"It’s not the place, it’s the people" … I heard this time and time again while I was going through college, while I was venturing out into the world making zero dollars in search of my passions, and while I was bouncing around cities in the USA looking for the ultimate landing spot with the perfect posse or crew. Luckily, I have met amazing people in my life from all over the globe, but unfortunately, I do not see many of them on a regular basis.
However, two weeks ago, I experienced something I will never forget. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by a group of people who not only believed in something bigger than themselves, but who believed that they could ignite change, create opportunities for others to be amazing, and make a positive ruckus every single day - all without anyone telling them to do so. Change makers, movers and shakers, relationship builders - they were all represented. Nobody was at the buildOn Global Conference in New York City by accident. It was truly something special because 99% of the year our team is spread across the globe, and this week we we’re able to physically be together as a collective unit.
My buildOn family spans all over the world. Brooke from Detroit, Nirmala from Nepal, Ryan from Chicago, Suze from Haiti, Anna from NYC… the list runs 200+ deep. I can tell you without a single doubt in my mind that every single person on that list is making this world a better place. Co-workers is kind of a lame label, so I will refer to them as my “co-change igniters”. My co-change igniters could choose a million other career paths or have thousands of other things fill up their days. However, everyone found and chose buildOn in their own unique way. Our buildOn stories all follow the common trend of leading with one thing - the people who make up the buildOn movement.
Seth Godin, best-selling author and speaker, believes in the power of the collective and not backing down from challenges. He said, “I don’t know what the question is, but the answer is yes.” Through that statement he challenged us to find a way to say yes to the biggest of challenges in order to yield the most positive change. He said those “yes’s” are more attainable when surrounding yourself the right people. He ended his talk with, “People like us, do things like this.” Simple, yet powerful.
You may have seen my recent Instagram posts recapping my week at the buildOn conference in New York City.
To many, this might seem like a silly little hashtag that is used to keep up with the growing trend of hashtagging every single event from their wedding to road trips to sporadic workouts - #gymselfie.
However, to 200+ buildOn employees including myself, ONE buildOn is the reason we have devoted our lives to the service of others and believe in the power of education. It is why we spend countless nights ensuring our students have tools to empower themselves, it is why we break down boundaries by working with every single demographic across the globe, and it is why we lead everything we do with our mission. ONE buildOn is every student, ambassador, employee, community member and advocate - past, present and future.
There are a million things people can rally behind; selling cars, going to music festivals, kayaking, making skyrocketing profit margins - literally anything.
This week we rallied for education and will continue to do so. buildOn knows that the answer is YES when asked if we can make a difference in our communities. buildOn knows that time and time again service learning has proven to help youth bring themselves out of poverty. buildOn knows that across the world, millions of people lack access to education, but our model is working, and reaching more and more students every single day. buildOn knows that the cultural immersion and solidarity on Trek can spark a passion for a person to become a global advocate for education.
ONE buildOn is the collective movement to break the cycles of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education.
Diahann Billings-Burford, Executive Director of Corporate Responsibility at Time Warner, former Chief Service Officer for New York City and buildOn National Board Member, encouraged us to “Use your ____ for good”. She also broke down service in the simplest form for us and concluded that the end goal of service is freedom. Freedom of choice.
Finally, at the end of the week, we all wrote down our commitment statements to buildOn. Here is mine:
I will lead my treks with the whole-hearted purpose of igniting passion, freedom and adventure to every stakeholder involved, in service of ONE buildOn.
ONE MISSION. ONE MOVEMENT. ONE BUILDON.
Photo credits: Benjamin Jarosch Photography