies by 2016 with a goal of enrolling 15,000 primary-level students throughout rural areas in East Africa. The initiative includes training 450 new educators, developing curricula and increasing the enrollment of girls. 

"Both President Clinton and Chelsea were a joy to host," George Srour, Building Tomorrow's founder and "chief dreamer," said. "They took time to understand in great detail the successes and challenges of our work and were genuinely excited by what they saw at Gita."

U.Va. is continuing its contribution to the humanitarian mission to provide quality education to elementary school children in the region.

Canfora said students in his Studio reCOVER – a collaboration with Building Tomorrow and Arup Cause, a global initiative to support activities that promote personal and professional skills while aiding global development – will develop a second primary school design this fall, to be built in 2013 in the Wakiso district of Uganda. The design will focus on an approach to the building and landscape that Building Tomorrow could easily replicate.

"Lessons learned during the first project will help us develop an even better school design going forward," Canfora said. "Our primary focus will be on building the best possible classrooms and supporting Building Tomorrow's mission in Uganda."

– by Jane Ford