Ugandan children carrying water


The problem?

In Uganda, like most of sub-Saharan Africa, women and children's days often begin with the drudgery that is fetching water. Before starting the mile long walk to school, Frances is up before sunrise carrying a 20-liter jerry can weighing 44 pounds on her head, gathering water for her family. Before Brick by Brick partnered with her primary school, she would arrive with her classmates, and be sent off again to fetch water for the school. Day after day, year after year, precious class time is lost due to the lack of access to clean water. Sub-saharan Africans spend about 40 billion hours per year collecting water. That's equal to the work performed by the entire nation of France! This burden, which is carried disproportionately by women and girls, is more than a waste of time. While walking miles on remote rural paths to collect water, women and girls are especially vulnerable to rape and other acts of sexual harassment and violence.

Every year 1.6 million people die around the world due to diarrheal illness. In the time it will take you to read this newsletter 12 human beings, mostly children will have died, not from some mysterious or hard to treat disease but simply due to the lack of access to clean and safe water and sanitation. 1.1 billion people and over half the world's primary schools around the world lack this access. How is it possible that this problem has gone unsolved year after year, decade after decade, not for the lack of a solution but rather that of political will and smartly invested resources.

Brick by Brick is determined to be a part of the solution.

Since we began our work in 2004 in the Rakai District of Uganda, we have been focused on providing access to safe and clean water to our partnering communities. In everyone of the six universal primary schools that we have rebuilt we have constructed rainwater harvesting systems that ensure adequate clean water for all students and teachers. In partnership with the Peace Corp and other Ugandan NGOs, our social enterprise, Brick by Brick Construction Company has built over 90 such systems throughout Uganda, providing clean water for 100,000 people throughout the country. A 30,000 liter rainwater harvesting tank, which can provide adequate water for a school community costs $2,000. Now the good news.... if well maintained our rainwater tanks have a life span of 30 years or more, that's 18 cents per day to provide water for 500 students! 

What can you do to guarantee clean water as a human right?

Over 12 million people in Uganda lack access to clean, safe water, so we still have a way to go. Brick by Brick is nothing without our powerful partners both in Uganda and here in the U.S. So here are a few ideas:

  • Throw a Water Party Fundraiser with a goal of raising enough money for Brick by Brick to build a rainwater harvesting tank. You can save money by serving clean, cold water as your beverage of choice!
  • Start a Crowd Sourcing project to provide clean water for an entire school of 500 students. We can provide pictures and great stories to get you started.
  • You can partner with us in ensuring access to clean water for all children by clicking DONATE

Frances draws clean water from a Brick by Brick rainwater harvesting tank

For more information on how you can partner with Brick by Brick e-mail us at:

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Brick by Brick Construction Company Masons - Photo by Jon Wallen When we started Brick by Brick Construction in January of 2011, our ambitions were very modest. At the time, our only program involved partnering with free Universal Primary Education Schools to rebuild crumbling classrooms, water and sanitation systems. So when Peace Corp volunteer Jonathan Blanchard and local community leader Max Ssenyonga presented the idea of creating a small construction company utilizing an innovative and environmentally sustainable technology to make bricks (Interlocking Stabilized Soil Bricks), it seemed like a good fit.

Five and a half years later, we have gone farther than we could have imagined in those early days. We have completed 90 construction projects throughout Uganda. Our rainwater harvesting systems are now providing clean, safe drinking water for approximately 100,000 people. While we are all very proud that we have been a profitable enterprise in each of our first five years of operation, the financial bottom line does not really tell the whole story. From the beginning, we have been committed to creating a new model for business that sees social enterprise as a catalyst to improving the health and economic wellbeing of our communities. Our mason staff has been steadily employed for the past four years. We have established a profit-sharing plan, distributing 15% of net profits to our highly skilled workers. We meet regularly with our employees, who have significant input into our company policies. As we have implemented new quality assurance systems, our masons have provided valuable input to ensure success and full partnership.

In the past several months we have expanded our product services beyond the construction of houses, schools, water and sanitation systems. While our masons often lack higher education, we are blessed with a highly skilled and intelligent staff, with real world experience not taught in a traditional classroom. Last month, we facilitated a highly successful weeklong training in solar systems installation attended by our masons and construction management team. This month we will install our first solar system at the Kirumba Primary School, providing electricity to this school of 500 students for the first time.

Late last year I attended a staff meeting with our skilled masons. Profit-sharing distributions were on the agenda but before discussing this I asked our masons a question.

“In a typical business, who keeps the profits?”

All were in agreement and answered almost in unison, “The owners.”

“So, who gets the profits from Brick by Brick Construction?”

“ The profits go back to the community to build schools and water tanks.”

“And where do the rest of the profits go?”

There was a minute of silence before our Chief Mason Sunday Kimera stood and said, “They go to us, the masons.”

“So, who owns Brick by Brick Construction Company?”

The 12 assembled masons began to laugh with recognition of their newly discovered ownership, “We do!”

Brick by Brick Construction Company is forging a new path for social enterprise in Uganda. We have much to learn. This year we began to implement a marketing plan, with the first of our radio ads hitting the airways. Building a successful construction business is not easy and its not without its pitfalls, but if our 13 years working in Uganda has taught us anything is that persistence combined with a willingness to learn from our mistakes pays off in the end, and not just in terms of money but in improving the lives of our employees and the communities we serve.

The Power of the Sun

Brick by Brick Construction Company Staff at Solar Energy Training Brick by Brick Construction Company is a social-enterprise committed to the "Triple Bottom Line", People, Planet and Profit. So it should not come as a surprise when we decided to expand our services to include the instillation of solar energy systems. Facilitated by our newest intern Elie Bou-Gharios, a third-year student at the McGill University Faculty of Engineering, our mason and senior engineering staff participated in a week long training led by staff of the Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation (CREEC). This is an organization, founded in 2001 and affiliated with Makerere University College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology, whose mission is “To enhance access to modern types of energy through research, training and consultancy in East-Africa.”

The training was attended by ten of our skilled mason staff, as well as by our Construction Manager David Mutesaasira, and Engineering Intern James Murduca. Our staff worked along side the CREEC Trainers and learned the basic theory behind solar energy systems appropriate for our communities, as well as the skills needed to install these systems for homes, schools, health centers, etc. Our mason and senior staff worked side by side since we were all beginners when it came to acquiring this new knowledge and skill. The training was a complete success and we have already begun planning our first solar project. installing a solar energy system for Kirumba Primary School!

Engineering Intern James Murduca, Senior Mason Charles Kabagabo, Construction Manager David Mutesaasira

Providing Educational Opportunity for Prisoners in Uganda: A New Partnership

Brick by Brick Construction staff met with Professor Arthur Sserwanga PhD and his team to discuss an exciting new project to build classrooms for prisoners at Masaka Prison. Professor Sserwanga is the Vice Chancellor of Muteesa Royal University here in Masaka and has a long track record of successfully advocating and delivering effective prison reform in Uganda. Partnering with Professor Sserwanga was recent Pitzer College graduate Ashton Hoselton, who has a background in prison education programs in the U.S. Brick by Brick Construction will be building adequate classroom space for the Masaka Prison so that essential educational and vocational programs can begin. In addition, we will be providing training and income generating construction jobs to the prisoners who will fully participate in this project. The prisoners will soon become students in classrooms they have helped build themselves. Ugandan prisoners at Masaka Prison have no classrooms in which to learn.


Brick by Brick Construction Co. Manager David Mutesaasira and Engineering Intern James Murduca at UWASNET Conference in Kampala Brick by Brick attended the Uganda Water and Sanitation Network's Annual Conference. We were well represented by Brick by Brick Construction Manager, David Mutesaasira and Engineering Intern James Murduca. David and James presented a slide show of our work in the WASH sector throughout Uganda and met many potential partners and clients.

St Tereza Primary School Construction Underway

Classroom Building Construction at St. Tereza Primary School Our construction of a multi-purpose hall with our environmentally friendly interlocking stabilized soil bricks at St. Tereza Primary School continues! Students and teachers will soon be able to study and learn in this new building. We expect to complete construction by November 1st.


New Classroom Building at Nakasoga Primary School A classroom and library building at Nakasoga Primarty school which has been in construction for the last two months was finished. The building encompasses one classroom for over 50 students, a library which can accommodate over 100 students and a storeroom. We are grateful for the partnership of the Nakasoga parents, who contributed 25% of the value to complete this project.

Providing Safe Drinking Water for Ugandan Students

Water.PEAS Arua Tank.22.7.15 Construction of two 30,000 liters tanks was finished last week at PEAS (Promoting Equality in African Schools) Akoromit High School. The school administration has commended the company for the way the masons are committed on doing their work. Two more tanks are to be constructed at PEAS Appeulai High school by the end of this week.

Progress at Nakasoga Primary School

Brick by Brick Masons Construct Classroom at Nakasoga Primary School We have reached the wall plate level on the Nakasoga Primary school Classroom/ library block. We shall be finishing the roofing and plastering this week. The building has been constructed using our Interlocking Stabilized Soil Bricks which has made it look very lovely. The hope is that the library will increase literacy level at the school.

Brick by Brick Partners with Engineers Without Borders Germany

Water.GayazaUndergroundTank.4.5.15We have been working hand in hand with funding non-profit, Engineers Without Borders Germany, and the Gayaza Community to finish constructing our largest tank to date - a 60,000 Liter underground tank to provide the whole Vocational School with a sustainable water source.

Providing Clean Water and Training Students at Gayaza Vocational School

Education. GayazaTraining1.13.3.15.JBWe have begun training vocational students at Gayaza Vocational School in the creation of ISSB Bricks. In addition to supplying a sustainable water source in the form of an underground rain water harvesting tank of 60,000 liters (our biggest tank to date), we are spreading the environmentally sustainable technology of ISSBs for future generations!


Brick by Brick Promotes Sanitation that Supports the Environment

Ecosan Meeting at UMEA Primary School in Kalisizo, Uganda For the past year Brick by Brick Uganda has been performing a study to research whether Ecosan toilets are feasible alternatives in primary school communities in Uganda. Ecosan are composting toilets that can replace pit latrines as the dominant sanitation system in sub-Saharan Africa. Led by Peace Corp volunteer and environmental engineering student, John Trimmer , we have learned that with appropriate community education and sensitization, this technology is readily accepted by students and teachers alike. Interviews and focus groups were held in a sampling of communities, including that of UMEA Primary and St. Andrews Matale Hill Primary schools. Our findings clearly show that after a year of experience with this technology, negative attitudes can change.

Ecosan toilets produce fertilizer that can be used to replenish the soil and can even be a potential source of income for struggling rural school communities. We hope to begin Phase II of this project by  having Ecosan address the entire sanitation needs of a school community.


Brick by Brick's Expanding Mission

[portfolio_slideshow id=1995] For the past five years Brick by Brick has widened the scope of its work with partnering communities in rural Uganda. Since our founding in 2003, our focus has been on improving the quality of education by building sound infrastructure for free Universal Primary Education (UPE) schools. With the success of our social enterprise, Brick by Brick Construction, which employs 12 skilled masons and has turned a profit in each of its four years, we began to realize the value of a more holistic approach to development. Brick by Brick has a unique opportunity to partner with local communities to promote sustainable development. Over the last three months, our Board of Directors has been developing a new 5-year Strategic Plan. After receiving valuable feedback from both Ugandan and US staff and stakeholders, we will now expand our work to partner with communities to address the following critical needs:

  • Access to quality health care: Brick by Brick will now work to address critical gaps in health care delivery, focusing on improving the physical infrastructure of health centers and hospitals and the knowledge and skills of providers.
  • Health Education: We will continue to expand on the success of our My Pads Program, which educates young women about reproductive health, while teaching them to fabricate their own reusable menstrual pads. In 2015, we plan to launch a new program, an HIV Peer Education Program    (HI PEP) for secondary school students.
  • Water and sanitation: Brick by Brick has already built water and sanitation systems throughout Uganda and we will continue to implement community-based solutions in this critical sector.
  • Economic Opportunity: We will continue to expand Brick by Brick Construction Company, which provides good paying jobs and training for our communities, while providing revenue to support our programs.

As our new Mission Statement affirms Brick by Brick will:

Create partnerships that improve education, health and economic opportunity in East Africa.

Together with our Ugandan partners, we have accomplished much in the last eleven years. We look forward to even greater change in the future!



Nearing the Finish Line at UMEA Primary School

We have begun one of the last major steps towards completing our partnership with UMEA Primary School, a Sister School of Kennedy-King Elementary School in Brooklyn, New York. This valuable partnership has thrived for over five years. Kennedy-King has helped UMEA to complete the steps necessary to reach a level of infrastructure that qualifies as a Brick by Brick Standard UPE school. This current project involves the renovation of a two classroom block with an office in the center. The renovation will cover the removal of the old iron sheets, plastering, flooring, installing the verandah, painting the walls, as well as shuttering the windows and doors.

As you can see in the pictureEducation.UMEA.Construction.8.9.14.JB, the roofing has kicked off our construction in order to prevent the upcoming rainy season from interfering with future construction. We plan to complete the full renovation in just under a month. The UMEA and Kennedy-King partnership has been incredibly productive and we couldn't be more excited to finally complete all construction plans to reach all appropriate standards of infrastructure.

Lessons Learned at Ndeija

We have finished our pilot tank project with British NGO: PEAS: Promoting Equality in African Schools. They contracted us to build one 30,000 L tank for the Ndeija School they funded near Rukungiri. We have learned a lot from this project due to some unforeseen difficulties. Due to poor quality, thicker soil during the construction process, our tanks had some small leakages for the first couple weeks after construction. This was the first time in our short but busy history that a tank suffered any problems similar to this upon completion.Water.PEAS. Ndeija.4.9.14.MxS Our commitment to excellence ensured that we followed up consistently with our stakeholders in this project: the construction manager of PEAS as well as Comrade, the director of the Ndeija school. We sent a crew of masons to plug and repair the leaks and worked closely with Comrade to alleviate any concerns about the tank that still remained. The experience was invaluable in proving our positive partnerships with clients and consistent efforts to provide the quality of work that has grown to be expected of us throughout Uganda.

Brick by Brick Seeks To Improve Health Through Quality Housing For Health Care Providers

According to the Ugandan Ministry of Health, only 20-25% of health workers have housing at their place of work. In combination with inadequate salaries and housing allowances this situation results in many providers living far from their health centers or hospitals and is a major contributor to the 'brain drain' of trained professionals from rural under-served communities where they are most needed. The inevitable result is a lack of qualified personnel, increased absenteeism and long response times to life threatening emergencies. Brick by Brick is currently looking at how we can help alleviate this problem through the construction of quality housing for doctors, nurses and midwives. By leveraging our experience in environmentally-friendly construction, we can begin to address this barrier to greater access to quality health care for Ugandan families.

Pictures Are Worth A Thousand Words

A Message from Brick by Brick Executive Director Marc Sklar who is in Uganda to meet with our local staff and plan our work for the coming year. Greetings from Kalisizo, Uganda. Today I visited one of our newest partnering school communities, the St Tereza Kajaguzo Primary School, a free Universal Primary Education school in rural Uganda. Meeting with students, parents and teachers we shared the dramatic transformation that has occurred in this school over the past six months. Seven classrooms and a staff office that were crumbling, with dirt floors, have been completely renovated. Thanks to the full partnership of the local community, who have contributed significantly in labor and materials, we have accomplished the first two phases of our work plan for just over $18,000. Today I heard words of thanks for Brick by Brick's work at St. Tereza and I in turn thank all of our partners both here and in the US who have made our success to date a reality. There is much more to do but today was a day to acknowledge how far we have come in just six months. Classroom Building in June 2013Same Building TodaySt Tereza Classroom June 2013Same Classroom Today