As parents begin their "back to school" preparation, one local family has an ambitious task ahead of them. Vinny Kiernan, a partner in Edwards Wildman's Stamford office, with his wife, Melissa, and their two young daughters, Samantha and Nicole, will be traveling to Malawi to physically help build a school in partnership with buildOn, a non-profit organization based in Stamford. The Kiernan family will fund the school, but their commitment runs much deeper. On August 2, they will journey to Africa to live with a family and work side by side with the villagers, using mud bricks and local materials, to erect the school.
"buildOn is an extraordinary organization dedicated to empowering youth in both the US and around the world to build a better future for themselves through service and education. The summer after 9/11, I went with buildOn to a Pueblo Indian reservation in New Mexico with high school students from the South Bronx to help build a school on the reservation dedicated to preserving the Pueblo culture. Now, my wife and I have the opportunity to take our 13- and 14-year-old daughters to help a village in Malawi that doesn't have electricity or indoor plumbing build a school to provide basic education for both boys and girls," said Kiernan. "The villagers provide a gender balanced leadership team, thousands of hours of unskilled labor and the promise that equal numbers of girls and boys will attend the school while buildOn offers engineering, skilled labor and supervision. My family and I are very proud to both fund and help build this school."
Kiernan has served as the outside general counsel for buildOn for 15 years and Melissa Kiernan serves on the national board of directors of buildOn. They have watched it grow from a local Stamford non-profit to a national organization engaging urban high school students in after-school programs in Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Oakland/San Francisco and Philadelphia. In addition, buildOn has worked with rural villages in some of the poorest countries in the world to build over 450 schools over the past two decades, which help educate 70,000 boys and girls each day. The Kiernans' school will be the 499 built by buildOn when completed later this year.