Three Village teens aim to build second school in Malawi

Three Village teens aim to build second school in Malawi

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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 or follow progress on [email protected]