B3 trips leave a lasting impact on both participants and communities abroad By Bailey Blaikie '19

Every February break since freshman year, I’ve left my life in Westport behind for one week and traveled with Builders Beyond Borders, also known as B3, to a developing country to build something for a community in need. I’ve built things from classrooms to stoves, and I’ve loved every second of it. However, every year when I get home, there’s always people claiming “you guys don’t actually do work,” or “this trip is just poverty tourism.” It is often frustrating that a group of high schoolers going on a service trips causes people to make these accusations.

The most common assumption about these trips is that we’re not actually making a difference or that we just go on these trips solely to feel better about ourselves. After four years of going on these trips, I can safely say that B3 changes the lives of both the people we are going to help, and the students who volunteer.

Each team that travels to Guatemala has five adult advisors and four to eight student advisors. The student advisors are seniors and work each day with the adults to plan the day out. This year, there were three teams that all traveled to a different part of Guatemala and had a different project.

B3 is a non-profit organization that brings together kids from all over Fairfield County to participate in a one-week trip to a developing country. This year, three teams traveled in February, one team in March and three teams traveled in April to three different communities within the designated country.

B3 chooses the country and communities we visit within that country based on their need for our help. We partner with local projects that determine where the need is and if they need our help to complete these projects. Every time we go into a country, it is because the need is there.

This year, my team traveled to Guatemala. We went to a community called Balanyá, which is about an hour away from the capital, Guatemala City. For our project, we focused on building classrooms, teaching English at a nearby school and building stoves for a mountainside village.

Each day, team members complete different tasks on the worksite. These vary from mixing cement, laying brick to make walls, filling in the walls, digging trenches and holes, making rebar poles to support the building, transporting bricks, sand, soil, rocks, and more. A typical workday begins at 8 am and ends at 4 pm, with breaks for snack and lunch.

Before we built the stoves in the village, the families were using open fires inside their homes to cook their food. While this is unsafe, it is also terrible for the health of the local people. They often suffered from lung or other smoke-related health problems because of their makeshift stoves. We went into these people’s homes and built stoves that were safe and usable. It was amazing to see how thankful these families were that we were able to better their lives dramatically with such a simple change.

After each work day, each team usually does an activity around or with the local community members. Some activities include playing soccer or making friendship bracelets.

The school we were working with, called Grace English School, was currently only able to hold around 50 students due to the unavailability of classrooms. Most of the children attending this school are on a scholarship, so it is crucial that they expand the school in order to accomodate more children. We worked on building eight classrooms for the school.

This year, the project required a ten foot trench be built for a water tank. Throughout the work day, the team splits up to work on different parts of the project.

While it is not possible for us to see the direct impact of our work since we leave before we see the community use it, it is apparent that we are working to better their lives. We get updates of how the community is utilizing what we built and updates on how it has improved their daily lives. The impact the trips leave on the B3 participants is due to the appreciation the community always has.

All teams consist of students from all grades. While many students are from Fairfield County, some students are from New York.

Photos contributed by Bailey Blaikie '19

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