To tell the story of youth from the innercity joining forces with remote villagers worldwide, we took a camera crew on an incredible journey with us from one of the United States’ toughest neighborhoods in the Bronx all the way to Nepal. In that beautiful, mountainous country, high school students from NYC constructed buildOn’s 400th global school alongside local community members who had been waiting and hoping for a way to educate themselves and their children for their entire lives.
Dalmar Nation, from the Bronx, was on that trip, and is one of the stars of the new buildOn video. We talked to Dalmar to get an inside look at the experience of trekking halfway across the world with a production team to build a school!
How did you get involved in buildOn?
A friend of mine inspired me to go. She said that the program allowed you to help people in Brooklyn, and I thought it sounded cool. I like helping people. One of the first meetings I went to was a coastal cleanup–we went to Brighton Beach to clean. It was an awesome day of cleaning up, on the beach, with friends. And then I just started going to more projects and more projects, and it sounded like a fun program to join.
What were your first thoughts after being chosen to go on the school building trip to Nepal?
I didn’t know what to expect. I really didn’t. I’d never been out of the country before. And when we got there, there was no pavement on the road, there was mud everywhere. I was like, “wow”. And we were there to build a school. It was an exciting challenge.
What was it like staying with a village family in Nepal?
Everything was different there. The food was different. I’m not a vegetarian, but when I was over there, we never touched meat. I missed it so much. But it was great because I got to communicate with the villagers, eat their food, and really get to know them. I kept thinking, “These people are too nice. They’re really too nice.” It was an incredible experience. A different culture, a different place, a different time.
What was your experience like being featured in the video?
My dream is to become an actor. So when they asked me to be in the video I thought, “why not start there?” Luca, the guy who filmed me, had me do a lot of tough stuff on camera–moving sand and mixing cement. I didn’t know how to do those things at first. I learned so much over there. I felt much more at ease with myself in Nepal because you don’t have the same resources there that you have here in the states, but there’s less to worry about. Less stress.
On screen, you have a relationship with a Nepali boy named Dehendra. Was there a relationship offscreen?
Definitely! Off screen, he’s a funny kid. Every time I see him he’s got a smile on his face. And he’s got this incredible conviction…I taught him some words in English and he was using them pretty quickly. We played soccer together. He was so awesome, really helpful. I was glad he was in the video with me.
Has the school building trip influenced any of your daily life since you’ve returned?
I try to eat fewer fattening foods, like McDonald’s and crackers. I got tired of eating that stuff after eating nothing but vegetables in Nepal. I eat a lot of whole wheat and vegetables now.
You’re a senior–where do you want to go from here?
I’d like to be a bio-med engineer. My dream is to travel the world and discover different methods of treating the body from different cultures. I feel like I’d live longer and look younger longer if I lived in Nepal. Even the elderly women that helped us build the school had so much strength. They look younger than they are. There’s wisdom there.
Watch the video below and look out for Dalmar!