Builders Beyond Borders (B3) is a non-profit organization that engages students from more than 20 local high schools in leadership training through local and global community service projects. During the school year, B3 volunteers serve Fairfield County, culminating in a trip to a Latin American country in the spring to build needed facilities for deserving communities. B3 is a wonderful opportunity for students to make a difference both in Fairfield County and abroad, and connect with like-minded students from local schools. B3 will be travelling to Ecuador in 2016 for the global service project.

One of GOOD Morning Wilton’s WHS senior interns, Amanda Greenberg, volunteered with B3 for three consecutive years, and we asked her to share her thoughts about the experience.

For the past three years I have had the opportunity to travel to another country and do service work during my spring break. I am involved in Builders Beyond Borders (B3), which does amazing work impacting so many lives. My overall experience has been simply incredible, and there is nothing else I would have rather done with my past three April breaks. Each year it is a much needed break from life here for a dose of reality.

My sophomore year I traveled to Guyana where my team of 25 high schoolers built a community center in a underprivileged community. The experience was memorable, and I knew I wanted to do it again. So my junior year I signed up for the trip to the Dominican Republic with the same team. During my time in the DR we built homes for a poor community, and had many fun outings and experiences you can’t have anywhere else.

This past April I went on my last B3 trip to Guatemala. We worked in a village called San Lucas Toliman, a town situated on Lake Atitlan, a beautiful lake surrounded by three volcanoes. Our project this year was different from the ones I worked on in the past.

In Guatemala, cooking indoors over an open fire is very common and the problems caused by the primitive technique are many. The World Bank estimates that more than 2 million deaths occur each year as a result of the effects of cooking smoke.   In addition to creating major health problems, open fire cooking consumes huge amounts of firewood, contributing to deforestation, and often causes accidents where family members are burned.

Rotary Clubs in Guatemala have partnered with Rotary Clubs from around the U.S. on a plan to provide over 5,000 smokeless stoves to needy Guatemalan families in San Lucas Toliman by 2015. This project of installing new, smokeless stoves improved the living conditions of the local, needy families. The new stoves also reduced the amount of firewood they needed to use by 50-percent, saving the families considerable money.

In addition, we worked with the families to construct latrines for them. For a week we worked as a team to build as many as we could, while also having lots of fun together.

In addition to the rewarding volunteer work, during the nine days we were in Guatemala we saw so many beautiful sights and got to experience great activities, including zip-lining and hiking a volcano. We slept in tents, took bucket showers, and rode in the back of pickup trucks.

The experiences I have had with B3 will be memories I keep forever and the friends I have made will be some of my best friends for the rest of my life. In only nine days, everyone gets so close and you really become like a family. One of the main lessons I learned was not to take things for granted—things like running water, an indoor shower, or even a roof, because so many people around the world live without those things we consider everyday comforts.

But the best was seeing the smiles on the locals’ faces after we finished our work. Seeing how they live makes you realize how lucky we are here in Wilton. We are able to serve these people, and make new relationships. These lessons are very important and rewarding.

Builders Beyond Borders is an amazing organization that I encourage all high school students to look into. To learn more about B3, attend one of many information sessions and hear about other students’ experiences, or visit their website.

Students interested in learning more about B3 and/or enrolling in the upcoming program year are invited to attend a B3 Info Session. The next Info Session is scheduled for Wednesday, July 29, at 6:30 p.m. at the B3 office (66 Fort Point St., Norwalk).

Additional Info Sessions will be held on Thursday, Aug. 13, Tuesday, Aug. 18, and Wednesday, Sept. 2. Attendees will be able to see pictures and videos of past projects, speak to currently enrolled students and adult volunteers, and meet the B3 staff. Contact B3 to attend at 203.847.5220 or by email.

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