Builders Beyond Borders volunteers pitch in at Wakeman Town Farm

On the crisp, sunny afternoon of Oct. 27, Wakeman Town Farm was jam-packed with 200 eager high school volunteers shoveling leaves, clearing paths and digging up rocks. Volunteers from Staples and other nearby schools devoted over three hours of their Sunday to various improvement projects at Wakeman as part of their community service requirement for Builders Beyond Borders, or B3.

B3 is a program that offers high school students the opportunity to gain leadership skills and responsibility through engaging in local and global community service. Most people know B3 for its twice-yearly service trips abroad to help developing communities in need, but many people overlook the volunteer work that B3 participants do locally.

According to B3’s executive director, Amy Schroeder-Riggio, the organization does about 3,000 hours of community service projects throughout Fairfield County. In fact, volunteers just finished building community gardens at Bridgeport schools and constructing a handicap ramp at Norwalk’s STAR Inc.

“When we say what we do, people ask, ‘How come you don’t do anything locally? There’s a lot of people that need help,’” Schroeder-Riggio said. “So this kind of answers that. It’s really hard for us to do building here, because typically you have to be 18. But these kinds of projects we can do, and it’s good for everybody to get out and see what our amazing kids are doing.”

B3 first got involved with Wakeman Town Farm last year, when it was looking for a big project to celebrate its 20-year anniversary. Leaders got in contact with Michael Aitkenhead, an AP environmental science teacher at Staples and program director of Wakeman Town Farm.

“In about a day we doubled the size of the gardens and put in a goat shelter. It went so well last year that [B3] asked to come back and do another big service project,” said Aitkenhead, who has been involved with B3 both locally and abroad for about five years.

This year, students worked hard on a variety of small projects on the farm, but the big accomplishment of the day, according to Aitkenhead, was the creation of a nature trail that runs all the way down to Bedford Middle School.

B3 volunteers agreed that, while doing community service in surrounding towns is rewarding, it is even more meaningful to help out in Westport.

“There are some projects in Norwalk and Bridgeport, but this is where we live and go to school,” Sophie Rosen ’15 said. “We’re really giving back to our town.”

Local community service projects also get the volunteers excited for their trips abroad later in the year.

“I’m excited to help out, but I’m also excited for the trip and meeting new people and having fun with my team,” Renee Weisz ’17 said.

With a huge turnout, beautiful weather and lots of projects completed, many workers considered the day to be a success.

“There could be [another event next year],” Aitkenhead said. “There’s a lot more we could do with the trail … and there’s always things to do here on the farm. It’s a lot to manage 200 people in a day, but we get a lot done.”