After months of fundraising, buildOn supporters from PROjECT, an interior design firm in Chicago, are setting off soon to help break ground on a new buildOn school in Nicaragua alongside local villagers. The team is made up 13 members, including PROjECT staff, their business partners, family members and friends. Each member of the PROjECT “tribe,” as they call themselves, has played an integral role in rallying support for their school build.

We recently had a chance to talk to some of the members of the team to learn why they give back, how they fundraised and why they decided to invest in education abroad.

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Four members of the PROjECT staff and eleven of their friends, family members and collaborators are traveling to Nicaragua to break ground on a new buildOn school. The PROjECT “tribe” is pictured left to right: Lourdes Cintron, Jasmine Glover, Tara Rhode, Aimee Wertepny, Lauren Warnock and Marissa Wingo (Not pictured: Jennifer Kranitz)

Aimee Wertepney: “Dreamer, Contributor and Collaborator”

It’s easy to see why supporting buildOn was an easy match for Chicago businesswomen Aimee Wertepney.

“Giving back is in my blood,” Aimee Wertepney says. “I’ve thrived on making that part of my firm’s business model.”

Growing up, PROjECT founder Aimee was constantly inspired by her mom, who taught her the importance of giving back to others. She’s found ways to do so over the years – serving as a mentor for a young man named Malik for over a decade and even traveling to Tanzania to help build a school there. Through these experiences, Aimee has seen the impact that investing in other’s futures can have. She was first drawn to buildOn because of our mutual commitment to ensuring that children can have access to higher quality educational opportunities.

Aimee leads a team of six women every day at PROjECT. She first learned about buildOn while helping at a fundraising event for our programs and decided to get her company more involved.

“I am the dreamer, contributor and collaborator,” she says. “But we are all compelled to do something that inspires us as a group and connects us on a deeper level – as friends, family and coworkers.”

Driven by the same goal and under Aimee’s leadership, the PROjECT team has run a number of innovative fundraisers to allow others to support their school build. At their holiday party, for example, guests were invited to buy a piece of fabric for an additional $20. The donation went towards school construction costs and the fabric was added to an art installation that will live in the school in Nicaragua after the team departs. The team even invited buildOn student Tina Turner to inspire supporters by talking about her own experience breaking ground on a new school with buildOn.

When fundraising gets tough, her advice is simple.

“Reach out, think big, enlist everyone around you.”

PROjECT has done exactly that by inspiring people to support their initiative. Soon, their impact will be felt even deeper when they are collaborating with villagers from Nicaragua to achieve the ultimate goal of improved access to education.

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8-year-old Ty Warnock (pictured left) is a buildOn supporter from Chicago. He reached out to his family and friends and personally raised over $300 to support education for children from Nicaragua (pictured right). 

Lauren and Ty Warnock: A Family Affair

Your typical eight-year-old isn’t thinking much about how to make a difference in the world, but Ty Warnock isn’t like most eight-year-olds.

Lauren Warnock, a senior designer with PROjECT and Ty’s mom, already knew the importance of education when she decided to support the PROjECT team. Since her mom and sister are teachers and she wants the best opportunities for her two young sons, Lauren pledged to do her part in ending poverty and illiteracy in developing countries. Even though she will not be traveling on Trek with the PROjECT team, she decided to help fundraise.

Ty decided to get involved too. He told his family and friends about how children around the world do not have the same opportunities to go to school and asked them to donate money for the school.

“I feel good because I am helping provide an opportunity to learn. It makes me feel sad that kids aren’t getting as much help as we do,” he says.

We love Lauren’s enthusiasm for getting involved in the buildOn movement and involving her son from such a young age. Ty’s commitment for making sure that kids his age around the globe are able to go to school is also inspiring. If Ty could meet the students he is helping to have better access to education, he would encourage them to go to school every day.

“What you do today will help you now, in a few years and in your whole life,” he says simply.

This long-lasting benefit of education is exactly why we have committed to building schools in some of the world’ economically poorest communities. The Warnocks hope to go on another school building trip with buildOn when Ty is old enough. For now, they are proving how easy it is to get involved in making a difference when you explain to people why education matters to you.

Helen Rek: The Best Birthday Ever?

Helen Rek joined the PROjECT Trek team to help build a school and celebrate her 60th birthday a little differently than most.

As an account executive and fabric saleswoman, Helen has been a key collaborator with the PROjECT staff for many years. She knew that plans were in the works for the design firm to travel to build a school with buildOn and was inspired to play her part in helping children have better access to education. She is excited for a hands on experience where she can interact directly with community members and physically help construct the school.

“Some of my friends were asking why I chose to immerse myself in a trip that involves so many travel costs and why didn’t I just stay in the States. But I am passionate about the cultural experience and putting myself in a situation where something, in this case education, is needed and I can see the impact I’m making firsthand,” she says.

Helen started sharing information about her upcoming trip on social media and found that people were enormously responsive. A lot of support came from close friends and family, but she also saw people she had not talked to in years show their support as well. She raised $2,500 and surpassed her personal fundraising goal simply.

Helen has experience volunteering in her own community and with fundraising, but she’s most excited for the full immersion that comes with a school building trip. When she celebrates her birthday at the end of this year, Helen will be able to look back and see the impact that she’s made in the lives of generations of Nicaraguans.