Choose Your Own Adventure!

Life on a Hero Holiday is always unpredictable: there is never a shortage of crazy experiences and mishaps that you can’t wait to re-tell to all your friends. This trip is no different!blog-4.jpgWe are back in Dominican Republic with about 40 medical and nursing students, one doctor, two dentists and a whole lot of enthusiasm! We have been doing medical clinics in the most unlikely of places: the dentists have had to compete with the chickens and cows for space to set up their borrowed pool lounge chairs from our hotel, the doctor has had to set up a sheet to examine some rather delicate situations, the students have had to sit in the sun outside of churches, schools, and open fields to take registrations, blood pressure and assessments, and the people they see are more than eager to get into the clinic! As the host for the trip, I have had my car start on fire (don’t worry, Mom, an over-eager local grabbed our teams’ clean drinking water and dumped it all on my engine to put it out!), I have led our team through the jungle on foot to get to a garbage dump to work with the people there that are collecting bottles and garbage for family provision, I have motorbiked through rivers that were up to my thighs, and I have sat with these teams and heard their stories, shared their laughter and tears, and dreamed with them of ways that we could make a difference both here and at home.However, with this team, there has been one marked difference: we have realized that not only is the world full of sad stories and tragedies, but it is also full of people that we can admire, that we can try to emulate, and that we can join hands with to see a better future. What can that look like? What can I do today that changes today and also tomorrow? This  group is full of questions and ideas, and it is exciting to hear what is happening in their minds and hearts as they soak up this experience and throw themselves into each new situation with such fervor and anticipation. This Hero Holiday group is like a pilot group for us as we look at how we can partner with universities and schools to specialize in experiences and opportunities, and it is proving to be highly successful…(whew!)blog-5.jpgOne of the funniest things that has transpired is what happens in the health seminars in the evenings. After doing a clinic during the day, a small group returns to the community and performs health seminars with the locals from the community. We are realizing that simple concepts that we take for granted are brand new information when you are illiterate or very poorly educated. This week, in one of our evening sessions, the nurses were teaching about sex and sexually transmitted infections to young teenage girls. They focused on teaching them that abstinence was the only sure way of staying STI-free. In a culture such as the one we are working with, women are rarely educated about the consequences of unprotected sex, and they are even more rarely empowered to understand that they have a choice. So, in an effort to make the concepts stick, one of our participants helped them to learn a chant that had the whole village take notice.  At the end of the seminar, they girls shouted out “NO SEX, NO SEX” and their reasoning was in what they also began to shout: “If you have sex, you will get pregnant, or you will get AIDS, and then you will DIE! NO SEX, NO SEX!”…I guess they got the point!!However, outside the clinic where the seminar was going on, were some teenage boys…who looked pretty discouraged!!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 22nd, 2008

Life as the Hero Holiday Nurse

blog-1.jpgMy name is Nicole Dufault, and I am the Hero Holiday nurse. I have had the privilege of being a part of Hero Holiday in Dominican Republic since we first started coming here in 2005.  This is my third year running clinics during Hero Holiday, and this time is definitely a this time is a little different. I’m used to having high school students helping out, but this time… 40 eager nursing students, two dentists and one amazing doctor! blog-2.jpgIt has been so much fun working with these students, challenging them, and where I can, teaching them, and forcing them to use their eyes and ears to figure out what is going on with a patient, because the reality is that unfortunately I couldn’t fit a lab or CT scanner into my suitcase, I think that would have put me over my 50 pound limit!

They have been rising to the challenge and impressing myself, a northern nurse of 10 years, and our physician….of a little more advanced experience 😉 They have been working in extremely hot conditions, where lighting is a luxury and heat is a non-negotiable. To date, we have seen over 500 patients, cleaned countless teeth with brand new toothbrushes and seen many teeth go flying as they were extracted!  blog-3.jpgThe dentists have been sharing their work space with the local cows and chickens, kneeling beside the pool lounge chairs from our hotel, and with an eager audience of many sets of eyes watching their every move, and many patients  kissing them on the cheek in grateful thanks. But the best part of this whole experience is the comment I hear every day: wow, that was a great day!

Author: LiveDifferent


Hearing from our Hero’s – Mexico

Female, 17, BCI met a girl named Maria and we played a clapping game today. I enjoyed communicating with her through games, gestures and just being together. Female, 17, ABIt really moved me to see all the kids, waving at us and being so happy. They have so little, ad yet they are happier than so many people that have everything and more. We can learn a lot from them. Male, 16, BCWhat has impacted me is how much the family has given us, even when they have so little. They made us tamales, tacos, brought us coke and freezies. It moved me to see how happy they were even though they had so little.Female, 16, ABWe interviewed a family today, and the mom was telling us how they would go without food for a day or two. And the day before they made us fresh donuts. We are not even building a house for them. They have a daughter who has a disability and a probem with her nervous system. They are think that she may die in a few months because they can not afford the medicine for her. (PS, Mom, it’s me. I like potatoes!) Male, 17, ABI thought it was pretty cool when we were loading up to go into the bus an the family sat over on the side. They were all calm and just waiting for us to leave. When they thought we couldn’t see them anymore, they bolted into the house, just to check it out. And it was pretty cool to have the 80 year old lady carrying buckets of dirt with me. Male, 16, ABThe highlight of my trip has been watching their oldest son chase around the green beetles and finally watching one and catching his eyes light up as he tied it to a string and flew it like a kite. It amazes me how much entertainment you can get from something so little. Female, 18, ABSomething that shocked me was hearing that the minimum wage here was $8/day when it is over $8/hr back in AB.Female, 16, ABSo I met this really cute neighbor girl. For as little as all the families have, they all seem so happy. It makes me realize how lucky I am and I am so thankful for being on this trip to help. Peace out. Female, 17, BCSomething that has struck me here is that I can see the poverty. And you can see it right next to the wealth. Every second is a reality check, a comparison between my life and the lives of so many people. I find it so amazing that people with so much wealth can be so unhappy and there are people with nothing who are happy.

Author: LiveDifferent


Two days down and we are off to a great start. – Mexico

I missed putting a post up yesterday, mostly because it was a crazy, busy, great day. We spent some time going over cultural and cross cultural info. Then the Awareness Tour. Our first stop was the graveyard, it is a startling picture, right there in front of us, the reality of child mortality rates in developing countries. There were rows and rows of children’s graves, a rare site in Canada. At one point, I looked out, and there was a boy, around the age of 4, running on the road on the other side of the rows of graves. My voice caught in my throat. It was a split second picture of how lucky we are, free, unconcerned, not threatened with the reality of a high child mortality rate. After that we moved on to meeting the families who the group has quickly befriended today. We had introductions all round and a check to make sure that the supplies were there. There were some moving moments with some of the students who have not been exposed to poverty before. As well as some of us who have been exposed to it on a regular basis. Sometimes seeing it through eyes of innocence changes the perspective. The beach in the afternoon was full of sun, waves, one dolphin and one low flying yellow bi-plane that I swear waved hello to us. A bit of time to unwind and let the mind catch up with the heart.Today was the first day of building. Within a half hour we were down two out of three generators and just outside of an hour we were back up to full force. The different teams reactions to challenges was… splendid. Why do you really need to worry to much if you can’t run a chop saw, grab that hand saw, park a couple of butts on the 2×4’s to keep it steady and off we go! I was impressed with the adaptability, but again, that is one area where ‘grown-ups’ can take a lesson from teens. Work was accomplished and relationships began to grow. Friendships deepened amongst the group as the team work rolled on, and communication was started with the families. Beyond the accomplishments and satisfaction of hard work, a couple of high lights were definitely the grandmother on site #1, she is tiny, a bundle of energy and wore those bright red socks like nobodies business. In the afternoon on site #3, we were all invited into their house that is made of tarp and pallets. It is likely 10 feet by 10 feet, and holds a single bed, a table and a line crossing the room where the clothes were hung over. The 14 year old daughter helped the mom serve tamales, delicious chicken and chipotle tamales, and I had a chance to chat with her. She has a primary education, which I am guessing based on her age goes to grade 8 here. This will be her first year out of school, they can not afford the $50 a month that it cost for high school. The older brother who is 16 has been working for a couple of years now, since he finished grade 8. Site #2 had an unusual welcome this morning as they got there, nothing like a herd of cows grazing free right next to your project. But all it took was one Mexican man on a bike with a whip and that problem was solved, site #2 was now free to move around without bovine interruptions. I am eager to get some pictures up here, I have tried 4 times to upload them online, with no success, but keep checking back in, I will have them here as soon as I can.Peace. Sincerely.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 20th, 2008

Everyone is here! Mexico

The whole group arrived, in installments thanks to a temporarily broken down white bus, to a delicious welcome dinner of tamales. Then there was more orientation, I am sure that these guys have had information up to their ears, so it is pretty handy that tomorrow is Awareness Tour day… which means more information. But not just that, they get to meet the families we are building for, see some more of the Baja and end up at a beach. Stay tuned tomorrow for picture:)

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 19th, 2008

The Last Summer Mexico Team is Heading South!

The group, all 45 of them, are on the bus and in the vehicles, as of dinner time tonight they were in southern Oregon. The traveling is going well, I am sure by the time they hit San Diego tomorrow they will all be happy to get out of the bus, stretch and shower. The part of the summer team left here in Mexico can’t wait to meet them on Monday.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 17th, 2008

My Experience: Summer Intern, Lisette, Mexico

Hero Holiday Mexico Trip 1 is over, and as a summer intern I have the pleasure and privilege of taking part in the next trip that arrives this Monday. When I was asked to write a blog for the Hero Holiday website, I contemplated what I would write about. There are many instances…highlights/lowlights…funny stories and experiences that inspire me. Do I talk about the amazing people from all across Canada that I am able to share these experiences with? Or the fulfillment in seeing a house build through, from where only the cement pad lies to putting the beds and frames into the finished product? After much deliberation, I’ve settled on talking about the family we built for. This is my second house build for Hero Holiday; the feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment are definitely and noticeably greater with a stronger connection to the family. Last summer for my trip the participants didn’t build as strong of a relationship with the family due to the participants’ lack of familiarity with Spanish and because the family spoke their own indigenous language. This past trip we had two girls well-versed in Spanish; both spent time during the house build to get to know the husband, Miguel, and his wife, Ofelia. After the work day’s end both would relay their stories (mostly Miguel’s) to the rest of the group. It was touching and eye-opening to say the least, especially when learning the hardships and obstacles that both individuals had to overcome. Miguel expressed his thanks to everyone in the group and was having major difficulties accepting that a) this was actually happening to him and b) that students were going out of their way to do this for him. He asked one of our participants how much it cost to come on the trip-upon hearing the price he was genuinely shocked. On top of that the participants pooled together money to buy additional things such as beds, money for food, a stove, electricity and schooling for his three daughters for a year. During the house dedication, Miguel smiled and shed a few tears as he thanked us all for the thousandth time. Everyone was smiling, crying, snapping pictures, hugging each other, or hugging the family. There was an immense sense of pride and accomplishment as participants had their thoughts interpreted by Becky and one of our team members and vice versa with Miguel. This was a victory and an accomplishment that was much sweeter for me because of the deeper connection with Miguel and his family. It’s moments like these that I look back on when I’m back in Canada, and I feel humbled and fulfilled all over again.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 16th, 2008

D.R. or BUST!!

When we all woke up yesterday morning, we all thought we were in for a little bit of a long, but exciting day. However, no one ever dreamed the day would end up having 40 hours in it!We are currently back in Dominican Republic with a new first for Hero Holiday: 39 nursing and pre-med students, one doctor, two dentists, and our staff…and after 40 hours of being awake we are still going strong!We started our orientation last night in Buffalo, after some people driving as far away as 8 hours from the border to join us. In the middle of our evening pre-trip orientation in our hotel, Nettie, our Hero Holiday administrator,  received a call saying that our airline had canceled our flight due to weather in Buffalo. In fact, the whole airport was shut down. Now we were faced with a dilemma: we had tickets from JFK to Dominican, but no tickets to JFK…a quick negotiation with a bus shuttle company and two trips later, we found ourselves now sprawled out at 4:00 AM in the Rochester, NY airport, awaiting our new flight to JFK,  and on still no sleep…When we finally got to Puerto Plata, we shuttled to the hotel, dropped off our bags to get ready to go out on our awareness tour to see everything that we are about to be involved in, and out of nowhere: torrential downpours. (Did I mention we were out on open backed trucks?) But then, the crowning achievement of the 40 hours was the clutch going on the one truck in the middle of the road in the middle of the rainstorm, and the other truck getting stuck in the mud trying to get back to them…So, you may ask, was it worth it? And the answer, of course, is “Always!”. The group that is here is going to be doing medical clinics and working on a building project. Most of all, they are going to be experiencing what it is to make a difference. If today is any indication of what they are going to be like, I am already in love with them! They have not complained once when they were wet, tired, or hungry…they just kept telling us how excited they are to be here!And so, to all ourHero Holiday peeps that are with us for the next ten days in Dominican, we want to say that we are excited that you are here too, and that there is no one we would rather have join us for no sleep, unforeseen travel hiccups, broken clutches, torrential downpours, and the anticipation of what tomorrow can hold!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 15th, 2008

Nothern Bound – Mexico

Everyone is off or fully installed in their next adventure, and the first Hero Holiday for August in Mexico is over. It was a fantastic group, and I would like to take the time to thank each of them for what they contributed, both to the team and to Miguel and Ofelia’s family. I was really anticipating August, looking forward to meeting all the participants and getting the projects on the way, seeing lives change and participants making a difference. And it has so far exceeded my expectations. Thanks guys. To each of you, for your maturity, humour, perspective and hard work. It was a FANTASTIC Hero Holiday.On that note, I am going to rest for a bit;), and am looking forward to the summer going out in a big way.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 13th, 2008

The Power of Change

It is incredible to see what a dream, many helping hands, and a lot of sweat can build! Hero Holiday Dominican Republic has had the privilege of seeing many amazing experiences, but perhaps the measurement of it all is in what is left standing after we have finished.In 2006, we came across a man with a dream, and realized that we could help that dream come to pass. When our CEO , Arroyo Seco 2006Vaden Earle, met Pastor Garcia, it was beside a small square trench with a tent canopy over it, and it was a Arroyo Seco 2006school, church, clinic, and community centre all in one. As he listened to Garcia tell him about his community’s dream to have a safe and sufficient school for their children, Vaden realized that we could do something to help, and so, in July of 2006, hundreds of teenagers set to work to make a community’s dream come true. Today, we can be proud of what we have accomplished together, as Arroyo Seco 2008we see the results of our hard work, sunburned shoulders, and many incredible memories! There isn’t a Hero Holiday participant who doesn’t remember how to mix cement by hand, thanks to this amazing project!Arroyo Seco 2008 Today, The Arroyo Seco School has 80 students, and the number continues to grow as each year another class is added. Today, we see a building that is build from bricks and cement, but the foundation of it is embedded in a dream to see a community begin to get lifted out of poverty and be given hope for their future. To all the Hero Holiday participants who helped to make this a reality, we want to thank you and commend you for all your passion and hard work!Cangrejo 2007In 2007, we were introduced to another community with a dream of also seeing their children educated and lifted out of the grip of desperate poverty. Cangrejo 2007As we continued to work on our Arroyo Seco Community School, we also began a second project in Cangrejo, and in true Hero Holiday style, we threw the same passion and fervor into seeing another community being offered the chance to see their children educated and safe. The Cangrejo School project is really unique, as it will also be able toCangrejo 2008 offer unlimited access Cangrejo 2008for physically disabled students, due to the location and construction plan. We are excited to see it come to completion, and as we continue to partner with the community of Cangrejo, we are continuing to grow in our understanding of what it takes to change the future.This summer, as we have finished up Arroyo Seco, and continued to work on Cangrejo, we have added two more projects that we are proud to be a part of…Dominican Advance 2008 week 1In a small community called Nazareth, an organization called Dominican Advance was able to build an amazing school that is seeing 100+ students getting educated. However, in Dominican Republic, in order for a school to be certified at the highest Dominican Advance 2008 week 1 level, they need to have a fence around their property, so Hero Holiday willingly agreed to partner with them for the manpower to get the job done! Starting this fall, the students attending there will now be receiving an education that is certified with the Dominican Government and that will open doors for them that didn’t exist before this. The project in Nazareth also involved helping to stock a clinic called Danica’s Dream, that has been built by our partners Phil and Donna Williams. The clinic serves this poor community with a doctor and with medication that they would otherwise be unable to access. Danica’s Dream isDominican Advance 2008 week 2 named after a little girl that Hero Holiday had the privilege of knowing for a few shortDominican Advance 2008 week 2 days in the summer of 2007. However, her young life was taken from a simple and preventable disease, that had she not been in poverty, could have been entirely avoided. Danica’s life gave the inspiration for the clinic, and the building now stands as a testimony to how she impacted all of us.Our second new project this summer has been to help with a housebuild for our friend, Bernard. Bernard has worked with us Bernards House 2008 week 1in Dominican Republic since 2005 as a mason and interpreter, and he is a valued friend of Hero Holiday.Bernards House 2008 week 1 Bernard also has a dream that he has been working on: a house to provide temporary shelter for street children and child soldiers. He has been working with orphans and children at risk for the past 5 years, and is now wanting to build a house where he is able to provide a safe place for them as they wait for what is next. Bernard’s project has been MUCH hard work, but MANY incredible Bernards House 2008 week 2memories! As he came to say good bye to our participants, he was at a loss as to how to express to us what it has meant to have this kind of help and assistance with building this house. However, we all understood andBernards House 2008 week 2 could see how thankful he was, because we saw it everyday in his life. As we have worked with him for the past four years, he has shown, time and again, how committed he is to helping the poor and exploited in Dominican Republic and Haiti, and we are proud to have been a part of this project this summer.Each year, Hero Holidy is full of amazing individuals who have realized the power of making a difference and that there is strength in numbers, and it is because of each of them that we were able to finish what we started. There are many opportunities that will come and go in each of our lives, but the opportunity to make a difference should never be overlooked. Thanks so much to all of you who have helped to build the future for these communities. You truly are heroes, and you really have made a difference!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 11th, 2008