June 2014: I looked my brother in the eye and shook his hand. We decided, at that moment, to create a nonprofit organization that would aim to serve the needs of children around the world with greener, safer, and longer lasting infrastructure. Little did I know that six months later we would, after a series of personal downsizing efforts, have enough savings to leave the comfort of our corporate careers in order to create interBLOK: a 501c3 nonprofit charity that uses shipping containers and upcycled materials to rebuild orphanages internationally.
If you asked me 10 years ago what I would be doing right now, I would have answered, “Major League Baseball or Bust!!!” As a baseball player, I had learned at a young age to see the results of my hard work. I was starting to improve. I only needed a little encouragement from my parents and from that point on, I was hooked. I knew that my chances were slim but if I was faithful to work hard and never give up, I would have a chance to turn my passion into a career.
So, I did just that and my lifelong dream of playing professional baseball was fulfilled when I was drafted as a left-handed pitcher in 2009 by my hometown team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. I had just completed my senior year of college and was excited to start a new adventure. I spent the ensuing three seasons in the minor leagues. I lived in six states, played in 11, and loved it all: the challenge, the travel, the fans, and getting paid to play the game I loved. I will treasure those experiences for the rest of my life. Fighting a nagging elbow injury, and finding myself without a team at the end of my third season, I realized that it was time to consider other options. I knew that if I applied the same work ethic, focus, and determination to a new endeavor, I would figure things out.
Upon returning home from baseball, I applied for a holiday salesperson position at a Nordstrom in Los Angeles, California. I immediately performed well in the competitive sales environment. The temporary sales position turned into a permanent one. I became curious about the inner workings of business, so I set my mind to learning everything I could about the retail industry.
Once again, I found myself hooked to a new desire for excellence. I read every book I could find about business management and entrepreneurship. Three years and a few promotions later, I found myself managing my own department. I was loving life, learning, and making a living!
Fast forward to summer 2014. It all started with my brother, Alex. I got home from work one day and he shared the story of the “Charcoal Kids” of Manila. Our news feeds are constantly plagued with these types of stories. We have all seen the headlines, documenting the natural and unnatural tragedies of the world. They are so common that most of us won’t even think twice about them. Perhaps I, too, became numb to it over time: so ingrained in my work process that I never pick my head up to ask myself, “is there something better I could be doing with my life?” But this news was different. I was pressed with the question in my own heart, “What am I going do about it?”
Enter the Shipping Container: stronger, safer, greener, cheaper. We had a “lightbulb moment.” With container prices and supply at record rates we knew that we had an opportunity to source them for a low cost. As we know, many orphans and children around the world do not have access to safe, strong building materials. Whether it’s a schoolhouse, a bathroom, a bunk room, or a playground, we will provide it in a low cost, effective way to serve the needs of our world’s children.
As Alex and I developed the concept together, we realized that, given our current work responsibilities, we would not be able to see our mission come about. So we decided to leave it all behind. I left my job at Nordstrom, January 1st, 2015.
I haven’t had a paycheck in six months and I’ve never been happier.
Being able to work toward the same goal alongside my brother every day has been worth its weight in gold. I am so excited to see what is next for interBLOK.
For more information regarding our project, check out our website, www.interblok.org
Check out my brother’s story @