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Rutgers club helps build schools for children worldwide

<p>Courtesy of Sayeeda Rab | RU buildOn raises funds for students to construct school buildings around the world. The group’s members go on a “global trek,” where they visit 1 of 7 different countries. To date, nearly 800 schools have been built.</p>

Courtesy of Sayeeda Rab | RU buildOn raises funds for students to construct school buildings around the world. The group’s members go on a “global trek,” where they visit 1 of 7 different countries. To date, nearly 800 schools have been built.

A new club at Rutgers is working to change the face of voluntourism, leaving a footprint both internationally and locally.

BuildOn aims to educate students about community service, the education crisis and explain how they can get involved, said Sayeeda Rab, president of the club and a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

Working in some of the poorest countries on the planet, buildOn creates schools in villages that have no adequate school structures. The organization has built more than 780 schools in seven countries, according to their website.

Worldwide, nearly 900 million people cannot read or write, according to buildOn.org.

“During our general meetings we talk about why service is important,” Rab said. “We talk about the education crisis that's happening in the world and how spending 11 days on a global trek is going to help save so many kids who could not have received an education.”

Throughout the year, RU buildOn will be raising funds for each individual who would like to become involved in ending the education crisis and participating in the global trek, Rab said.

A main goal of RU buildOn is to encourage students to volunteer to help others, rather than simply to add a line to their resumes, Rab said. The Rutgers chapter works with the group's parent organization, which provides support for students hoping to go on the trek.

This global trek is an opportunity to fundraise and travel to build a school in the developing world, according to buildOn’s website.

During the global trek, buildOn hires skilled laborers from the local area to help build the school and work with the students on the trip, Rab said.

“So not only do we build a school, but we also provide jobs for the people in the community during that time,” Rab said.

Helping one's local community should not be ignored. The international community should not be students' main focus because that can turn into that "volunteerism," said Mahir Sufian, the club’s fundraising chair.

“Your primary focus is to make sure you’re making an impact wherever you are, whether its internationally or locally," the School of Arts and Sciences junior said.

Participating at an international level is not enough, said Anza Rizvi, the committee service chair. RU’s buildOn encourages students to participate not only in the global trek but to also get involved in the local community within New Brunswick.

“Members can go participate in afterschool programs at the elementary and middle school or high school levels with mentoring, or special programs where you can teach students a second language or a specific craft,” said Rizvi, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

As a relatively new club at Rutgers, the hardest part is to get interested students to come out to general interest meetings to participate, said Conner Style, RU buildOn’s vice president and a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

One way to get involved is to participate in the various fundraising events that buildOn hosts and attend their Thursday meetings at the Busch Campus Center, according to their Facebook page.

On Nov. 20, RU buildOn will be hosting its second fundraising event of the semester called “Ball with buildOn.” All proceeds will go toward charity.

“You have an outlet here to make a very big impact, internationally, locally, and you’ll be leaving a pretty big footprint at Rutgers," Sufian said.

Mary Berko is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

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