About Us

We’re not a charity. We’re a movement.

The buildOn movement is powered by passionate people from all walks of life who are committed to ending poverty through service and education. Together, we’re breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations at home and abroad. Will you join us?


What We Do

Education and service are at the heart of everything we do. Through Service Learning Programs in America’s under-served high schools and by building schools in some of the world’s economically poorest countries, we’re committed to breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations around the world.

buildOn US

Our Service Learning Programs mobilize students in under-resourced urban areas to uplift their communities through intensive local service. We run programs at 37 high schools in six U.S. regions, including Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York, the Bay Area, and Bridgeport, Connecticut.

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buildOn Global

We empower villages in some of the world’s economically poorest countries to take the lead in bringing education to their communities. Every two days, we’re constructing a new school in eight countries, including Burkina Faso, Haiti, Mali, Malawi, Nepal, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Senegal. We have built more than 2,600 schools to date.

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Meet the People Who Make Our Work Possible

buildOn is powered by passionate people committed to ending poverty through service and education.

Our Staff Our Board Diversity Statement

Jim Ziolkowski

Inspired by his passion for service and education, Jim Ziolkowski left a career in corporate finance to found the nonprofit buildOn in 1991. Since then he has served as CEO and led the organization in breaking the cycle of poverty and illiteracy around the world through buildOn’s Service Learning Program in the U.S. and Global School Construction Program in the world’s economically poorest countries. To date, buildOn has mobilized hundreds of thousands of U.S. youth in meaningful service to their communities and provided millions of children and adults with a safe place to learn. Jim is the N.Y. Times bestselling author of Walk in Their Shoes: How One Person Can Change the World, and has been featured on NBC’s TODAY Show, CNN, CBS Evening News, PBS, TED, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR. He has also been endorsed by three Nobel Peace Prize laureates including Mother Teresa, the 14th Dalai Lama, and former President Barack Obama. In 2024, Jim received an honorary PhD from St. John’s University. To schedule an interview or other media request with Jim, please email press@buildon.org.

The buildOn Movement Is Making News

Can One Person Change the World?

Walk in Their Shoes is a powerful look inside the buildOn movement and the inspiring story that made it all possible. 

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