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buildOn

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Lucia Buscemi, first row, second from left, traveled to Malawi last summer to help build a school. Photo from WMbuildOn

While guests enjoyed a soup cook-off at The Bates House in Setauket Feb. 3, they were doing more than savoring good food: They were helping members of the Global Ambassadors Club at Ward Melville raise funds to build a school in Malawi, East Africa.

Malawi students stand outside of a school built by the nonprofit buildOn. Photo from WMbuildOn.

This academic year is the second in a row that high school seniors Lucia Buscemi and Rebecca Holt have spearheaded a fundraising drive for the nonprofit buildOn, which helps students raise funds to build schools in impoverished countries. The Ward Melville seniors discovered buildOn before their junior year after researching fundraising ideas and were impressed with its projects where students and village residents work together to build a school.

In an interview with The Village Times Herald last year, Buscemi said she believes providing children with an education is vital.

“It’s not about a bunch of kids going down there to build a school to get community service hours,” Buscemi said. “They’re making sure that it’s something sustainable and will last for generations to come.”

Last summer the student was able to travel to central Malawi with her mother, younger sister and fellow student Madeline Immerman after the community team WMbuildOn raised $12,000 for the cause. Buscemi said in a recent phone interview the Ward Melville group teamed up with two other schools from the United States to help carry water and lay bricks for a school’s foundation. The structure WMbuildOn fundraised for was an additional block to a school buildOn built in 2016 for first- and second-graders. The new section created classrooms for third- and fourth-graders to study in.

More students were interested in going on the 2018 trip, according to Buscemi, but a few parents were concerned about safety. Holt said she had hoped to travel to Malawi last summer but was unable to due to a trip to Paris and an internship. After hearing about Buscemi’s experience, she said she can’t wait to attend this summer. So far, eight people have signed up for the journey that will take place July 7 through July 15.

Holt and Buscemi said WMbuildOn is off to a good start in 2019, collecting more than $10,000 toward its $30,000 goal. The girls said the group raised some $2,300 at the Feb. 3 event where nearly 100 people attended.

Schools built by buildOn have two classrooms that can house 100 students throughout the day. Photo from WMbuildOn.

To raise money, team members have individual fundraising activities in addition to club events. Holt said one example is friends and family members have pledged a certain amount for every mile she runs each week to help her raise money for the project.

The students said they hope to organize a community concert similar to one the team hosted in 2018 featuring local musical groups. The girls said Three Village residents were a big help last year, and they hope they will join them in their fundraising pursuits once again.

“Last year one of the reasons that we were able to raise so much with so few people [on our team] is that the community was very involved,” Holt said. “So many people reached out, whether it be teachers or people who came out to the concert and started to get involved. It was so helpful in getting that amount of money.”

Lucas Turner, community engagement manager of the East Coast for buildOn, said the organization is proud of Buscemi and Holt for taking on the goal of building another school so soon. He said the structures have two classrooms that can house approximately 100 students throughout the day.

“Often, we have teams build another school after their first, but it is typically not as soon as they are doing it, so they are really taking the initiative, and we are very proud of their dedication,” Turner said.

For more information about WMbuildOn, visit act.buildon.org/wm19 or follow progress on [email protected]

Rebecca Holt and Lucia Buscemi, above, are hosting a soup cookoff, Sunday, March 18, at The Bates House in Setauket. Photo from Lucia Buscemi

Ward Melville High School students Rebecca Holt and Lucia Buscemi are spearheading a fundraiser to raise $30,000 to build a school in Malawi this summer in conjunction with the nonprofit buildOn, and they are hoping the Three Village Community will join them in their efforts.

On March 18, they will host a soup cookoff at The Bates House in Setauket. Attendees can enter their best soup for a chance to win a first place prize of $150. Entry fee for the contest is $30. Participants will enjoy homemade soups and be able to vote for their favorite. The event will also include basket raffles and live music.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children under 12. Tickets can also be purchased at the door but will be $5 more than tickets bought in advance. The On Soup Cookoff will take place from noon to 3 p.m. on March 18. To buy tickets or enter a soup, email the organizers at [email protected] The Bates House is located at 1 Bates Road, Setauket.

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Rebecca Holt and Lucia Buscemi, above, are hosting a soup cookoff, Sunday, March 18, at The Bates House in Setauket. Photo from Lucia Buscemi

By Rita J. Egan

Two Ward Melville High School juniors are asking the Three Village community to join them in achieving their goal to build a school in the African country Malawi.

Last summer, Lucia Buscemi and Rebecca Holt, of Setauket, brainstormed ideas for a fundraiser they could spearhead. They researched the nonprofit buildOn, which helps students raise funds to build schools in impoverished countries, and the pair liked the idea of helping children in need have access to education.

“What got me most excited is that I know that education is the best way to eradicate poverty,” Holt said.

Buscemi agreed and said she believes providing children with an education can be better than donating food.

“It’s not giving someone a handout,” Buscemi said. “It’s giving somebody a lifetime supply of education, and of food practically.”

When it came time to choose a country, the teenagers solicited the help of Lucas Turner, one of buildOn’s community engagement managers. After talking to Turner, Buscemi and Holt decided Malawi was the country with the greatest need.

It’s not about a bunch of kids going down there to build a school to get community service hours. They’re making sure that it’s something sustainable and will last for generations to come.

— Lucia Buscemi

Buscemi and Holt’s goal is to raise $30,000 to fund the building of the school. Turner said if a student wants to travel to Malawi where he or she will stay with a host family and help build the school, he or she must fund their own travel. The girls said they are hoping to make the trip as well, which would take place during summer vacation.

“Rebecca and I are both very excited to learn about the culture there,” Buscemi said, adding they have only traveled within the United States and Europe. “We are anticipating a culture shock when we get there because it’s going to be so unlike every single place we’ve been to.”

Buscemi said buildOn requires help from residents to build the structure, many of whom will eventually attend the school.

“When the school opens, [villagers] are not looking at it and saying, ‘Oh, these foreigners came and gave us this school,’” Turner said. “They look at that, and they say, ‘We built that with buildOn and this is something we can be very proud of.’”

Turner said while students visit a country to help for seven to 10 days, it can take the villagers 15 to 20 weeks to complete construction.

“It’s not about a bunch of kids going down there to build a school to get community service hours,” Buscemi said. “They’re making sure that it’s something sustainable and will last for generations to come.”

Friends since they were in seventh grade at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, Holt said this is the first time she will be heading up a fundraiser, while Buscemi has been involved with philanthropic efforts since she was in elementary school. For the past three years, she has organized an annual 30-hour famine fundraiser at Caroline Church of Brookhaven, where young adults fast for 30 hours while performing everyday tasks to simulate how it feels for the undernourished.

The pair is using social media and email to spread the word about their buildOn project and are currently planning a soup cook-off fundraiser for March 18 at The Bates House in Setauket. The high school juniors said so far their fundraising has been a valuable learning experience, and they hope to apply those lessons toward future pursuits. Buscemi said she is considering taking a gap year after she graduates from high school to work with refugees in Athens, Greece.

For now, the two are focused on their present pursuit, and said every single person who contributes to the cause, no matter how much they donate, will be making a difference.

“It doesn’t take two girls to build a school,” Holt said. “It takes a community and that’s why we need to work with Three Village in order to build this school. It takes a village to build a school. We need to pool as many resources as we have in this community in order to accomplish our goal.”

Holt and Buscemi have already raised $1,086 toward their $30,000 goal. For more information on how to donate or about the March 18 soup cook-off at The Bates House, 1 Bates Road, Setauket, visit act.buildon.org/team/136930 or email [email protected]