A while back when we were looking for buildOn advisors to profile for the series, we asked buildOn staff for recommendations. Joanna Branch, Pennsylvania’s Regional Supervisor, sent us an email touting Maeve O’Hara, a math teacher at Bodine High School for International Affairs. “She really gets our program,” Joanna wrote. “She joins us for service regularly and always goes above and beyond. She’s totally energetic, passionate about education, AMAZING and supportive.”
We called Maeve just a couple of days before she headed out to build her second buildOn school abroad, this time in Nepal. During our interview she managed to make photocopies for her students while simultaneously giving us thoughtful answers for this profile, then promptly sent us photos of herself. Multitasking while under stress after a full day of work: that’s what makes our advisors truly amazing.
What are your thoughts about this second trip?
I’m really excited about it. I’ve felt really prepared and I’ve been preparing the students for it, but I’ve never been to Asia and it’s a completely different and new experience. I absolutely love embracing new cultures and explaining them to people. [The chance to build school abroad with buildOn] enables students to truly be immersed and to embrace the cultures of their new home for two weeks.
How did you get involved with buildOn?
I was a new teacher at my high school and they needed a new sponsor for buildOn. I heard that the organization was about education and global awareness and that every year they take students to developing countries to build a school, and I said, “Me, me, me, that’s right up my alley.” I love service. And it was it was just a great fit. I was a lot like these buildOn kids myself in high school. I went to Ecuador on an immersion mission trip in high school, and the idea of traveling abroad and bridging cultural gaps and truly seeing how others live is really important to me. And I know the difference it can make in students’ lives because of the difference it made in mine.
How has buildOn changed your life?[pullquote]Seeing students as well-rounded human beings is a really important thing, and with my work in buildOn they can see me in that way.[/pullquote]
I’d say that as a teacher it enables me to share my love of service, culture, education, global awareness and all those things that buildOn stands for in a way I couldn’t have otherwise. I’m a math teacher. buildOn helps me bring that other side of myself to the classroom and I’m really thankful for that. So my kids know that I do African dance, and know that I do service on the weekend, and know that I have traveled to many different places in the world and seen how people lived because I’m able to put that in the spotlight in the program. It’s not about me, but it really helps foster meaningful relationships with kids beyond mathematics. Seeing them as well-rounded human beings is a really important thing, and with my work in buildOn they can see me in that way.
What are some of your favorite memories working with buildOn?
The Atlantic City beach sweeps are really fun because kids get out of the city and do service, and they’re having fun. And they see, oh my goodness, all this trash is on the beach and people shouldn’t smoke because there are cigarette butts everywhere. I love seeing that knowledge by being awakened.
In regards to my school building trip to Mali, my favorite memory was one night when the women of my village brought pots of water out and started playing just on these gourds of water, and we just started dancing – just the women and children. It felt like out of nowhere these women were just emerging and it was totally fabulous. It was magical to be there. I studied African dance in college and it became very near and dear to my heart. Anytime there was dancing in the village it was like this piece of me was coming alive for the first time and I was so deeply, profoundly happy.
Complete this sentence: buildOn is… action. buildOn creates space for students to explore who they are and who they want to become in the world.