Team Novo Nordisk Unites To Build Homes for Families in Dominican Republic
06 December 2016
In late 2015, Team Novo Nordisk’s men’s professional squad and staff headed to Rosarita, Mexico to build houses for two families tragically impacted by diabetes and poverty. This unique training camp resonated throughout the season and everyone agreed it was essential to continue giving back.
This past week, Team Novo Nordisk built three houses in Juan Dolio, Dominican Republic again for families affected by diabetes and poverty. In addition to the men’s professional team, this year’s service project included Team Novo Nordisk’s development team’s athletes and staff.
Team Novo Nordisk partnered with Hope Sports, a non-profit organization that promotes personal growth and community among athletes through short-term service projects. As a cohesive group, the athletes and staff worked together to build the homes from the ground up, including painting and furnishing the houses. All families received keys to their finished homes on Thursday afternoon.
“For me, the biggest impact of this experience was the transformation of the child at our house. On the first day, he wouldn’t talk. When we went to the grocery store on the second day, he wouldn’t talk. You could tell life was very tough for him. You could see a lifetime of suffering on his face. However, when we returned to the home and handed over the keys, he smiled, and he felt proud. It was very clear from his expression that his life changed for the better,” Team Novo Nordisk CEO and cofounder Phil Southerland said. “This experience really provide me with perspective. Our team has unique challenges, but this reminded me of the positive challenges we get to tackle in the 2017 season and the priceless value of hope. We aim to provide hope to the millions around the world affected by diabetes, and I believe that sense of hope is as priceless as the hope we gave these families by providing them with houses.”
“This experience changed the lives of these families, but for me, what resonated was the understanding that we can make a real difference. We really need to appreciate what we have and remember how we can help people,” Team Novo Nordisk General Manager Vassili Davidenko said. “We have a unique project where we inspire, educate and empower people affected by diabetes around the world. I believe this experience will continue to remind us of what is important and the opportunity and responsibility we have to the diabetes community and the world at large.”
The emotions were the same for me between last year and this year’s home build. It is an emotional experience that makes you think differently about life. This is the type of experience that remains with you. I think we get lost during the season, but I try to remind myself of these families and how challenging life can be for some people.
My favorite memory from this whole experience is it made me think differently. All year, we are all so focused on racing and this only took a few days, but we were able to help people. We all worked together and it made me see that this team and life in general is about more than just my goals and me.
This year, I was with the family where the father was in the hospital due to his diabetes. My hope is that after we gave the keys to this family that they can continue building upon this opportunity. They have a roof over their heads and a few months of food. But leaving like this is tough. It was hard for me to simply hand over the keys and leave after we made such an impact on their lives.
This was my first time doing any sort of service project or a home build, and it was my first time in the Dominican Republic. It made me appreciate what I have in life. Before this experience, I didn’t really realize or understand how lucky I am.
It also was my first time with the entire team, particularly all the pro men staff and riders. It felt like a big family. I really felt included, and I was surprised and impressed with how helpful everyone was. This motivated me to be engaged throughout the whole camp.
My favorite memory will definitely be the kids. They were always smiling, even though they were living in such poverty. I had never seen poverty like this before. While they had so little, they seemed so happy. For me, it was a great lesson to learn and remember what is important.
When we first arrived, I felt guilty for staying in a resort. I felt torn about coming in and building a house in an area just around the corner from our hotel and knowing that they were struggling for basic necessities.
When I arrived at the community and saw how many people needed help, it was difficult to handle. I knew we were building homes for three families, but there were so many people, particularly kids, in the area that needed help. It is hard to comprehend of the need of the community and the magnitude of their poverty.
This community was special; they supported each other in a way I’ve never seen before. They look out for each other and focus on helping those most in need. It’s something we could all do more of. My favorite memory will be the kids running around the entire time and how engaged they were with all of us. It made me realize exactly who I was doing it for.
I had never done anything like this before, and it was extraordinary. My initial impression was the difference between our resort and this community, which were only 15 minutes apart. I’d never experienced poverty like this. I’d seen things on TV, but here I was in the middle of it having kids climb on me and get to smile and laugh together. It made it real. I was glad that we were able to help this community, but it felt like a small step. I definitely want to do more things like this.
For the team, it was a wonderful way to bond. At our January training camp, we typically separate into the devo and pro teams. Here, we were all mixed, including the staff. It was great and made it feel like a family. My best memory was building the roof with one of the local guys from Homes for Hope and Gleb [Groysman–Performance coach of Team Novo Nordisk’s development squad].
I think this experience will make a big difference in our season because we’ve already started as a family. We don’t have to become a family during the season.
The first thing I noticed was just how poor and in need these people were. Compared to the place we went to in Mexico, this was a whole different level of poverty. Rwanda is the only other place I’ve seen poverty even remotely close to this.
Sometimes we don’t realize what we have, while another thing I noticed was how happy these families were despite all of that. The hardest part for me was leaving, even after the first night and knowing we would return in the morning. I wish could do more.
For me, the emotions were the same from last year and this year’s home build. I appreciate everything more. I appreciate what I have at home, especially my kids. Now, I want to teach them to be aware of issues like this and know that there are ways they can help. I’m in a unique position where I’m the only rider with kids on this team, and I want to teach my kids to give, give, give.