When something as serious as the Zika virus threatens, “you have to call an audible,” said former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Ryan Nece.
Nece and students with his foundation were supposed to travel to the Dominican Republic this summer to build homes and work on community beautification projects.
However, because of their concerns about the mosquito-borne Zika virus, they’ve decided to adjust their plans.
“We had to take action and decided to go elsewhere,” Nece said.
The Ryan Nece Foundation isn’t the only organization keeping close track of new developments with the Zika virus and its potential impact on volunteer projects. A spokesperson with Doctors Without Borders said it’s sending doctors to places that are currently receiving Zika patients in an effort to learn more about the illness.
A spokesperson for Habitat for Humanity said they have ongoing projects in South America, which is considered the hot-bed for the Zika virus, and their service trips haven’t yet been impacted by the illness.
A representative with the Peace Corps. said it’s training volunteers on how to reduce the risk of contracting Zika, although they don’t have any travel restrictions in place for volunteers to date.
Nece and the students working with his foundation have decided to take their annual service trip to Michigan instead of the Dominican Republic.
“We’re going to help with the water crisis up there and help with urban farming,” said Mo Stockon, a junior at Plant High School in Tampa.
“Right away, there was this natural connection for our kids. They saw other kids suffering in our own country. So, we want to be there,” Nece said.
For more than a year, families in Flint, Michigan, suffered after unknowingly getting drinking water from a polluted river.
“A lot of people don’t think this stuff can happen in America,” Stockon said.
The volunteer group from the Ryan Nece Foundation is soon headed to Michigan. They are currently raising money for the service trip.
“For us, this is a challenge. We have to think outside the box, but I honestly think this is going to be one of the most powerful trips we take,” Nece said.