2016: A Milestone Year of Service

This past year was special for buildOn. In 2016, buildOn constructed our 1,000th school, celebrated our 25th anniversary, and made huge progress toward breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations. Please join us in taking a look back at some of our favorite service and education moments from this past year.

In the United States

This past year, more than 18,000 U.S. high school students gave back to their communities with buildOn. By serving more than 190,000 hours in the Bay Area, Boston, Bridgeport, Chicago, Detroit and New York, our youth inspired hope and fostered positive change in some of the most underserved communities in America. Here are just a few of the ways our amazing students gave back:

Acting as mentors and tutors for the next generation of students.



Cooking meals and serving those in need at food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters.


Spending time with seniors and visiting hospitals to spread good will.


 Preparing meals and hitting the streets to fight homelessness and hunger.



Caring for community members with special needs.

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Standing up for important community issues and advocating for change.



Committing to stopping the violence in their neighborhoods and schools.


And NBC’s TODAY Show visited our service learning program at Bassick High School in Bridgeport to tell the stories of two of our incredible students. Watch the clip below to see the inspiring work Steve & Faby are doing with buildOn.


In the Developing World

In 2016, buildOn continued to construct schools in rural villages in seven of the world’s economically poorest countries. By breaking ground on 189 in Burkina Faso, Haiti, Mali, Malawi, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Senegal, we are ensuring that everyone has access to education. This past year, more than 137 children, parents, and grandparents went to class in buildOn schools across the world.


A young student sits in a new buildOn classroom in Senegal. buildOn broke ground on 189 schools in developing countries around the world in 2016.

buildOn was able to break ground on 189 schools because of our incredibly generous supporters and volunteers. In rural communities around the world, community members contributed more than 250,000 volunteer work days building schools to insure that their neighbors, friends and family members would have increased access to quality classrooms. Hundreds of volunteers and students from buildOn’s US Service Learning Programs, Global Community Teams, corporate partners and teams of compassionate individuals traveled from all over the U.S., Europe and Asia to help in school construction projects.

We also had a very special Trek group from General Electric travel to Senegal in 2016 to celebrate the completion of our 1,000th school. From our very beginning 25 years ago, GE has worked side-by-side with buildOn to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations. That’s why we dedicated our 1,000th school to GE in honor of twenty-five years of support for our movement. Our students also got the chance to commemorate buildOn’s long partnership with GE by ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange with members of GE in November. 

Please watch the video below of the GE Trek to Senegal to celebrate 25 years and 1,000 schools:



Two-thirds of the world’s 775 million illiterate adults are women. But buildOn is proud to say that 78% of students learning to read and write in Adult Literacy Programs in buildOn schools around the world are female.

A young boy attends class inside a new buildOn school in Nicaragua.

The past year also presented some enormous challenges for our global movement. As the year began, an act of senseless violence took the life of buildOn Trek Coordinator Ahmed Kere, who gave his life protecting others from a terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Ahmed played an invaluable role in buildOn’s work in Burkina Faso, helping to build 28 schools where 3,200 children learn every day. Much of our work in 2016 was dedicated to Ahmed’s legacy and we continue to honor his wish that every child be granted a path out of poverty. In October, Hurricane Matthew stuck Haiti, leaving a path of destruction throughout much of the region we serve. Sixty buildOn communities were some of the hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew, with nearly all of the homes and farms sustaining serious damage. Fortunately, buildOn schools (which are often the most structurally-sound buildings in the villages they serve) sustained relatively minor damage and provided life-saving shelter to thousands during and immediately after the storm.

Building a Foundation for the Future

In 2016, our incredible supporters rallied around the buildOn mission to help us celebrate twenty-five years of service and education and ensure that we will continue breaking the cycle in the years to come.

In November, the buildOn 25th Anniversary Gala in New York City raised $3.4 million for service and education programs in the U.S. and developing world.



In March, we celebrated International Women’s Day with our partner In a Perfect World Foundation and dozens of other amazing women who share our commitment to gender equality.



In July, the incredible Rodan + Fields community rallied more than 261,000 people to share ‘makeup-free selfies’ for #RFGoNaked Day, which raised $360,356 and funded more than 60,000 buildOn service learning days! The Rodan + Fields Prescription for Change Foundation contributed more than $1.5 million in total to buildOn in 2016, celebrated buildOn at the Rodan + Fields Convention in October, and joined us for 36 hours of service and community immersion on Chicago’s West Side earlier in the year.



In April, we celebrated our partnership with Solar City’s GivePower Foundation on Earth Day. Since the inception of our partnership with Solar City in 2013, we have illuminated more than 200 schools with clean, sustainable solar power.



During the spring, hundreds of buildOn supporters attended fundraising dinners in the Bay Area, Boston and Chicago, which raised more than $1 million dollars to support service and education in the United States and the developing world.



In August, over 100 buildOn staff from across the globe came together to learn, collaborate, and celebrate in Stamford, Connecticut, at the second annual buildOn Conference.



None of this would have been possible without your support in 2016. A huge Thank You to everyone who donated to buildOn this past year. Thank you for standing in solidarity with us and for your support of our mission.

Because we are together, we can’t wait to do more to break the cycle in 2017.