Seven-Day Volunteering Trip

Seven-Day, Six-Night All-Inclusive Volunteering Trip to Nepal or Nicaragua from buildOn

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International Grassroots Volunteering to Help Build Schools

At the age of 23, Jim Ziolkowski was poised for a career in corporate finance—but then he went trekking through rural Nepal and saw a village celebrating the opening of their first school. Seeing the townspeople's pride in this accomplishment inspired Ziolkowski to found buildOn, which has at last count helped build 453 schools in impoverished communities around the globe. In the past, the group has partnered with luminaries such as Madonna and has attracted press attention from the likes of CBS News, CNN, and the New York Times.

On this seven-day volunteering trip, you'll join forces with experienced buildOn staff, local villagers, and high-schoolers from buildOn’s afterschool program to build a two- or three-classroom school in Nicaragua or Nepal, all while staying with a host family for an immersive cultural experience. Before groundbreaking on each buildOn project, a local leadership team signs a covenant guaranteeing that villagers will share in the work of construction and that, once the school is built, girls and boys will be educated in equal numbers. BuildOn's commitment to grassroots involvement and completely transparent financial records has earned the organization a prestigious four-star rating from Charity Navigator for the past eight years in a row.

All proceeds of this Groupon go directly to buildOn, with your purchase serving as a donation to help fund the construction of the school you'll build. Your purchase also sponsors the trip of a youth in one of buildOn’s inner-city afterschool programs. If you'd like to get involved but can't make the trip, you can donate to BuildOn directly to support its adult literacy programs.

Click here for a full itinerary of both trips.

Nicaragua: Central American Culture in Mountainous Region

The Nicaragua trip begins with an overnight hotel stay in Esteli, a city in the country's mountainous northwest. Though buildOn won’t select specific communities for service projects until closer to the trip, you’ll likely travel to a village inhabited by subsistence farmers in a region blanketed by coffee-bean trees. Most meals here center on gallo pinto, a fried mixture of rice and red beans. Host families might also serve hot cheeses, mango slices, or even fried iguana.

In between workdays spent digging foundations, laying bricks, and pounding nails, you’ll attend cultural workshops and travel to an established buildOn school site, where kids take classes during the day and their parents learn to read and write in the evenings. Volunteers can help students one-on-one with their homework, or bond with community members over an impromptu baseball game. Don’t forget to leave your host family a memorable (non-monetary) thank-you gift, such as school supplies or a photo of your life in the United States.

Nepal: Remote Villages near Himalayan Foothills

Much like the Nicaragua trip, the Nepal trek includes school-construction work, cultural education, and a field trip to a sister school. However, this trip also includes time in Kathmandu, a city of more than a million people where you can see royal pagodas and richly carved temples, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The group will head to a village near the Himalayan foothills inhabited by the indigenous Tharu people. Greet your host family by pressing your palms together and saying “Ram ram." You'll likely share dishes of spiced lentils, rice, and an unleavened bread known as roti. Sleeping arrangements often involve a cot set in a section of a mud-walled house; buildOn will provide you with a mosquito net. Ernie Halvorsen and Cindy Chiang, winners of the 19th season of CBS's The Amazing Race, will be among the volunteers participating in this trip.

Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.

What You Get

Seven-day, six-night all-inclusive volunteering trip for one, not including international airfare; your purchase also sponsors a trip for an underprivileged youth in one of buildOn’s afterschool programs. Choose from two countries and four departure dates:

  • $2,583 for a Nicaragua trip from September 16 to 23
  • $2,583 for a Nicaragua trip from September 30 to October 7
  • $2,583 for a Nepal trip from October 21 to 28
  • $2,583 for a Nicaragua trip from January 20 to 27

    Included in all options:
  • Volunteering project with local community members to help build a new school
  • One-night stay in a hotel
  • Accommodations with a local host family for the rest of the trip; houses may not have electricity or indoor plumbing
  • Three meals daily in the village
  • Field trip to another buildOn school site
  • Cultural workshops
  • Airport pickup and local transport

Book by: 8/30/12

If any of the four trip options do not meet a minimum of 15 travelers, that trip will be cancelled and customers will receive a refund. Because this purchase functions as a donation, if you are unable to attend the trip for any other reason, you will not be eligible for a refund.

Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.

17 Questions

The Fine Print

  • Must book by 8/30/12
  • Limit 5 per person, may buy 5 additional as gifts
  • Limit 5 per visit
  • Valid only for option and date purchased
  • Reservation required, subject to availability
  • The purchase of this package is considered a donation and is non-refundable
  • Must be 18 or older to check in; must be 14 or older to travel
  • Valid for standard hotel room for 1st night, lodging with a host family for remainder of trip
  • This experience is physically demanding and may include exposure to high temperatures, insects, animals, allergens, and unfamiliar foods; must sign waiver
  • Airfare, passport fees, visas, and vaccinations not included
  • Minimum of 15 travelers required per option; customer will be refunded if fewer than 15 packages are sold.
  • Merchant is solely responsible to purchasers for the care and quality of the advertised goods and services.

Other Details

What It's Worth

Seven-day, six-night all-inclusive volunteering trip for one, not including international airfare; your purchase also sponsors a trip for an underprivileged youth in one of buildOn’s afterschool programs. Choose from two countries and four departure dates:

  • $2,583 for a Nicaragua trip from September 16 to 23 (up to a $5,083 value)
  • $2,583 for a Nicaragua trip from September 30 to October 7 (up to a $5,083 value)
  • $2,583 for a Nepal trip from October 21 to 28 (up to a $5,083 value)
  • $2,583 for a Nicaragua trip from January 20 to 27 (up to a $5,083 value)

    Included in all options:
  • Volunteering project with local community members to help build a new school
  • One-night stay in a hotel
  • Accommodations with a local host family for the rest of the trip; houses may not have electricity or indoor plumbing
  • Three meals daily in the village
  • Field trip to another buildOn school site
  • Cultural workshops
  • Airport pickup and local transport

Getting There

  • Nicaragua trip: arrive and depart Augusto C. Sandino International Airport (MGA) in Managua (international airfare not included)
  • Nepal trip: arrive and depart either Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM) in Kathmandu or Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) in Delhi, India (international airfare not included)

Traveler's Tips

  • Before international travel, always check the State Department's website for important info on the destination and its entry/exit requirements.
  • Volunteers will need to be able to walk long distances, lift heavy materials, and carry (not wheel) their luggage for up to half a mile.
  • All trips require routine vaccinations as well as anti-malarial medications; see itineraries for more info.
  • BuildOn staff members provide water-purifying equipment for the group.
  • BuildOn disallows gifts of money to local host families; instead, you can give board games, picture books, or art supplies.
  • In rural villages in both Nepal and Nicaragua, bathing usually requires drawing a bucket of water with a hand pump, and toilets usually consist of pit latrines.

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