Building Tomorrow in East Africa
By Regina Ntongo Nalikka (B.A. Architecture '12)
In 2012 after completing my degree in Architecture at CED and two subsequent years of training at SDG architects Inc. in Brentwood CA, I left for Uganda to work with the NGO Building Tomorrow. Founded by George Srour and directed by Joseph Kalisa, Building Tomorrow catalyzes communities and individuals in support of access to quality education for students in East Africa. As a junior architect in residence, I am helping to build schools in remote rural areas of that region. The experience has been life changing.
Even though I was born in Uganda, there are so many things my eyes did not really see. Going back to Uganda after nine years as an adult and with a college education from UC Berkeley, I now recognize how unfortunate people are because they lack the opportunity to receive a quality education in a safe learning environment with safe classrooms and W.A.S.H (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Education) facilities.
Life is tough in these remote villages and there were many times when I felt like giving up. But I knew that if I showed up just one more time, I would inspire a child, a woman or a man to see the possibilities that come from education. Most importantly though, I can stand as an example to the young girls and women who never imagined that a female could receive the level of education that I have – especially in the field of architecture and construction which is still considered “a man’s world” even in the most developed parts of the country.
After a site is approved by the assessment team with the help of their guidelines, I go out into the respective village to inspect the land that has been donated by a community member for the construction of the school. I learn how much space we have to work with, take measurements if necessary, and determine how flat or steep the ground is. I ask basic questions about the soils, the sun’s direction, winds, how close the water table is (this would determine if the school would need a standard 30ft deep pit latrine or a drainable one), and research numerous other factors. All these guide my design process.
In addition to managing projects, I always take the opportunity to speak to people in these communities as well. They see me when I lead a team of men throughout the construction of their schools, they hearme when I instruct men that are much older than me. I am a woman, but I am a woman who has had the greatest of opportunity to attend one of the greatest universities in the world. And I am a woman whose parents did not look at me as an opportunity for wealth through bride price (which after all that is the greatest value of a girl over 12 years old in these villages).
It would take volumes to recount my entire experience over these past 14 months. The one thing I know is that Berkeley and CED trained me to be a strong leader, to take up challenges, to produce work of distinction. That is what I plan on doing as I positively change people’s lives here in America, across the globe in East Africa, and anywhere else I work in the world.
Read the entire Spring 2016 Frameworks Issue here.