By Riley Morrison ’16
BuildOn, the service program created by senior Raj Vatsa ’14, aims to “break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations in the community and around the world through education,” Vatsa said.
The club, which meets every other Thursday in Mr. Paul Fisko’s room, was established in 2012. Since then they have started and participated in many service settings.
“Every month we do local service projects to tackle the local illiteracy and poverty issues,” Vatsa said, “whether that’s working at St. Mary’s food bank or St. Vincent de Paul.”
The group also participates in a global push for children’s literacy and education.
“Over the past two years, we’ve also raised over $35,000,” Vatsa said, “to travel to countries like Nicaragua and Milawi where we’ve actually lived with the community and built schools.”
Some ways the club raises money and gathers materials are extremely creative.
“For example, there are textbook recycling companies, they’ll take books and send them to schools that can use them,” Mr. Fisko said. “Raj helped organize a fair trade coffee out of Nicaragua to be purchased here. So, money was being raised in that way by providing a service by providing good, fair trade farmers coffee and that was highly successful.”
In addition, the club has contacted many local business and individuals to figure out ways of raising extra funds.
“He’s contacted dentists, to collect old fillings that are discarded,” Mr. Fisko said. “If you collect a small jar of these fillings … a filling is not that big, but it is gold, so you can raise a couple thousand dollars with just a small thing of fillings from people’s teeth.”
The club is looking to expand next year, possibly incorporating other teachers and scheduling an OFJ sanctioned immersion trip.
“Raj has set it up with the OFJ so that the trek that we offer that year becomes an endorsed OFJ immersion,” Mr. Fisko said.
However, the trip would likely be more focused on service aspects than the ones Brophy offers now.
“Too many times, I think, immersion trips can become simply let’s go see the poor and hope that has an impact on us,” Mr. Fisko said.
Though Raj is leaving next year, the club plans on staying relevant and continuing to provide support.
“We definitely have a junior, Martin Rodrigues ’15, who is going to be taking the reigns of the club next year,” Vatsa said. “He is extremely devoted to the organization, so I’m really excited for him.”
For the past two years buildOn has been providing many types of service to both the local and global community.
“These local service events are spreading awareness about what we can do to really make a difference,” Vatsa said. “By traveling to countries around the world, it helps us form these relationships with people, which is the key to helping breaking the cycle of poverty.”