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.
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.