The global nonprofit organization buildOn operates youth outreach after-school activities in disadvantaged areas of America, helps communities in need and constructs schools in impoverished nations. To make a large-scale effect, buildOn collaborates with colleges to advance the local community through different chapters of school clubs.

“The buildOn club at SHU supports all kinds of educational and anti-poverty efforts in the local community, in keeping with SHU’s mission to promote the common good and develop students who actively address civic needs,” said Dr. Brian Stiltner, a professor of philosophy, theology, and religious studies and co-academic advisor of buildOn.

This semester alone, Sacred Heart University, through buildOn, has constructed desks for the Bridgeport school system, produced blankets for the local women’s shelter, crafted cards for the elderly and held a book drive for the community that received over 500 donations.

Through participation in the collection and final donation phases, the club helps students understand the difference they have made through volunteering.

“Going to the shelters and community centers to donate the books and seeing how grateful the people were to have access to literature shows how even doing something small like donating books to underprivileged people can have such a huge impact on their lives,” said sophomore James Moore.

The impact of buildOn expands past local communities into international ones.

According to the buildOn official site, the nonprofit built 2,215 schools in eight developing countries. Sacred Heart’s buildOn raised money to fund the development of three schools constructed by students.

“Volunteering through buildOn and similar organizations is a great way to give back to one’s community. All of us at SHU know the value of education, which is why we are here, and volunteering with buildOn helps bring the benefits of high-quality education to kids who are eager to improve their lives,” said Stiltner.

In January 2020, 18 members of buildOn went to Africa to build a school.

“I saw what the opportunity of education could do for people, and I felt a draw to keep education at the forefront of my life. I actually switched my major to education because of my experiences with buildOn,” said senior club president Kaylee Bowman.

The club wants to build its fourth school in Africa in 2023, but they need to raise $32,000 to achieve this goal.

At Sacred Heart, the buildOn chapter has given students an outlet to find a community in volunteering.

“I joined buildOn as a freshman during the second semester as I was looking for a way to get more involved in the community outside of SHU. I already have a big involvement on campus as a member of the D1 cross country and track team, but I was looking to be more involved in the outside community as I was very service oriented throughout my childhood and in high school,” said Moore.

To conclude the semester, the buildOn chapter is hosting a holiday toy drive for local underprivileged kids during the holiday, and it began on Dec. 1. The toy drive concludes with Christmas Karaoke, which begins at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9 in the NC Auditorium.

There is a $5 entry fee or a $5 fee with the addition of a toy, and the event provides patrons with on-site food and drink. One entry will enter students into a raffle to win a coffee maker.

“The educational hardships abroad are present here in the U.S. too, which is why I think this club is so important. I am excited for our toy drive and Christmas karaoke fundraiser because it is a great way to give back to our local community while spreading the powerful message of buildOn,” said Bowman.

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