Gayaza community CAMPUS, Uganda
In southwest Uganda, there is a village filled with warm and humble people who are passionate about education. The Gayaza Village parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators and community members are fully engaged in building and maintaining a full-spectrum campus that includes primary, secondary, and vocational education and training. BTCV is privileged to partner with this wonderful community to help build their dream for the future. Pictured above are photos from the BTCV teams that have journeyed to Gayaza Village to volunteer alongside our partners. Below is the story of how our work in Uganda began and has progressed through this long term relationship. We hope you will join us in Uganda soon to Hand Deliver Hope.
In 2015, through a connection and recommendation from Ryan Lewis after he spent time in this community as part of a Florida State University student outreach program, Be The Change Volunteers site evaluators arrived in Gayaza Village. The primary school was located in the village market area where school leaders had rented market stalls for classrooms. The classrooms were very small, crowded, dark, damp, noisy, and smelled of the nearby pit latrine. Local leaders desperately wanted to provide a better and safer learning environment for their children within walking distance of the village. They had obtained land on the existing secondary-vocational school campus, but lacked support and resources for infrastructure.
After conducting community interviews and completing the onsite needs analysis, BTCV evaluators recommended a phased-building full campus solution, which was vetted and approved by our board of directors. The approved plan entailed first renovating, finishing, and resourcing the existing vocational classrooms and workshops, setting up temporary classrooms for the primary school, and then partnering with the community for new construction of primary school classrooms and teacher housing.
In 2016, BTCV sent our first team of volunteers to Uganda to start the strategic phased-building process. By addressing the vocational training programs first, local job creation and economic growth needed for tuition, teacher pay, and school resourcing significantly expanded. In addition, the vocational training workshops provided onsite facilities and equipment for mass production of bricks for the classroom construction and a workforce through the carpentry training program to locally produce furnishings for the school.
The first team was also able to renovate existing space to be used for temporary classrooms to house the early childhood and primary classes so that they could immediately move out of the cramped, noisy market stalls. Not only did this significantly improve their learning environment, it allowed them to stop paying monthly rent for market space and redirect the funds to educational resources for their children.
The vision for the stand-alone primary school building will take several years to become a reality, but when finished will provide large, bright, well-ventilated, and furnished classrooms for students in a multi-level brick building that also includes safe and comfortable teacher housing units. Without committed and engaged teachers, the building has no impact - "no teachers... no school." So, in our needs analysis and planning with the community, plans for teacher apartments on the second floor of the new primary school classroom building were added. Quality onsite teacher housing is critical to recruiting and retaining , teacher and student attendance, student safety, and school security.
The phased-building strategy is working well in Gayaza Village. Each year, local professionals come in to work with vocational students to make bricks for primary school construction. The renovated vocational workshops provide the space and training environment and students learn mass production and quality control skills that will enhance their employment opportunities after graduating.
This first floor of the four-classroom building has been completed in phases by BTCV teams partnering with the Gayaza community, always under the supervision of a local professional engineer, builder, and skilled workers.
In the summer of 2020, COVID-related travel bans prevented BTCV from sending a volunteer team to Gayaza, so the community members took on the challenge of completing classroom #4 without our onsite assistance and met the challenge well and on time.
In addition to renovation and construction, BTCV teams work with local carpenters to create and assemble new desks for the school. These local carpenters, some of whom are previous Gayaza Vocational School graduates, are hired at their regular rates to run their shop out of the vocational classroom at the school for the project period so that they can oversee the school resourcing work, teach students, and continue to support their families. This is a great way to connect students to the carpentry trade and create job opportunities. The carpentry work is also very interactive for Ugandans and Changers!
The photos above show the new spacious, bright, and resourced primary school classrooms #1 and #2 on the Gayaza Village Campus - well ventilated, safe, secure, away from the noise and distractions of the market - ready for teachers to teach and students to learn!
Members of the New Mexico Chapter of Be The Change Volunteers noticed that the school did not have a well functioning or adequately resourced library. So, the chapter took on the challenge to renovate and resource an unused room on campus to provide a campus library. The New Mexico Chapter did the planning, fundraising, logistics, and work to make this beautiful library a reality.
Through our local partners, BTCV established a relationship with the regional Rotary club in the nearby town of Kyotera during our first project with Gayaza Village. Each year, our teams attend a Rotary meeting and interact with Rotarians during our time in the community. In 2020, the Rotary clubs of Columbia, Mo and Kyotera, Uganda joined with BTCV to complete a Rotary International Grant proposal that was fully funded to modernize the water systems of the Gayaza Campus, provide new bathroom facilities, proper washrooms for female boarding students, WASH certified training, and menstrual hygiene equipment and training. The sustainable impact of this partnership by service organizations with the local community will have generational impact for certain!
There are so many amazing stories from Uganda and many more to come! We hope that you will choose to join us on a project serving with friends and family as Changers in the future!