1. Who we are
  2. History: The Build Africa story

History: The Build Africa story

In 2018, Build Africa turns 40. A landmark moment for our small but innovative education charity.

The story of how we became this organisation with an impact is an important one, and involves some of the most dramatic global events of the last four decades set against a changing charity landscape.

  • Originally formed as International Christian Relief (ICR) in 1978, we were set up in response to the “Vietnamese Boat People” crisis as refugees fled the fallout of the Vietnam War. Working in camps across Thailand, we joined an international coalition of charities assisting with vital sanitation and education projects – an approach that would become our focus in future.
  • ICR went on to respond to some of the most devastating humanitarian crises of the 1980s. We were on the frontline of relief efforts for widespread famines in Ethiopia, Sudan and Uganda. We also sent emergency medical teams to immunise children against polio in projects across Africa and established life-saving feeding programmes as the continent’s population grew.
  • As the 1990s dawned, ICR turned its attention to the catastrophic HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda, opening the first AIDS Information Centre in Kampala to provide much-needed support and counselling. Meanwhile, our newly-established education programme began to take off with 58 classrooms built across rural Kenya in 1993 alone.
  • ICR began to move with changing practices in development. We separated from our US-based umbrella organisation in 1996 to become International Care and Relief, and created new partners in Kenya and Uganda as we shifted to longer-term development projects.
  • Humanitarian response was still an integral part of our action. We were one of the first aid agencies to reach refugees from the brutal war in Kosovo and helped survivors following devastating flooding in Venezuela. However, it’s in education that we found an untapped potential to change lives as our child sponsorship programme began to support children worldwide, from Cambodia and the Philippines to Lebanon and Zaire (now the DRC).
  • With two decades of experience in East Africa, in the early 2000s we chose to refine our focus on sustainable development projects in the region. We launched our flagship Build a School programme in 2004, a scheme that has since helped hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children receive a quality education and break free from poverty.
  • In 2007 we officially became Build Africa. Our approach became more sophisticated and our impact stronger, boosted by complimentary programmes to help parents earn a secure living and support their children’s education.
  • The past decade has seen us build on these solid foundations as we address the needs of children at home, at school and in the community – working together with parents and teachers across Kenya and Uganda to overcome the barriers of poverty and inequality. Together, we now create sustainable projects that will ensure children for generations receive the education and opportunities they need.

This is where we are today, proud of our heritage while working for a better future.