Uplifting Communities with Travis Van Winkle: buildOn Global Ambassador

You’re probably used to seeing Travis Van Winkle as Cary Conrad in You, on the big screen in Transformers, or starring alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in FUBAR which premiered on Netflix on May 25. But you might not be familiar with his role as buildOn Global Ambassador––a journey that began 10 years ago when he first learned about buildOn’s mission and committed himself to helping us end the poverty and illiteracy crises worldwide. 

For the past decade Travis has tirelessly raised funds for buildOn and joined us on Trek to countries such as Malawi and Nepal––helping to build 10 schools which have given hundreds of students the opportunity to learn in a safe and conducive environment. And just last year, Travis traveled to the community of Santhiou Sine in Senegal where children studied in a shelter with just one classroom and a handful of desks, making learning difficult and even dangerous because of heavy rains during the rainy season. But thanks to Travis’ help and his partnership with buildOn and the community members of Santhiou Sine, their children now have a brand new spacious school to learn in, built in a sustainable way that will support families for generations. Plus, the community is currently expanding their teaching staff and working to bring even more out-of-school children back to the classroom through buildOn’s Enroll program.

Travis in Santhiou Sine, Senegal in 2022

Hollywood Goes to Malawi

During his first Trek with buildOn in 2015, Travis enlisted the help of some friends including Geoff Stults (Wedding Crashers and The Break-Up) and Erin Cahill (Power Rangers Time Force and Sleepy Hollow) to build a new school in Dickson, Malawi. Even though the community already had a primary school and one teacher, the grass-thatched structure was too small to accommodate all of the students who wanted to learn, and was vulnerable to Malawi’s weather extremes which include intense rainfall, dry spells, and even flash floods. Fortunately, the new buildOn school that Travis and his team built with the families of Dickson has transformed the lives of everyone who lives there. While parents used to be afraid to send their children to school five miles away or endure the unstable conditions of their village’s school, they now have a safe place to learn in their own community.

Travis on his first Trek with buildOn in Dickson, Malawi in 2015

Because of Travis’ longtime support, hundreds of students, previously out-of-school children, and adult learners now have a seat in the classroom and a newfound sense of hope. His partnership with buildOn has helped shine a light on the link between poverty and illiteracy, and the ripple effect of his efforts will continue to make an impact for generations to come. And for that, we are incredibly grateful.

If you’re inspired by Travis’ work with buildOn and want to make your own impact, consider building a school with us or supporting our programs with a donation today.