Over the Winter Break, Sacred Heart University Equestrian student-athletes sophomore, Carly Julius and junior, Emily Spellman spent nine days in West Africa with the student-run organization, buildOn. BuildOn is a nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and lower expectations through service and education. The chapter at Sacred Heart focuses on working with buildOn high school students in Bridgeport, Connecticut through community service projects and events.
BuildOn takes their mission to a global level through Trek teams. Treks take place in seven of the world's poorest countries: Nepal, Senegal, Malawi, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nicaragua and Haiti. Community teams like Julius and Spellman's fundraise for a primary school in a village and travel to that community to help break ground on the school. Earlier this month, they broke ground on their second primary school in Sougere, Senegal. On Trek, they stay with host families within the village and immerse themselves in the local culture. Every morning, they work on the school for about five hours and spend time with the community, especially the children, in the afternoon. They learned some of the local language, participated in cultural activities and bonded with a community of strangers as they all built the school together. Trek is a great opportunity for people to make a real difference in the world and create a relationship with the people you are impacting.
Julius reflected, "During the flight to Senegal I was extremely nervous, I had no idea what I was walking into. But as soon as I landed I knew it was going to be an experience of a life time and it was exactly that. In the village we were welcomed with open arms and nothing but love. The entire week we were constantly being thanked for 'the best gift anyone could ever receive' which was an education. Building the school was hard labor in the hot sun but we knew that the end goal was worth something bigger than ourselves. It was truly an experience of a life time."
This was Julius and Spellman's second trip with buildOn. Last year, they visited Nepal with fellow student-athlete junior, Michaela Fritsch.