Our Founders, Dr Martin Carey and John Denny met in South Africa many years ago. They were both inspired by the innovation and incredible commitment of people in the most disadvantaged of circumstances in and around the townships, to change the lives of those around them without thought for themselves.
Both Martin and John believe that communities across the globe have the knowledge and desire to change their circumstances for the better and when this is given support, belief, faith, love and encouragement then amazing things can happen. Therefore, their starting point in international development is a little different to what might be expected. It’s about ‘people’ and creating the opportunity for things just to be better, that’s all.
They both visited Uganda and ultimately Fort Portal where they spent time in the community talking to those people who, like those in South Africa, were doing all they could to make a difference to the lives of others. What hit them first was the sheer amount of unfinished building projects, many initiated by well-intentioned foreign NGOs who had simply run out of money. In addition, the poor physical state of many of the schools and health facilities made the delivery of sound education and health provision difficult. The fact that many of the Ugandan teachers and health workers still managed to deliver good education and health activity in very difficult circumstances, further compounded the co-founders’ belief, that what was needed was not foreign intervention into teaching and health practices but better physical facilities for Ugandans to work and study in.
They had seen all the ingredients. John saw that if his UK maintenance workforce could be linked with trainees from the local technical institute then all would benefit and his organisation in the UK would flourish. Martin saw the schools, the children, the teachers and the lack of facilities as an opportunity to rebuild and maintain the forgotten or disused and said: This could be done ‘one brick at a time’.
From its origin, they were determined to develop an NGO that held the values of mutual assistance and solidarity, provided tangible and lasting benefits to localised communities and operated, as far as possible, on the principles of a social enterprise.
The NGO worked with local Ugandan organisations, such as St. Joseph’s Technical Institute, Mountains of the Moon University and Fort Portal Diocese schools to identify local needs.
By listening to the local community they quickly identified key targets for construction projects:
They met a local priest who was focusing on making bricks to build with; they met Prof. Rugamayo with his depth of knowledge and life experience that is inspiring; local people running small businesses; those who were at the time dreaming of creating a new university; they met with the local colleges and technical training institutes and is was here that the idea of One Brick at a Time was founded.
OBAAT has a headquarters in Fort Portal which manages their local workforce and has now completed over 23 major building projects from schools to health facilities. It has also attracted local funding and is both a registered Ugandan and UK NGO. It is well respected locally and regularly approached to take on new projects.
OBAAT would like to move away from its reliance on grants and become a fully-fledged social enterprise by trying new initiatives such as fair-trade and eco-tourist attractions. Uganda has one of the fastest growing populations in the world and many opportunities can be found. Help us achieve our goals.