Over the past six months, the Harriton and Lower Merion buildOn Trek Teams worked around-the-clock in an effort to raise more than $170,000 to fund a pair of schools and supplementary adult literacy programs in rural, impoverished villages in Nicaragua and Nepal. After successfully raising the necessary dollars, the Aces and Rams boarded their flights prior to Spring Break and made their way to their respective destinations where the students were fully immersed in Nicaraguan and Nepalese culture as they lived with host families and worked side-by-side with local community members on the construction site. buildOn's holistic approach ensures that schools are built with a community rather than for a community, involving villagers as true partners and not as recipients of aid.
Although Nepal and Nicaragua's rankings on the UN's Human Development Index have steadily improved in recent decades, nearly half of the Nepalese population remains below the poverty line of US $1.25 per day, while Nicaragua is now the second lowest ranked country in front of Haiti on the Index with roughly 80% of the population earning less than $2 per day with a disproportionately large number of women living in abject poverty.
Beginning in late October, the Lower Merion and Harriton Trekkies began planning and organizing an intensive fundraising schedule, which included a wide variety of activities, from car washes, letter-writing campaigns, and a Halloween party for elementary and middle school students, to bowling nights, a Linvilla Orchards pie sale, and potluck dinners, just to name a few. Another fundraiser incorporated by the students was the sale of Breaking Grounds Free Trade Nicaraguan Coffee, which also raises money for Nicaraguan farmers and their families.
During their trips, the students made genuine cultural connections with the villagers of Bisanpur, Nepal and San Pablo, Nicaragua as they lived and ate meals with host families, toiled under the hot sun on the worksite with community members, explored various aspects of Nepalese and Nicaraguan culture through daily workshops, and learned about the lives and experiences of community members through powerful chat circles. Along with lots of time spent playing with the children of Bisanpur and San Pablo, students also enjoyed quiet time each day to journal and reflect on their experience.
Over the past eight years, the District's Trek programs have raised more than $750,000 while working with buildOn to help break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through education and service. Congratulations to all of the Harriton and Lower Merion Trekkies on a successful trip!
Harriton Trek Team: Joey Calaman, Anna Goodman, Allyson Greenberg, Kathryn Lockwood, Sarah McConnell, Hadi Rizvi, Gabby Van Hollander, Sindu Soundararajan, Meili Thompson, Emily Cohn, Charisma Hasan, Emily Glazer, Juliette Debrand, Sarah Legessee, Aidan Fleming, Raquel Levit, Samantha Raymond, Clara de Fonseca, Jamie Nemec, Megan McDermott, Todd Curyto
Lower Merion Trek Team: Eve Bickel, Izzy Bruckman, Claire Dalinka, Grace Fenlin, Clare Gonzales, Jess Gordon, Natasha Hewitt, Audrey Knoll, Bruno Kraidy, Nicole Loonstyn, David Lu, Nuala O'Neill, Sophie Roth, Shannon Rudek, Ethan Schatz, Abby Strongin, Karli Yenal, Roee Zarom, Leslie Bullitt, Dan Capkin, Tom Reed, Taryn Stevens