The Transformative Power of Travel

Posted on | December 1, 2013 | 2 Comments

Today we’re honored to have a guest post by Jim Ziolkowski, founder & CEO of buildOn and author of L.A. Times Best Seller Walk in Their Shoes.

When I was twenty-four, I entered GE’s Financial Management Program, a fast-track position that all but guaranteed a lucrative career in corporate finance. But fifteen months later I quit.

Before joining GE I had hitchhiked around the world and spend most of my time in developing countries. What I saw lit a fire within that could never be put out. While travelling through India and Nepal, I had seen cities and villages mired in extreme poverty. When I was in New Delhi, I saw the beggars and the street children, destitute and hungry, without any hope for a better life. When I was in a village in Nepal, I saw families living in mud huts without running water or electricity. The more I traveled in regions of poverty, the more clearly I saw that those conditions were directly related to rampant illiteracy and the general lack of education. While trekking up into the Solo Khumbu region in Nepal, I passed through a village where they were celebrating the opening of school that they had built. It was a two day celebration- they never went home! So now I’d seen more than the injustice of extreme poverty, I had also witnessed the courage, determination and faith these communities had for education.

buildOn Founder, and Author of best-selling Walk in Their Shoes, Jim Ziolkowski in Mali, West Africa.

buildOn Founder, and Author of best-selling Walk in Their Shoes, Jim Ziolkowski in Mali, West Africa.

Instead of just witnessing something amazing, I wanted to somehow act on these experiences. But I chickened out and joined GE instead. It took me over a year to muster the courage to leave the corporate world and start buildOn – a nonprofit organization that is breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education. Right now, buildOn is partnering with rural villages to construct a new school every four days in countries like Malawi, Haiti, Nicaragua, Nepal, Senegal, and of course Mali.

Travel changed my life forever, and now Passports with Purpose is using travel to transform the lives of hundreds of individuals in Mali, West Africa. Because of your efforts three of the economically poorest villages on the planet will be able to construct schools for their children. Additionally, these schools will be used for buildOn’s adult literacy programs which are also being funded by your efforts.

I want to thank you for partnering with buildOn and for harnessing the power of travel for good. Thank you for helping us to break the cycle.

Jim’s new book Walk in Their Shoes is on shelves now. To read more about his life-changing travels from Nepal to Malawi, from Russia to South Africa, download this free excerpt or pick up the book at

To help PwP raise $115,000 for buildOn, visit the Passports with Purpose PRIZE CATALOGUE PAGE and donate before December 9 at 11:59pm EST.  THANK YOU!

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2 Responses to “The Transformative Power of Travel”

  1. Erin
    December 2nd, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

    Thank you, Jim, for being an inspiration to use travel for good. Amazing they had a 2-day celebration for an opening of a school. Just bought your book on kindle and will be reading your story.

  2. Jenna
    December 3rd, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

    Inspiring story, and thank you for the reminder of why we are doing this with Passports with Purpose–the cause is so worthy!

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