As we begin a new year Brick by Brick embarks on an ambitious agenda, broadening our partnerships with communities in the Rakai District of Uganda. Over the past five years, thanks to your support we are dramatically expanding our three program initiatives and social enterprise, Brick by Brick Construction Company. In 2012, we had just one full time staff person working in Uganda, by the end of this year; we will employ 30 staff between Brick by Brick Uganda and our construction company. Here is what we are planning for the next eleven months:
Several months ago our physician/midwife team was visiting the local hospital in Kalisizo. They found a woman in the maternity ward that had given birth with a traditional birth attendant in the community. She was bleeding heavily; the local doctor and midwives were working feverishly to resuscitate her. As soon as the doctor knew that the BAMA team had arrived, he quickly asked us to review the woman whom we found in a pool of blood and still unconscious. After examining our patient, we advised the staff that she needed to be taken quickly to the operating room in order to perform the life saving interventions necessary. The local staff physician was included on the surgical team and trained on the skills needed to handle this complication successfully.
This young woman’s life was saved and the following day her husband came to our office with an envelope with some money to “repay” us for the life saved. That same day we visited our mother and secretly give her the money to help in the care of her new baby.
In 2016 we completed Phase I of the BAMA Program, a partnership with the Rakai District Ministry of Health and 24 local health facilities that provide maternal and newborn care to our communities of a half million people. In just one year of training and mentoring of 80 midwives and 10 physicians, we have seen a 59% reduction in life threatening complications. We have also worked with district-level health officials and Health Center and District Hospital Directors to improve the management of their facilities. This year we will continue our successful training and mentorship program, while supporting the local government in addressing gaps in critical supply chain issues, such as emergency medications, equipment and supplies. We will begin community outreach activities to increase demand and awareness for institutional births, since so many of our mothers die or experience serious complications when attempting to deliver at home, assisted by unskilled family members or traditional birth attendants.
Every day Olivia walks a mile to attend school. She is a dedicated student with dreams of becoming a doctor. At age 14 she experienced her first period and without access to menstrual pads or simple medications to manage her painful cramps, she has started to miss days of school monthly. She worries about falling behind and is embarrassed to voice her concerns. Why is this happening? She hears stories from her peers at school and in the village but she doesn’t really understand what is happening to her body.
Since 2012, 1700 adolescent girls and young women have participated in our 9-session educational program that empowers them with knowledge in sexual and reproductive health, gender issues, power dynamics and life skills, while teaching them to make their own set of four reusable menstrual pads. Studies reveal that around 66% of girls are completely ignorant regarding their menstruation until their first period. This lack of knowledge and skills for managing menstruation is harmful to school attendance. According to UNICEF, 1 in 10 school-age African girls ‘do not attend school during menstruation, or drop out at puberty because of the lack of clean and private sanitation facilities in schools’. In another survey conducted by FAWE in Uganda, 94% of girls reported issues during menstruation and 61% indicated missing school during menstruation.
In 2016, Brick by Brick was announced as one of the winners of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, an $85 million investment funded by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The goal of this challenge is to accelerate progress toward the DREAMS target of achieving a 40 percent reduction in new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in the highest-burden areas of 10 sub-Saharan African countries by the end of 2017. With this generous support, we will be able to expand the My Pads Program to 16 secondary schools in the Rakai District serving 2400 adolescent girls and young women. We will train 16 local seamstresses to make affordable sets of reusable menstrual pads to try and address this gap in the marketplace. Finally, we will dramatically improve water and sanitation facilities in these 16 schools to better serve our communities.
Deo attended UMEA (Uganda Muslim Education Association) Primary School in Kalisizo in the Rakai District of Uganda. Until Brick by Brick began to partner with his community, he studied in crumbling and unsafe classrooms and walked miles a day to fetch water for his fellow students and teachers. The school lacked basic sanitation facilities and had no school library. Upon his graduation, Deo’s school had been completely rebuilt, thanks to a 25% contribution from the surrounding community. (Watch Deo's Story)
Since 2003, in partnership with the Rakai District Education Department and local rural communities, Brick by Brick has completely rebuilt six Universal Primary Education (UPE) schools. In 2017, after an application and assessment process in which ten schools participated, we will begin partnering with three communities, St. Kizito, Lumbugu and Nsambya Primary Schools, with construction beginning this month. An important part of our school program is our Library Project, Lead, Organize, Integrate: a training program that builds the knowledge and skills of local educators to fully utilize their school libraries as centers of learning and literacy. To date we have initiated this training in 14 schools throughout Uganda and in 2017, we will continue our work to support these schools while expanding to six additional schools this year.
Brick by Brick Construction Company: A Social Enterprise Promoting the Triple Bottom Line
Sunday Kimera is the Chief Mason of Brick by Brick Construction Company, overseeing a team of twelve skilled masons and brick makers. Sunday and his wife are the proud parents of seven healthy children, two sets of twins and triplets! Sunday has been a key member of our staff since our founding six years ago. “ I am proud of our company and how much we have grown. In most businesses in Uganda, one owner keeps the profits, but in our company, the profits are used to help build schools and rainwater harvesting tanks for our people. We the masons, also receive benefit through our profit sharing plan, so in a way, we are the owners of Brick by Brick Construction.”
For the past six years, Brick by Brick Construction Company, a social-enterprise that promotes environmentally sustainable technology in small-scale construction, has been a profitable business providing fair wage employment for 14 staff: including skilled masons, brick makers and our local civil engineer. For us, doing business means more than just making a Profit. We are also committed to our staff and customers (People), and to being good stewards of our environment. People, Planet and Profits make up the Triple Bottom Line. Since 2011, we have built rainwater-harvesting systems providing clean, safe water for 100,000 people and have completed almost 100 projects throughout Uganda. In 2016, we began to improve our Quality Assurance policies and procedures, with the goal of creating checklists for every step of our construction process. We have initiated a marketing plan that includes radio advertisements targeted at our local communities. Local leadership has been strengthened, as we are now sponsoring our Construction Manager, David Mutesaasira in the completion of his Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering and Prossy Nakayiba, our Finance and Administration Manager, in her pursuit of a Masters of Business Administration in Marketing. Since our founding, three young American engineers have served multi-year internships to build the capacity of our company, while gaining valuable real world experience. In July of this year, we are pleased to announce that Anjana Krishnan, a brilliant civil engineer from India, who will graduate from the University of Illinois this May, will join our team. In 2017, we will continue to work to expand our market and to improve the quality of our services.
2017 is truly a year of great promise for Brick by Brick. Stay tuned to this page for monthly updates throughout the year and thank you for your support!
 Mooijman, A., Snel, M., Ganguly, S. & Shordt, K.(2010) Strengthening Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools A WASH Guidance Manual with a Focus on South Asia. IRC, the Netherlands.
 Sanitation: the challenge. (2005) UNICEF.
 Toolkit on Hygiene Sanitation & Water in Schools: Gender Roles and Impact (2005). World Bank (FAWE:Forum for African Women Educationalists)