buildOn Chapters Roadshow: Pittsburgh, PA

By Tom Silverman, Global Chapter Manager

It is with great excitement that I head out on a national tour to engage buildOn Chapters across the United States. Through advocacy and fundraising, our Chapters program spreads awareness of buildOn’s global empowerment goals and supports our school construction work in developing nations. Over the course of the next 2 ½ months, I will be meeting with Regional, University and High School Chapter members in 9 States to help with recruitment, fundraising and advocacy. And also to have a great time traveling and connecting others who are fueling the buildOn fire!

I’ll be blogging throughout my journey: Documenting my experience, sharing stories from the field and introducing you to some of buildOn’s dynamic Chapter leaders.  I encourage you to participate by posting comments, sharing the blog with friends and, if you haven’t already, start a buildOn Chapter of your own!

Stop #1: Pittsburgh

It seems somewhat significant that I begin my buildOn Chapter Tour in Pittsburgh, because that is also where I began my life.  Growing up in Pittsburgh I saw, first hand, the need for programs that engage youth on a meaningful level and expose them to the greater world around them. I had no such opportunities at my high school and the same was true for most students in the Pittsburgh region (with the exception of a few elite schools). Even today, opportunities to travel abroad on international service trips are few and far between.

[pullquote]Our group of 10 discussed the need to engage Pittsburgh youth in international service and brainstormed ways in which we could make it happen.[/pullquote]

I often think of how impactful a buildOn school building trip would have been on a teenage me. Having lead 5 of them with buildOn, I have seen the powerful and transformative effects that the program has on the youth we engage. Students are exposed to a new world and in turn, discover a new part of themselves. And they do this through helping communities in developing nations build schools! What a powerful experience for all involved. It has been a dream of mine, since starting at buildOn 3 ½ years ago, to see our impact in Pittsburgh. Thanks to the efforts of the dedicated individuals in our Regional Chapter, that dream is becoming a reality!

We kicked off our efforts by hosting the first buildOn Pittsburgh Chapter meeting on Sept. 7th. Hosted by Kate Porigow and Taku Ohkawa, our group of 10 discussed the need to engage Pittsburgh youth in international service and brainstormed ways in which we could make it happen. Hours of talking, joking and eating great food (thanks Mom!) lead us to a game plan. We decided, like many of our other Regional Chapters have, to seek a partnership with the school district in the city and other Community Based Organizations operating within the schools. We hope to be able to offer a buildOn school building trip to students in the Pittsburgh school district who show commitment to bettering their own community and who would gain from the experience. We plan to engage the Pittsburgh community to fund the construction of a buildOn school and the travel costs for the students participating in the trip.

Although we are starting from scratch, we are committed and hopeful. There is a clear need; both in Pittsburgh and the developing world. The buildOn Pittsburgh Chapter is determined to answer those needs in creative and dynamic ways. When buildOn was first started, 20 years ago, we were building one school a year, a dramatic difference from the 60 we built this past year. Like the organization as a whole, our Pittsburgh Chapter knows we have to start somewhere. We know that changing our local and global communities takes real effort and begins with us.