Naheed Misfeldt has been a long-time friend of buildOn in the Bay Area. In addition to fundraising and helping to plan our Bay Area annual dinner, she volunteers with service coordinators at the high schools where we work in San Francisco. Last year she was able to build a school in Malawi while visiting friends who are doctors in that country. She said the experience was powerful and gave her a deeper understanding of buildOn’s mission.
Time affiliated with buildOn: About 8 years.
How did you get involved with buildOn?
Catarina Schwab (buildOn’s Vice President of Development, West Coast) invited me and my husband to the first buildOn dinner here in the Bay Area. We attended and were deeply moved by the student speaker and by Jim Ziolkowski (buildOn’s founder and CEO). We quickly decided to commit time to volunteer with the students. We joined them in various service activities, including clean-ups and volunteering at local soup kitchens.
As time passed, I became more involved with the dinner and joined the planning committee. In 2011 I co-chaired the event and that year we exceeded over 500 guests, which was an incredible milestone. Catarina has done an amazing job building awareness for buildOn in the Bay Area and it has been an honor to support her and the organization in various capacities.
Did you build a school with buildOn?
Yes, in March 2011 I went on an Ambassador Trek to Malawi. While I had always thought I would eventually help to build a school for buildOn, I did not think it would be something I would do until much later, when my children were older. But in 2010 I attended a buildOn cocktail party and met a family that was raising funds to build a school in Malawi. The family had two young children, who were as actively engaged in the fundraising process as their parents and I just loved the example they were setting. Also, I had just learned that a good friend of mine who was a practicing pediatrician in Lilongwe had been diagnosed with cancer. I felt this urgency to visit him and his family and I thought tying this trip to such a great cause would set a good example for my own young boys. That night, I decided I was going to build a school in Malawi! Between the family, myself and another buildOn supporter, we got to work on fundraising and set out for our trek in March of the following year. It was such a transformational experience for all of us. When I came back, I was more motivated than ever to find ways to become involved with buildOn locally.
How have you seen your contribution with buildOn make a difference?
We traveled to Malawi as part of the groundbreaking process for a new school. It was incredible seeing the entire community come together with us to build the school’s foundation. Everyone from the chiefs on down to the children welcomed us and worked alongside us. They could not believe that a group of Americans cared enough about their problems to travel to their part of the world and give their time and energy to make education available to their children. Knowing that we were helping to create an environment that would be conducive to learning for many generations to come was very rewarding.
[pullquote]Farmers who had learned to count and felt they would be more prosperous in business as a result. Women who felt empowered by being able to do something as simple as reading a bus sign, and knowing they would always be headed in the right direction. Parents who could actively participate in their children’s education, as a result of being able to read and write. These were powerful examples of buildOn in action.[/pullquote]
What really hit home for me was understanding how much the school was not only going to serve the children, but also the adults of the community. In addition to raising funds for the school’s construction, we also raised money to start an Adult Literacy Program. We had seen this program in action when visiting other buildOn schools that had been recently built in Malawi. We were able to meet participants from the program and hear about how life changing it had been. Farmers who had learned to count and felt they would be more prosperous in business as a result. Women who felt empowered by being able to do something as simple as reading a bus sign, and knowing they would always be headed in the right direction. Parents who could actively participate in their children’s education, as a result of being able to read and write. These were powerful examples of buildOn in action.
What buildOn initiatives mean the most to you?
The work being done in our local high schools and in urban high schools (in buildOn’s afterschool programs) throughout the country is very important. Many of these teenagers attend schools with very limited resources. They might come from challenging home environments. They may not have very high expectations for themselves. Being involved with buildOn transforms these students. I have seen it first hand as a volunteer in San Francisco, and through the testimonials of students who inspire us at the annual dinner. Whether returning from a local service project or building a school on trek, buildOn members are aware of the difference they are making. buildOn is developing better citizens and inspiring young people to engage with their communities through service. It’s a beautiful thing and I love seeing it in action in my own backyard.
Complete this sentence: buildOn is… life changing.