Three Countries, Three Experiences, Many Lives Changed
Since I first heard about Live Different and their Hero Holiday trips from my husband in 2009, we have had the amazing opportunity to embark on 3 different Hero Holidays and 3 very different adventures. The first Hero Holiday we went on was in May 2010 to Haiti. Most people, including myself, had never even heard of Haiti before the Earthquake that January. I can honestly say that Hero Holiday changed me in a way I never knew was going to happen. What I loved about Haiti was how full of life the people are. In the state they were in, (the recent earthquake and just the overall reality of how poverty stricken the country is), one would kind of expect the people to be feeling sad, sorry for themselves, and hopeless. What we saw was the opposite. In the orphanages run by David that we worked in, we met kids that would melt your heart. They were loving life with the little they had, and wanted to share with you what they did have. The girls orphanage holds so many memories for me - from the first day where all the girls did our hair in cornrows, (which came in handy throughout the next few days), to the times they would be singing songs while helping us sand the walls we were going to be painting. I have wanted to go back to Haiti to see the work Live Different has been doing in Cap Haitian with the school they are building. I know that the impact they are having there is huge. The time I spent in Haiti has turned me into a lifelong humanitarian, and started the journey I have been embarking on that has taken me to Dominican Republic, and now Thailand.
The Dominican Republic in July 2011 was unreal! I was one of the leaders of Team 4, (aka- the best team ever), and that in itself made this Hero Holiday a whole new experience! In the D.R. we built a house for an amazing family that the team grew to love and who we are still in contact. The connection made between the team and the family was incredible. It was nice to get to know a family so well: you really felt like neighbours, lending a hand when a rough time had come along. Seeing how the trip was changing the lives of our team was the most rewarding experience of the entire trip. To go through the debriefing each night with them and see their perspectives change and their entire lives change in the matter of 10 days was something I feel privileged to have guided them on. My favourite debrief with our awesome team was about needs vs. wants. This debrief has the team go over what they thought were the three basic needs and three basic wants of humanity. I loved seeing their minds work through what they were privileged to have in North America, and contrast it with the reality they were facing day-to-day while building a house and working in a garbage dump with people who are stateless. We had decided on the three basic needs being food & water, shelter, and love. Three basics needs that, for most of the world, are also their three basic wants. During that trip, with those budding humanitarians, it was decided that it was time to make my longing to go to Thailand a reality...and that a few of the people on my team were going to be joining me!
I have wanted to go to Thailand since I first heard about Hero Holiday. I was never too sure why, but I knew it would hold something special for me. The timing to go was great, the fundraising for the trip went well, the flights, (while long), weren't as bad as I thought being on a plane for that long would be. From last year, aside from my husband and myself, three other people from Team 4 from the previous summer were with us. While being in Thailand, I've been the most in awe of the amazing culture. It's a place that is so beautiful and respectful. I've definitely had a few "AS IF I'm in Thailand!!" moments being here. Working in the Buddies Along the Roadside children's home has been pretty surreal. Knowing the backgrounds these children have makes it almost unbelievable to see them there every day - so happy and energetic, and so full of life! If you're wondering about their backgrounds, it's less than an ideal childhood that we would expect them to have in North America. Many of them have been rescued from exploitative situations; human trafficking, slavery, orphaned from things like AIDS and Malaria, or they are considered "at risk" of being involved in any of those previous situations. When you know that, and then see the kids, it's hard to connect the dots...which is actually hopeful. To know their pasts and to see the lives they are living is so inspirational. They are going to school, are learning valuable skills for the future. and are learning how to be proud of who they are. There is actually no other word to describe this trip other than incredible. For myself, taking part in this Hero Holiday is special, as my humanitarian journey is continuing this summer with an internship with Not For Sale who is committed to ending modern slavery in our time, and also plays a huge role with Buddies Along the Roadside.
Since being on this Hero Holiday with people who haven't been on any, I've done a lot of comparisons of the three destinations I have been blessed with the opportunity to experience. Each one has shaped me and has taught me new things about myself, the world, and those who are here in this world with me. The few things I have learned are that the only difference between us in North America and others around the world is the place we were born, and that not standing up for someone is like saying the injustice is ok, and that each and every single person, no matter who you are, CAN make a difference.