They buildOn: Columbia Chapter Brings a ‘Critical Eye’ to Campus

buildOn Columbia University is an example of a movement gone viral.

The seed was planted when buildOn’s Antonia DeMichiel, an active member of the University of Oregon chapter, met Claire Wampler in high school. After Antonia started a chapter on her campus, Claire was inspired to do the same when she transferred to Columbia after her freshman year at the University of Cincinnati.

Claire, a junior and co-President of the Columbia chapter, founded the group with co-President Maud Reavill after the two met in 2011 during their transfer orientation to Barnand College (affiliated with Columbia University). Rivka Rappoport joined the group and the three raised money to build a school in Nicaragua last summer with members of the University of California, Berkeley chapter.

Now the group has eight women raising money to build a school in Malawi later this year with members of the Berkeley and New York University chapters.

One of the most efficient ways they raised money and spread advocacy for buildOn’s mission was by asking for donations from people on the street. “We asked if they wanted to end illiteracy and we ended up raising $360 in a couple of hours,” Claire says. “People were really interested in talking to us about it.”

What’s makes this chapter unique is it’s consistently uses social media to spread awareness about the chapter on campus. “We’re making sure we’re always visible by trying to post something every day. We invited all of our friends to like the Facebook page, and we post about our meetings and what we’re doing. It’s given us a lot of credibility.”

The members are branding the chapters as an interest group, Claire says, because they want to have options for members to stay connected, so they organize service projects and events. After Hurricane Sandy, the members cleaned up fallen trees and debris that littered New York’s Riverside Park. They also invited students to a screening of What are We Doing Here, a documentary about charity work in Africa, followed by a discussion of the merits and fallbacks of foreign aid.

“What we bring to campus that some of the other groups on the Columbia campus don’t bring is a critical lens of what we’re doing,” Claire says. “We’re bringing sustainable change and a critical eye.”

The Columbia ladies are $4,000 away from reaching its goal of $20,600! Visit the group’s fundraising page here. Learn how to start a chapter on your campus here.