BuildOn: Building Community Through Books

SHU’s buildOn chapter kicked off their book drive on Oct. 14 and will conclude on Nov. 1. A donation box has been placed outside of Hawley Lounge in the main academic building.

The books collected will be donated to communities in need. The club will be designating two locations by the end of the drive. The first designation is Bridgeport.

The second is still being decided but will be located in the continent of Africa. “Our goal is to donate to one of the three communities that SHU buildOn has traveled to and built a school in,” said senior SHU buildOn President Kaylee Bowman.

According to the buildOn Global website, “We build schools in eight of the economically poorest countries on the planet, providing access to education to hundreds of thousands of children, parents, and grandparents.”

In January of 2020, the club traveled to Malawi. Malawi is nestled between Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique on the eastern side of Africa. During their time there, they constructed a schoolhouse for a village that lacked resources.

Due to a lack of postal infrastructure in some African countries, the club is trying to figure out what would be the best way to deliver the books. SHU buildOn has partnered with Afribuk to see what strides can be made there.

Afribuk Society was founded by a Kenyan native who did not have access to quality literature as a child. Dr. Katie Egan Cunningham, a Sacred Heart education professor, serves as the board’s president. 

According to Afribuk Society’s website this is their mission statement: “To promote joyful literacy experiences in under-resourced communities through the power of stories and human connection. Afribuk Society is a youth-led program that supports college and university students to share books and stories from their own lives with children.”

Similarly, the mission of buildOn is to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education.

“buildOn’s mission is so important to me. I am really proud of the work our club has done with the book drive because I think it hits every single aspect of that,” said Bowman. 

Others on campus have realized the impact that this book drive is set to make both to the local and international community.

“I think it is an excellent opportunity to give back to our local and global community,” said sophomore Maeve Cahill, Student Government Director of Clubs and Organizations. “Encouraging early reading is important because it promotes independence and self- confidence and sets kids up for a more successful future. We should all try and make it a priority to donate.”

In just a week, the club collected over 500 books. This exceeded their original goal of 200. SHU’s buildOn team decided to up the goal five-fold and are now hoping to hit 1,000 books by Nov. 1. 

“I am really looking forward to this club’s continued success and am wishing them all the best for this academic year,” said Cahill.

Bowman and her team are hoping that this book drive’s success will help them moving forward with new projects. 

“Once the book drive is over, we are going to shift that momentum into a toy drive. We will also be making blankets to donate to a women’s shelter in early November. In, pre-COVID times we have entirely funded and built schools in Senegal, Malawi, and Nepal. We are hoping to do that again in the near future,” said Bowman.

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