NC Rotarian, small business owner, architect and builder makes global impact.
I had the pleasure of meeting Randall Lanou recently. As President of BuildSense, a Durham-based architecture and construction firm focused on energy-efficient design – Randall is already making a positive difference in his community. In addition, he has been an active member of the South Granville Rotary Club for 11 years.
Randall: As a member of our Rotary Club, we complete an international service trip every two years. A good friend and mentor, Julie Wright, invited me to join as a volunteer. Given my experience in design and construction, I was a good fit for the school and medical clinic building, water, sanitation, and up fit projects in Nicaragua. It seemed like a great opportunity to join my fellow Rotary volunteers on these projects for service, fellowship and personal growth.
Joy: What were your expectations? How did it compare to expectations?
Randall: I was hoping to use my skills to help others and learn more about another culture at the same time. The Rotary model is to work with an in-country partner to identify needs in the community and establish a plan for sustainability (infrastructure, training, etc.). We are able to financially support the projects in two ways: 1) the “brick and mortar” construction was funded by private contributions, and 2) computers, furnishings, water systems, septic systems, toilet blocks, school supplies, and uniforms were funded by a Rotary Grant.
It clearly made an impact on me, as I’ve now made nine trips to Nicaragua and completed five projects. The first project I was a participant / volunteer and I’ve served as the leader on the subsequent trips. It seems to run in the family as my father, aunt, uncle, sister, and niece have participated. My wife, Lori, and I work together to plan logistics and make the trips happen.
Joy: What would you say was your most meaningful experience or learning?
Randall: It really helps one to get clear on what a ‘need’ is. Here (in the U.S) it is easy to get a bit selfish. Once you see how people are living there and that they lack basic needs like clean water, access to proper health care and schools…it is hard to really worry about replacing a five-year old car. Perspective and gratitude. Don’t get me wrong, I do take both pleasure vacations and volunteer trips. To be honest, I’m not sure which one leaves me feeling more refreshed as I come back so renewed and grateful after spending time in Nicaragua. I guess that’s why I keep going back.
Joy: What would you tell others who are considering an international volunteer trip?
Randall: It will be life-changing. Hard work, often frustrating and tiring…yet so meaningful. It will shift your outlook for the rest of your life.
The links below provide information about Randall’s organizations and how you can make a difference
As told to Joy Steinberg, Dec 2015