Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Building Tomorrow student chapter to benefit Uganda’s children

Laura Mann (BA ’07) isn’t an architect, a real estate developer or even a carpenter — but she plans to build a school in Africa over the next two years.

How? By starting a University of Denver chapter of Building Tomorrow (BT), a non-profit organization that gives college students resources to raise money to build schools in sub-Saharan Africa. 

The DU chapter will host its first event on Sept. 5, at Stella’s Coffee Haus, 1476 S. Pearl St. in Denver, 7:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m. The meeting will feature live music and a raffle for clothes, sporting event tickets, gift cards and other items. 

The chapter’s goal is to raise $35,000 over the next two years, which is roughly the amount BT officials say it takes to build a school in Uganda.

“With their drive and determination, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens before,” says George Srour, BT founder and executive director. 

Mann says the idea for a DU BT chapter evolved from a chat she had with her boyfriend about her desire to “do something real … something that would make an impact on a large scale.” 

Her boyfriend knew Srour. 

“I e-mailed George the next day and within the week we had a lengthy phone conversation discussing the potential for a DU chapter,” Mann says. 

She then recruited several former teammates from DU’s soccer team to help. (Mann was a defensive center mid fielder for DU’s soccer team for most of her four years.) 

To date, the chapter has four active alumni, six undergraduates “and many wonderful friends” who will help at events. 

Mann says she hopes to recruit more freshmen and sophomores this fall. “Another goal is to integrate athletes and non-athletes,” she says.

Mann says DU students join “simply by showing up.” 

“There’s no membership fee other than time and energy. The point is to allow for any level of commitment,” she says.

The chapter expects to hold a fundraising event every quarter and plans are under way for a spring 2008 fundraiser called Bike to Uganda that will feature stationary bikes on campus. BT will clock the miles from Denver to Uganda. 

BT has chapters at 10 colleges. Srour says DU is the first BT chapter west of the Mississippi. 

“In many ways DU is blazing the trail when it comes to getting a new chapter established,” Srour says. “They’ve found some great support and if we could clone the DU BT team, it wouldn’t be long before we’d be able to provide an education for the 46 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who don’t have access to an elementary school.” 

Srour says the African government covers operating costs and teacher salaries.  

BT reports it is able to direct all on-campus contributions to building projects and that administrative expenses are defrayed through private donations and grants. All contributions to BT are tax-deductible. 

By the end of 2010, BT hopes to add 20 college campuses, raise $700,000 and educate 3,000 students. 

Those interested in learning more can e-mail Mann, visit the DU chapter blog-space or the BT site.

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