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Dani’s Work for Education

October 23, 2010

Dani | buildOnDani is a young woman passionate about education. She writes that education “can help break the cycle of poverty, reduce abuse in communities, increase equality, and so much more.” So rather than ignore her strong beliefs, Dani embraces them.

The next in our Great Life Experiences series, here’s Dani’s story why she works on and after-school program for teens in rough Chicago neighborhoods and why she recently raised money to travel to Nicaragua to help build a school.

Can you explain your job with buildOn?
I have been working with buildOn for almost 2 years now as the Program and Service Coordinator.  A large part of my work involves helping high school students realize that they have the ability to make positive change in their communities, and in other communities around the world through service.

On a regular basis I am creating and facilitating volunteer projects for students to see the need in their community and know how to get involved.  Beyond their Chicago community, I want my students to understand that their issues aren’t isolated to their own community, that those same issues [poverty, broken families, etc]are happening in places all around the world.  A lot of the issues in our community and communities around the world can be positively affected through increasing access to education.  My students are learning to care about communities on a local and global level!

What motivates you to work with education?
For a longtime I have been passionate about youth and education. Before I began working for buildOn, I was always having an internal debate on whether I wanted to put my energy into making a postiive change on a local level or on a global level. Working for buildOn allows me to do both!
I truly believe the youth can be leaders in our community, and I want to make sure they know that as well.  I also believe that everyone should have access to education.  Education is instrumental in a person’s life; it can help break the cycle of poverty, reduce abuse in communities, increase equality, and so much more.
Dani working in Nicaragua

Dani working in Nicaragua

You recently traveled to Nicaragua to work where buildOn is building a school. What was it like?
I tried to get the most out of my time in Nicaragua.  In our village, there wasn’t much “to do” in the sense that we think of.  With no electricity, my day started early (around 5:30am) and ended REALLY early (around 7:30pm).  I was dirty, sweaty, and happy the whole time.  I excelled at pooping in a latrine.  I rode a horse through the village at dusk (and then in the pitch black of the night on the way back home).  I also sang the national anthem a surprisingly amount of times.  It felt like I spent most of my time, while not on the worksite, eating.  In the morning, my host mom fed me enough beans, rice, and tortillas for three people. Which leads me to the most important thing I did while in Nicaragua, helped to build a school.

The first day of work was pretty easy.  It mostly involved painting the metal pieces of the frame so that they wouldn’t rust.  Each day, the work got a little harder.  Toward the end of our adventure, we had dug larges holes for the foundations, carried large bricks up a hill to the work site, and pick-ax the heck out of where the latrine would soon be.  I was incredibly filthy everyday after work. It was wonderful.

Dani with her host family in Nicaragua

What was most meaningful about going to Nicaragua to help build a school?

There are a lot of reasons why this trip was meaningful.  Some people believe in “Location Location Location.”  I believe in “Education Education Education.”  Education allows people to have more choices.  With this as one of my core values, it really meant a lot to me to be a part of making education a reality for people when it wasn’t before.
In addition, going to build a school is an opportunity that many of my buildOn students consider.  I wanted to be able to speak personally about why they should go, why they should care, and what their experience would be like.  Surprisingly, many of my students are really intimidated by the thought of going to another country to go build as school, live with a host family, eat the local cuisine … and poop in a hole.

I wanted to go build a school to help encourage my students to live their lives to the fullest and take advantage of opportunities.  For many of them, much of their life is filled with “no” or “you can’t.” As much as I can, I want them to think “yes” and “I can” especially when it comes to making change.

Nicaraguan Students saying Thank You

Nicaraguan Students saying Thank You

To see how Dani raised her money or to make a donation to her efforts, visit her WiseGifter donation page. You can contact her at dani.mccarthy84 [at]

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