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Organization raising money to construct schoolhouse in Uganda

FEBRUARY 22, 2012
by Erikah Haavie, Contributing Writer

7,613 miles: The approximate distance between Greenville, S.C., and Kampala, Uganda. 3 miles: The approximate distance each Furman University student needs to cycle to get there.
With a little help and hard work, four Furman University students have decided they can make it. Their mission: raise up to $60,000 to build a school for children in Uganda through a series of cycling fund-raisers.

Sarah Burke Sigmon, a junior, first met 28-year-old George Srour, the founder of Indianapolis, Ind.-based Building Tomorrow, when he visited the Wesley Fellowship and Presbyterian Students Association groups on campus last semester.

Since the non-profit organization was founded in 2006, more than $500,000 has been raised by schools and colleges across the United States to purchase materials for school construction. The partner communities in Uganda donate land for each school and volunteer about 20,000 hours of labor toward the construction effort. The Ugandan government then assumes operating costs and the salaries of teachers and administrators.

As of December 2011, seven schools are currently operating in Uganda and six more are under construction, according to Building Tomorrow’s website. Each school can house up to 325 students in seven classrooms and includes a library, office, meeting space and a soccer field.

Sigmon’s first thought upon hearing about the program was, “We need to do this.” With the committed cyclist community in Greenville, it’s a perfect match, she said.

Together with fellow students David Hanor, Anna Sheppard and Shelby Rimmler, the foursome have started to get the word out about opportunities to assist with the fund-raising effort. They are also looking for help with contributions and organizing events.

The main fund-raiser, Bike for Uganda, is planned for fall 2012, using stationary bikes in central locations on campus. Additional fund-raisers, such as cycling the Swamp Rabbit Trail, may also be planned with cyclists from the community.

Hanor had an eye-opening experience when he traveled with a group from his church in Kingsport, Tenn., to Nairobi, Kenya. “You see the need… I toured schools where they were lucky to have dirt for a floor,” he said.

For Hanor, it’s important that supporters of the project, not just contribute, but understand where their money is going. “I want people to realize your dollar is buying 10 bricks for a school,” he said.

Building Tomorrow academies are being constructed in communities where no formal schools exist, so for thousands of children, it’s their first opportunity to learn in a classroom.

“My passion is education,” said Sigmon, one of 23 Teaching Fellows at Furman who plans to teach in South Carolina schools after graduation.

For Sigmon, Building Tomorrow is a chance to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of children who have had limited opportunities. “Education can give you an opportunity to change your life,” she said.

A Building Tomorrow informational meeting has been scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Monday in Burgiss Theater, University Center. For more information, visit the Furman University chapter of Building Tomorrow webpage.

Last updated February 22, 2012
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