My wife, Jennifer, and I always dreamed of making a difference in the world. In 1997 we visited Africa, a spellbinding continent with amazing people whose generous spirit and love of life despite their limited means inspired us to start there. We teamed up with my Novo Nordisk colleagues in the U.S. and South Africa, and our little dream grew to become a big, and rewarding, project.    

Jennifer’s a teacher, so we felt passionate about helping a school in need. We learned about the Ebuhleni Primary School in Soweto, South Africa, located in a neighborhood of dusty streets, simple homes and air thick with haze from the open fires used for cooking. Ebuhleni has a dedicated staff and has won numerous academic and athletic awards. However, they lack many of the things we take for granted in U.S. schools - a desk for each student, a library with current titles and a complete encyclopedia set, and an athletic field clear of rocks and other debris.

Before our first visit to the school, I turned to my Novo Nordisk colleagues in California to raise money to build a new sports court and the school’s first computer lab. At Novo Nordisk, social responsibility is engrained in our culture and my co-workers were happy to join the cause.

With donations in hand, we traveled to Ebuhleni. The students and staff’s gratitude for our small contributions was very humbling. We read to the students and told them about where we lived; the world beyond their neighborhood was a mystery to them. Think about the cartoon or storybook characters kids in your life know and love – to our surprise, none of them were familiar to the kids at Ebuhleni. Jennifer said they seemed much happier and joyful than her students in California, teaching us both that happiness is not a product of material possessions. 

I soon reached out to Novo Nordisk in South Africa to explore their interest in supporting the school. They enthusiastically embraced the idea and this past Nelson Mandela Day, a national holiday dedicated to community service, 50 Novo Nordisk volunteers traveled to the school to donate food and clothing, help with painting and maintenance of the school grounds, to plant a food garden, and spend time with the children.

Our relationship with the school in Soweto is special and continues to grow. Jennifer’s second grade class in the U.S. are now pen pals with the South African students – including a young girl named Angel who confidently told us that she dreams of becoming a doctor. We’ve since introduced her to three women who are doctors in the U.S. who write to her frequently, encouraging her to pursue her dreams. And, thanks to the continued support of my Novo Nordisk colleagues in the U.S. and South Africa, Angel’s dream and those of her classmates may one day come true.