Relationships Are Power for Impact

Building empathy inspires volunteers to do more
Mar 22, 2018 2:00 PM ET

Relationships Are Power for Impact

The host mothers I’ve had on most of my 17 buildOn Trek experiences have been my age. These women are typically nearing 30 years old, already have several children, and are always leading lives vastly different than my own. In Kanari, Nepal, my host mother, Priyanka, was younger than me, with two girls ages seven and five. She had gone to school for a few years as a child, but married in her teens and had been a farmer most of her life. Like many men in this part of the country, her husband worked across the border in India to earn higher wages while she spent her time farming, raising her children, and creating beautiful crafts like baskets and woven flowers.

She and the girls were ecstatic to receive a new buildOn school in their community. The village would be able to satisfy demand for more classroom space to educate their growing population, and also offer adult literacy classes.

In our daily lives, it isn’t easy to remove ourselves from individual routines to truly understand what life is like elsewhere – in neighboring cities or in distant villages on the other side of the globe, like Kanari. The nonprofit buildOn’s Trek program was created to give students, donors, and volunteers a first-hand cultural experience in underserved communities abroad, and an opportunity to ‘walk in the shoes’ of a stranger. The Trek groups do this while building schools together with the local community after the groups have personally fundraised for the school. Through relationship building across cultures, Trek volunteers and local community members develop a powerful connection that deepens impact and enhances the giving experience.

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