Jim Ziolkowski gave up his career in corporate finance to create buildOn, a service-oriented program that goes into high-risk areas around the world to work with students in their communities. Under Jim’s leadership, buildOn volunteers have contributed more than 850,000 hours of community service, and the organization has constructed more than 430 schools worldwide, from the South Bronx, to Detroit, Chicago, and Oakland, to Haiti, Senegal, ...
Jim Ziolkowski gave up his career in corporate finance to create buildOn, a service-oriented program that goes into high-risk areas around the world to work with students in their communities. Under Jim’s leadership, buildOn volunteers have contributed more than 850,000 hours of community service, and the organization has constructed more than 430 schools worldwide, from the South Bronx, to Detroit, Chicago, and Oakland, to Haiti, Senegal, Nicaragua, and Nepal.
Walk in Their Shoes is packed with the ingredients of a powerful bestseller as it traces Jim’s story from his transformation from a thrill-seeking twenty-something backpacker, to a Harlem-based idealist trying to launch a not-for-profit organization, and finally to the head of buildOn.
Ziolkowski compellingly chronicles his exciting story of worldwide travel and adventure, creating a moving portrait of the power of faith, teamwork, and the boundless potential of the human spirit. Blessed with relentless optimism and an unshakable faith, both of which have fortified his commitment to the poor and the underprivileged, Jim Ziolkowski’s inspirational memoir reveals that helping and empathizing with others can help—and heal—ourselves.
Twenty-one years ago, Ziolkowski, then a student in the financial management program at GE Capital, was being groomed for a promising career, but after a backpacking trip in Nepal showed him how simple generosity could change the lives of the impoverished, he quit the course and founded the nonprofit buildOn, which brings education to inner-city teens, and transforms them into community service leaders in the U.S. and abroad. After struggling to secure funding and organize volunteers, Ziolkowski begins traveling the globe, documenting injustices in apartheid-era South Africa and among the street children of Brazil, while rallying the community to come together and build schools for their children. Along the way, he meets activists, struggling families, and even Mother Teresa, who provide encouragement and share their stories. Whether discussing female genital mutilation in Mali or the circumstances of volunteer students in Detroit, Ziolkowski balances sobering facts with an approachable writing style. His unflinching determination drove him to establish over 500 schools, turning buildOn from a nascent dream into a multimillion-dollar phenomenon. He believed that one person could indeed change the world, and his story may inspire others to do the same. Agent: Todd Shuster, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. (Sept.)
#1 New York Times bestselling author of Wild
- Cheryl Strayed
“Jim Ziolkowski’s rare commitment to children living in poverty in the US and abroad is an inspiration to me. Walk in Their Shoes tells his moving and unique story with heart, humility and even a touch of humor. Perhaps more importantly, Jim’s tenacity in the face of many hardships and doubts offers an illuminating example of the human capacity to transform faith into action.”
“Walk in Their Shoes is an inspiring tribute to the power of compassion and education: the keys to leading a meaningful life.”
author of Tattoos on the Heart
- Gregory Boyle
“Ziolkowski’s life and work give testimony that service is the hallway that leads to the ballroom of kinship and exquisite mutuality. This is a heartfelt and brave account of gulfs being bridged, distances erased, and offers the hope that the illusion that we are separate can be obliterated. Both buildOn and its founder have helped us inch closer to dismantling the barriers that exclude.”
author of The Icarus Deception
- Seth Godin
“The answer is yes. Yes, one person can change the world. This book will challenge you and inspire you and push you to understand that you can (and should) make a difference.”
One man's mission to help change the world one school at a time. When Ziolkowski first started his nonprofit organization, buildOn, he did so with a hope and a prayer--the hope that he and his group could build three schools in three different, desolate locations and a prayer to God that he was making the right decision on turning his back on a successful career in corporate finance to pursue his dream. He used his strong faith to aid him when times got rough, and from those humble beginnings, Ziolkowski's group has built more than 500 schools worldwide and assisted countless American schools with service-oriented programs. In straightforward, almost humble prose, the author, with the assistance of Hirsch (Willie Mays, 2010, etc.), recounts the fears and triumphs of the past two decades--for example, the incredible poverty and disease he encountered in places like Africa, Nicaragua and Brazil. What surprised him most was the incredible faith the local villagers placed in him and in buildOn and the extremes people went to in order to build a local school, with women lugging 100-pound sacks of cement on their backs up steep mountain trails. The women's desire for education and a better way of life for their children and generations to come motivated them to endure hardships beyond measure. As one African mother stated, "If you educate a boy, you educate one person. If you educate a girl, you educate an entire community." Ziolkowski's Christian faith is a strong thread throughout the book, as he questions the motives behind his actions and always comes back full circle to the sanctity of his ambitions. A motivational tale of the changes people can make in the lives of others, given determination and a strong faith in right and wrong.
Jim Ziolkowski started the nonprofit organization buildOn to break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy in nations throughout the world. He lives in Stamford, Connecticut.
James S. Hirsch is a bestselling author who has written on race, sports, and the human drama behind topics ranging from the military to medicine. He lives in the Boston area.