Next week’s spring break might just be an exotic getaway for some Wilton High School students, but they won’t be simply relaxing on the beach. Instead, these students will be traveling to the Dominican Republic, as part of the local, non-profit organization Builders Beyond Borders (B3), to build much needed facilities for deserving communities.

According to program manager Karen Meyer, the B3 experience is not just about the one week in a different country. “B3 works all year long to build a better world, both in faraway lands, and in our own backyards.” Its mission statement reflects that focus: Building character, responsibility, and leadership by engaging high school students in local and global community service.

At work

Leading up to the international service trip, students have already made a local impact volunteering most weekends since September. Their efforts have targeted community improvement, and projects have included collaborating with Green Village Initiative to build community gardens and promote healthy eating among Bridgeport school children; partnering with Al’s Angels to fill holiday food bins for local families in need; cleaning up area rivers and lakes as part of Clean Water Day; building a wheelchair ramp with STAR, Inc., and more.

Steve Lewine, president of the B3 Board of Directors explained just how positive the experience is. “These projects are a great opportunity for high school students to give back to their local community, teach them leadership skills, and begin to think about what it means to be a global citizen.”

C4 Team photo Guyana 2013 - 3 Wilton students included

The first phase of this year’s international construction projects began in February, when student and adult volunteers from B3 traveled to the Dominican Republic and began work on building a health clinic, sanitation facilities, a water supply system, and several houses, located across five communities throughout the country. The Wilton students will help complete these projects during their spring break in April, thereby becoming a part of a nearly 18,000 hour community service effort upon their return home.

The lessons learned are immeasurable. High school senior and B3 student Emily Alonso reflected on her four years with B3. “I have learned, simply put, that I am capable of serious manual labor. If I were not a part of B3, I may not have ever known this about myself. I have learned that there are parts of the world that have much less than we do here in Wilton and yet they still seem happy. Having the opportunity to step out of our materialistic society and outside my comfort zone is something unique B3 has done for me.”

The Dominican Republic will be junior Amanda Greenberg’s second B3 trip, and she wishes she started volunteering with B3 in her freshman year. She said that B3 has taught her the value of helping those in need, while also reminding her “to be grateful for all I have.”

And finally, sophomore Jessica Walsh, who is headed on her first trip this year, said that as a result of B3, she has learned that she “really wants to help make the world a better place,” and that perhaps this will help guide her career path in the future. Wise beyond her years, Jessica encourages peers to consider volunteering with B3.

“The experience just might change your life. Helping people less fortunate is a great life experience and more exciting than getting an iPhone for your birthday.”

In addition to Emily, Amanda, and Jessica, Wilton High School students Sam Foreman, Kim Green, Caitlin Healy, Brooke Hendee, and Olivia Tobias are all headed to the Dominican Republic with B3. For more information on Builders Beyond Borders, please visit the B3 website.