Builders Beyond Borders immerses students in new cultures

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By: Francesca Truitt ’17

Over February break, students could be found on various trips; some ventured out west to ski, others traveled south to bask in the heat, and another group of students traveled seven hours to Nicaragua with the organization Builders Beyond Borders.

Builders Beyond Borders (B3) is an organization run in southern Connecticut that sends young adults to work within communities, here and abroad, to “build solutions to their most pressing challenges,” according to its website.

Each February and April break, the Builders Beyond Borders sends groups of high school students and advisors on service trips to various communities in need; past destinations have included Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Peru, among others. Over February break this year, members of the B3 organization journeyed to Nagarote, Nicaragua to build learning centers and other structures for the local community.

This trip to Nicaragua was Luca Valadares ’19 first trip with the team, “but this trip made me fall in love with the projects and the organization,” he said. “The community was really welcoming and our team got along really well.”

Beyond encouraging students to engage in charity work at home and abroad, B3 also serves to connect unlikely friends. Jordan Cutler ’18 attributes her social experiences with new friends to B3.

“I think the best part about b3 is becoming friends with people from school that you typically wouldn’t be friends with otherwise,” Cutler said. “It’s a great way to become friends with people you normally would never even talk to.”

However, beyond the social and charitable opportunities the trip provides, it has its challenges too. On the trip to Nicaragua, students would wake up at 6:30 in the morning to begin work at 7:30 that would last seven to eight hours. On this particular trip, the B3 members worked to construct a community learning center consisting of classrooms and an outdoor kitchen.

During the trip, students are completely immersed in the culture, leaving behind any access to their normal lives in Westport—students slept in cots nearby their worksite, and went without their phones for the entirety of the trip.

Claudia Lagnese ’17 appreciates this disengagement from her usual life in Westport. “The best part of the trip was being completely disconnected from anyone and just being able to really focus on the people around you and what you’re doing,” she said.

Although the trip comes with it’s challenges of long workdays and uncomfortable living conditions, many members see the trip as beneficial, too.
Izzy Cardello ’19, a B3 member who went to Nicaragua, loved seeing new cultures, and feels like the trip changed her for the better.

“I definitely leave the trip a better person and am more grateful for the things i have and understand how lucky I am,” Cardello said. “Not many people go away to see what those places are really like behind all the hotels and beautiful beaches. It is just a really amazing experience overall and it is great to see how much we do during that one week and how appreciative they are of all our hard work.”

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