MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Forget what you’ve heard about nonprofit organizations competing for funding and manpower; this mentor-mentee pair put the mission first.
Daniel Rodriguez proudly shows pictures and videos illustrating the joy of those his organization helps. Meanwhile, his mentor, Albert Perez, proudly looks on. Rodriguez’s organization, Blue Missions, gives the gift of water to poor communities in the Dominican Republic. He discovered his passion in high school on a service trip with an organization called Lifo.
“Water just burst through this pipe a couple hours before we were set to leave and you just look around and see the faces of the locals, tears coming down their face, kids dancing in the water,” recounts Rodriguez, remembering the moment that he says changed his life.
Moved, Rodriguez returned to the Dominican Republic twice before Lifo founder Albert Perez said they needed his spot for new volunteers. Perez however, wasn’t turning Rodriguez away, he was becoming his mentor.
“You know it’s kind of been so organic, it’s been just like a friendship,” says Perez.
Like a good friend, Perez supported Rodriguez’s dreams. He urged his young protégé to start to his own non-profit — what would become Blue Missions.
“He didn’t see it as competition,” says Rodriguez about his Mentor, “He saw it as an opportunity to help more communities, to expose more of our youth to these great needs that exist.”
Over the years, Perez has coached Rodriguez on fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and the daunting task of planning logistics to build aqueducts in the mountainous terrain of a foreign country.
Perez says he told Rodriguez, “What you see of the trips that’s the part that is fun. There are other components you’re going to have to work at and I’m here to help. Let’s get to it!”
The two organizations combined, now run dozens of service trips each year. Blue Missions alone has taken more than 1,400 volunteers to connect some 4,000 Dominicans to clean water. Now, Perez admits he is the one now learning from Rodriguez.
“Learning from Danny’s creativeness, learning from Danny’s passion, has reignited some of that stuff that tends to kind of die down in you,” says Perez.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez is living Perez’s example, being a role model to the next generation.
“The way to pay it forward is to take more and more youth on these trips. We just want to facilitate the same experience that changed our lives, for them,” says Rodriguez.
Blue Missions has 41 service projects scheduled for 2018 and Rodriguez is looking for volunteers.
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