Adventuring and competing define many of us, but we should remind ourselves that we do what we do because we are fortunate enough to live in a time and place where mere survival is so easy that we can seek our own challenges in life. But for much of humanity, expending physical energy for fun seems a frivolous endeavor. In November 2016, Blake had the opportunity to give back. He is uniquely qualified since he’s an architect who has built a few houses already, but all are welcomed to donate time and resources to Hope Sports.
Athletes Building Homes, Hope, and Friendships
In November I had a wonderful opportunity fall into my lap. I was invited to do a home build in Rosarito, Mexico with a bunch of professional and Olympic athletes through Hope Sports. Hope Sports’ mission is to engage professional athletes in community service, providing them with an opportunity to connect meaningfully to a world beyond their athletic career. They do this by bringing groups of athletes together to build low-income homes for families in Baja California, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica. I was excited to put my building skills to use while changing the life of a family in need – but I had no idea how much it would change my life and perspective.
Hope Sports, with help from More Than Sport, Athletes in Action and Homes of Hope, presented this opportunity to us on a silver platter. Transportation, logistics, room, and board was all taken care of. We bused down from San Diego, grabbed dinner at the ‘campus’, then played soccer for over three hours, with us ‘professional’ athletes getting schooled by three women in our group who play soccer professionally in Utah. Luckily no ankles were broken, although some skin and blood was left on the AstroTurf.
The next morning, bones and muscles aching from the night before, we bused into the slums of Rosarito, where our home build project was. The site was picturesque, located on top of a tall hill, with panoramic views of the ocean and surrounding barrio. There was a 20’x20’ concrete slab already poured and all of the building materials, tools, nails, paint, and a Porto potty about three feet away from the families’ previous home, which had burned down just weeks earlier.
We met the wonderful family, who had been living across the street in a relative’s house, sleeping 11 people in a 300 square foot home.
Our team split up and work was delegated. We framed the walls, precut the lumber, and painted simultaneously, trusting the plan and instructions that our foreman laid out for us.
The family and their relatives pitched in to help.
10 hours later, with the sun dipping behind the marine layer hovering above the ocean, all of the walls were up, siding was on, and we were exhausted.
After a scrumptious dinner, the few of us who were still kicking found a ping pong table at the campus, pumped some jams, and played hours of Ping-Pong until curfew and the realization that we had another 10+ hour day of work the following morning pushed us all to bed.
Sunday morning, we bused back to the site and got to work early. With the sounds of saws powered by the generator, and the clack-clack of hammers on nail heads breaking the morning silence, the house began to come together.
Rafters went up, sheetrock began to finish the inside, the bathroom started taking shape, the roof went on…
The family was taken on a shopping trip where necessities they couldn’t normally afford were purchased, in addition to some presents, food, a stove, mini-fridge, bunk beds, and a dining table and chairs.
Soon after the sun set over the ocean, the home was finished and the keys were handed over to the family in a very emotional and touching moment. The gratitude and love that the family showed us and one and another was beautiful. They don’t have many of the modern luxuries that we take for granted and can’t imagine living without, but they were happy, content, and love each other.
As athletes we need to be selfish to be successful. We have to turn the pedals for hours each day, eat properly, recover – and to do this day in and out – It is such a different reality from a family just trying to survive in the slums of Mexico. This trip was incredibly eye opening for me, helping others in need. And it felt good, like really good, to be part of something bigger than myself. I will probably never see the family again, but what we did, coming together during one weekend in Mexico, will change a families’ life forever, and my perspective on life and the world. You should try it sometime.