How Remote Year’s Yugen Program Raised $80,000 and Built 3 Homes in Bogota, Colombia

21. Oct. 2021

Remote Year Yugen - Building homes in Bogota

Positive Impact experiences are a staple on all of our Remote Year programs, but some groups go above and beyond to support projects they are passionate about. A shining example of this are the 58 members of Remote Year Yugen who dedicated their time and talents to execute one of the largest-scale projects that Remote Year participants have led to date, the Remote Year Yugen Build. This ambitious project took place in 2018 in partnership with TECHO and raised over $80,000 in funds from 26 different countries, and resulted in the construction of 40 homes for families in need in Bogota, Colombia. These substantial fundraising efforts culminated in a build weekend in which Remote Year Yugen participants joined forces with the local community and TECHO volunteers to build 3 homes.

In addition to these tangible outcomes, countless hours of behind-the-scenes project planning took place as various members of the Remote Year Yugen program contributed their time, skills, and funds to bring this incredible project to fruition. 

To better understand how this monumental initiative came together, we connected with 3 of the Remote Year Yugen members who helped contribute to the project’s success: 

Paul Nolan (Ireland)

A Construction Project Management & Real Estate professional from Ireland, Paul is credited as the ideator of the Yugen Build, and was a driving force behind the project’s success. Paul was involved in every step of the planning process, from the project’s inception to its completion, and inspired his fellow program participants to set ambitious goals for the project.

Elizabeth Blasi (USA)

Elizabeth has a background in creative writing and currently works in account services at an advertising agency. Her contributions to the Yugen Build were primarily focused on PR and internal fundraising. During the program, Elizabeth wrote content for various publications and social media to share the Yugen Build project with the world, and she also helped to spearhead fundraising efforts. 

Melanie Long (USA)

Now a Director of Marketing at SPIbelt, during her Remote Year experience, Melanie worked as an independent marketing consultant and took the lead on the Yugen Build’s marketing efforts. She helped put together a brand team and marketing materials such as the Yugen Build website, logo, social media assets, and more.

People building a houses in colombia

People building a houses in colombia

We asked Paul, Elizabeth, and Melanie to share some of their experiences working on the Yugen Build with us: 

What is your point of view on the role of creating impact while traveling abroad?

Paul: The value that a talented group of Remote Year program participants can have on a community they visit is enormous. I believe identifying and utilizing individual skill sets to help with local initiatives can have a fundamental impact on the lives of those in the community. Yugen Build was a building project that came from my background in project management and construction. Groups can create projects leveraging their areas of expertise and partner with established charities to have long-lasting impacts and legacies in communities.

Tell us more about the great work you did with the Yugen Build.

Paul: The initiative came about while in Kyoto, where I spoke to a few people about doing a housing project later on in the Remote Year itinerary. We communicated the idea to Remote Year and we eventually decided on a housing initiative in Bogota working with TECHO. Something that was important to me and what I thought would drive people was the build weekend. This took extra coordination, as we had to organize transportation, food, t-shirts, and other logistics. Heads of marketing and fundraising were appointed and teams were put in place, and fundraising and general discussions took place over a number of months. 

Remotes helping build homes in colombia

Remotes helping build homes in colombia

How did you manage to raise $80,000 for the Yugen Build?

Melanie: We pre-wrote fundraising templates for members of the group, created a corporate deck for company pitches, and marketed the initiative on social media and other channels. We also tapped into the larger Remote Year community by reaching out to the Citizen Slack and starting a fundraising competition. It was cool to see how members of the Remote Year community were so happy to support the project. 

Elizabeth: A lot of the big money for the project came from corporate sponsors. We had people in the program reaching out to their companies, and seeing how these companies were so supportive was really cool. We also had some fun, innovative fundraising ideas like March Madness brackets, a team member’s mom did astrology readings and reiki services, we partnered with an Irish pub in Peru to donate proceeds to the build, and Paul’s town in Ireland even did a fundraising event at a bakery, complete with local celebrities and athletes. 

What was the build weekend like? ‍

Elizabeth: The morale on build weekend was super high - it felt like we were a group of kids getting ready for a field trip. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done. I’ve done Crossfit and Bootcamp but spearing a stick into the ground was so hard! When we had to wake up for day 2, I was so sore. It was so rewarding and so hard, and it truly was one of the best experiences of my life. It was heartwarming to see so many people looking out for their neighbors, and many volunteers from the community and TECHO helped us with the build. 

Melanie: The build was held on top of a mountain, and arriving at the site was very humbling. The people in the community are happy to have a 1-room home, and they welcomed us with open arms, even cooking us lunch. It was an incredible experience, and it was a lot of hard work. The families we built homes for read letters to us which were also translated to English. They were so thankful, it was truly humbling to be a part of the project.

remote year participants painting roofs with children

remote year participants painting roofs with children

What were the effects of this work even after your leadership and time spent?

Paul: This was an enormous challenge, and I have seen what can be achieved through group working and leveraging skills. This experience has helped me be more creative for future impact work and in growing my business.

Elizabeth: I became very aware of where I spent time giving back. Instead of focusing on myself, I began to spend my holidays doing something for the community. On Thanksgiving, I volunteered at a soup kitchen, for my birthday I made 150 sandwiches for a local shelter, for Christmas I participated in an Angel Tree fundraiser. During these celebratory moments giving back can be such a fun and rewarding experience.

Melanie: Assimilating to life back in the USA can be hard after a Remote Year experience. I am now more cognizant of what I have and volunteer on holidays, at local shelters, and with our food rescue. There are so many opportunities to give back in our own communities, you don’t have to go abroad to make a difference. 

The Remote Year Yugen Build truly shows how when the talented individuals of a Remote Year program come together, lofty goals can be reached, and lasting positive impact can be achieved. 

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