Cinderella Would Be Proud

Hero Holiday Mexico ParticipantsFriendship can sometimes happen in the most unlikely of ways. We often become friends with others because of our commonalities: what we like, what we dislike, what we are passionate about, common schools or work spaces. But my friendship with Jabon has been based on what we do not have in common, and what we can learn from each other. It is based on an understanding of each other’s worth and though we live in different worlds, it is about how our worlds get to complement each other and how when we share our dreams, we see much accomplished.Jabon is one of many stateless Haitian workers in a garbage dump in Dominican Republic. He is a father of 7 children and has provided for his family from what he finds, collects, and is able to sell at the garbage dump that we help out at on our Hero Holiday trips to his community. Together, we work with them to collect plastic and recyclables to help them earn more money for their families. Jabon is a good man full of character, honesty and integrity. He is someone whom I trust, and someone whose trust I value.Haitian ManWhile we work alongside our friends at this garbage dump, we often hear them remind us how much it means to them that we treat them with dignity. Many of them, like Jabon, have told us that our help has given them hope. What we have tried to communicate to them is that they are the ones that have given us hope and they are the ones that have inspired us to continue to work for change and to make their world a better place.Old ShoesJabon had a dream that one day he shared with me and some of the Canadian teenagers that were working alongside of him and the others at the garbage dump. He told me that he had a dream of getting married the following October to the woman he had been with for the past year.  For his wedding, he dreamed of wearing new shoes. “New shoes?” I asked. “Yes, it will be a very special day and I have never had new shoes.” he shyly replied to me.Hmmmm….new shoes….I think we can do that! Two days later, with a small group of Hero Holiday participants, we returned to the garbage dump to say good-bye. As we were hugging through tears and smiles, I caught Jabon’s eye. I motioned for him to come over to where I was. Reaching into our vehicle, I pulled out a shopping bag and watched his face light up. Everyone quicky gathered around and started to cheer for him. “Try them on!” someone urged him, and so he did. In the middle of the garbage dump, on top of packed down garbage, dirt and waste, Jabon tried on his new shoes. And, thank goodness, they fit! It was a Cinderella moment if I have ever seen one!A few months after Jabon’s wedding, we had returned to his community again with Hero Holiday. One day he came down to where we were playing soccer with the kids from the village, and he motioned to me to come over to where he was. He introduced me to his wife. And then, he pulled out a picture. A Canadian missionary performed their wedding for them, and his gift to them was a wedding picture. In that picture were two things I noticed more than anything else: one was the look of hope in their eyes, and the other was the brand new shoes on Jabon’s feet. Those shoes represented something to them, to us, and to the community in which they live. They represent the power of hope and of never giving up.Haitian Wearing BraceletIn our world, the desperation seems to get worse and worse. Yet, through the people that we get to work with, we realize that change happens one by one, and it can come in many forms. Jabon’s shoes, simple though they may have been, have come to remind me of how simple it is to make a difference in someone else’s world. And this difference begins to happen when we learn to love with dignity, when we are willing to meet a simple need, and when we are always willing to hope for more.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 25th, 2009

Tonight There is Hope

Kids dancingHow do you capture a feeling of connection in words? How can simple black and white do justice to the sense of hope, understanding and a realization that each life is a gift? This is what I struggle with as I sit down to get it out.Break Dancing in DenmarkWhile school is still closed in Canada for semester changeover, we have come to Denmark to tour and partner with an organization here to reach Danish students. When I first started coming here, I wondered if it would be possible to feel a connection with students who spoke no English, lived in a country even more prosperous than my own, and who seemingly have it all. Now, I am humbled to say that I have managed to capture a glimpse of how important our message is no matter where we find ourselves.This school is why we came, and these students are why we dream of changing the world one life at a time. This school is a boarding school, hidden in the northern part of the country, and it is exclusively for  kids who fit in nowhere else. They are sponsored to come here, and this is their last hope for an education. Although their stories of abandonment, poverty, abuse, disabilities and self-destructive actions may be common anywhere, like all people each one of them is unique, and each one needs to know to that their voice is heard. As I stood in front of them tonight, I watched their faces and felt their pain. The pain of wondering if anyone notices that you exist, the pain of living with a disability (some of them very severe) in a world designed for those with no physical limitations, the frustration of emotions and feelings you cannot control, and the memories of words and actions that have wounded and scarred you. And tonight, these were the lives who reached out and just wanted to be noticed, to have someone look them in the eye and say to them, “Who you are is enough -you are not a mistake.”There are lineups of students after we are done. Each one eager to be noticed, eager to be heard. One girl touches my arm shyly and asks if she can tell me her story. It is a story of deep hurt, rejection, pain, and self abuse. Tonight, that story begins a new chapter as she tells me that for the first time she feels like someone understands, someone hears her, and someone has held out hope for something more. Another boy, 15, begins to show me his scars from the abuse of an alcoholic father. There is a need in his face for me to acknowledge his hurt, and as I do, I tell him he is worth more than those scars, and that he can grow past this hurt. As he turns to walk away, he hastily shakes my hand, looks me in the eye, and says, “Tonight has made me feel like I matter. Thank you.”Christal SpeakingEach member of our team gives that message through our words, our media, our stories, our music, and even through our conversation every day as we interact with students. There are days when you wake up painfully(!) early, travel crazy distances, fall exhausted into bed after, and as you fall asleep you wonder if you have made a difference. There are days when you feel like the luckiest person on earth to do what you do, and days when you just have to believe it when you can’t yet see it! Perhaps it is partly because we ourselves need to know so that we can keep going every day, or perhaps it is because we have learned the value of our message because we ourselves have been changed by it. Either way, there are many days when you just have to choose to believe that lives are being touched by the sacrifice and commitment of people they may never remember. Tonight, as I write this, I sit at a computer in a teachers’ lounge while the school around me sleeps in peace, and I personally feel the power of change.Girls learning to breakdanceThis change begins when a life is noticed, when a voice is heard, and when you learn that you are not alone in the world. Young faces with tear streaks and smiles, as they realize they are not a mistake – that they are here for a reason, and that they can do something to make the world a better place. Tonight, even in us, there is a renewal of this truth. Tonight, we have been privileged to see a transformation in front of our eyes.Down the hallways of every school in Canada and around the world are lives like those that we have met and talked about. LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) needs to be able to continue to do what we do in the nation. It takes many resources to accomplish this, but together, we can invest in this generation. Please consider partnering with us to continue to see more lives changed and to see hope realized.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 18th, 2009

The Value of Hope

Tour BusAlthough he and I both live in the same city, that may be the only similarity that we share. Well, perhaps there is one more. Perhaps, through the common experience of LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), we both now share the value of hope.He emailed us and would only tell us his first name, but everyone that met him remembered his face. Though we speak to hundreds of thousands of students each year in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), there are always faces we remember and stories that somehow manage to change us, give us hope, and remind us of why we do what we do. He is one of those stories.When I came into the office that morning, I had a hard dose of reality. There were bills to pay (with no money to do it), there were touring vehicles breaking down (with no money to fix them), and there were more tasks to get done than people to get to them. This is the reality of the life of a charity sometimes…and sometimes you just need a little extra encouragement to keep going. I remember sitting down at my desk and reading an email that brought it all back into perspective.Thinkday presentationHe was a student in a school that Ryan and Michelle Wood had been to with one of our teams. He said that he had to email us to tell us what had happened in his life as a result of what he experienced…I woke up this morning and looked at the bottle of bleach that I was hiding in my room. I decided that I was going to come home after school and drink it. I had nothing to live for, I hated myself, and I thought no one really cared whether I lived or died.I left early for school and when I got there, your LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) bus was parked in front, and you were unloading your equipment. I thought to myself, “I am going to die after today, so why not do something good one last time”. I came over and asked if I could help you unload your gear. You told me yes, and you asked me my name. But then, as I helped you unload your equipment, you talked to me like you were interested in who I was…and you remembered my name. I thought no one ever noticed me. Two hours later, you stood on the stage in the assembly and you told me I was created with a purpose and that my life wasn’t a mistake. You said that my life was worth living.Something told me I could believe you, because I knew that you were the same people on stage as when I met you out back. I went home after school, and I decided I could try to hope one last time that my life was worth something. I poured the bleach down the toilet tonight because I am going to continue to hope that life will get better. I am going to continue to hope that I will get better. I just wanted to say thanks for coming. You helped to save my life.Talking with students after a presentationReading that email that morning reminded me of the value of hope. Hope flourishes in the most unlikely of places and under the most unlikely of circumstances. In the high schools in our nation, hope is what students need to realize that they are significant. In a 2004 Stat Canada survey, it was discovered that 7 out of 10 high schools students feel that their lives are worthless and without value.  In our nation, we have a generation of youth that need someone to believe in them, to reach them where they are at, and to communicate to them in a way that they are listening to, and this is where hope can take root.In LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), hope is what helps us to continue to believe that we are changing things-that lives can be reached and saved. And for me, on the day that we received that email, hope became the link that I had with a young life that I may never meet but will always remind me of why I do what I do.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 11th, 2009

The first 2009 house in Mexico is complete!

After three short days on the jobsite… the house is completed!  The group from Hinton (and Parksville) have wowed the community with their diligent work ethic. 

Today was a holiday here in Mexico – THREE KINGS.  Most of us took the day off and went to the beach, while a few assisted Juan (the brother of Roberto – the guy we are building a house for) in his desperate seach for medical care.  When we were introdued to Juan, he could hardly even stand on his own two feet because he was so weak.

 Tomorrow we will be shopping for the family and having a dedication ceremony.  It will be a pretty special day.  Our shopping list consists of:

  • a queen bed for mom and dad and baby
  • 2 single beds for the children
  • bedding
  • a dresser for clothes
  • wiring for lights and plugins (the government just announced that they will be servicing this community with electricity!)
  • groceries
  • a propane tank
  • 4 chairs
  • and a few special gifts for the children

There is a crowd of participants reading over my shoulder as I type this… they said that they will NOT be going home on Saturday…  Not sure what you parents will think of this, but we would be more than happy to keep them!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 7th, 2009

Why it matters

Thai childrenThey were little hands that were deeply embedded with dirt and the busyness of life. These hands were always busy as they played “tag”, as they helped to carry the dishes out to the rest of the orphaned children at dinnertime, and as they waved at friends.  These hands were open and hopeful. These were the hands of a little boy that has become a part of my memories of hope and change, and watching these little hands at play reminded me of why this all matters.I have been a part of this dream called LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) for 8 years now. I have met thousands upon thousands of faces, and listened to countless stories, shared much laughter, and have seen much change. I feel like my life has been so filled with amazing people and memories that it is sometimes hard to remember each one. There are so many poignant moments and memorable faces that to pick one out is sometimes difficult. However, in March of 2008, while on a Hero Holiday trip to Thailand, we met a little boy named “Bo”, and he was a life that I cannot forget.Bo was one of over 100 children in a home in northern Thailand, where Hero Holiday was working, and he was the son of a young girl who was enslaved in a brothel. Bo had been rescued by the staff there, and in so many ways, his story was a common tale. He was about 7 years old, but he did not know his last name, he did not know where he was from, and he did not even know his birthday. Bo was rescued from a life of exploitation and pain, and from the first time we met him,  we quickly realized that there was something really special about him. Bo had a toy top, with a long and dirty string, and all day long, as we were working on the building project or playing with the children, Bo would try so hard to make his top spin.It was a crude, well used toy, and it was hard to imagine how it could capture the attention of a young boy such as him. He would watch the other boys do it and he would try so hard to make his spin like theirs. He would lick his fingers and hold the string between them, and with all the strength and focus he could muster, he would release the top and watch in expectation as it would wobble and try to spin. Each time he did this, he would come running to one of our team members to see if we had seen him.  Were we watching?  Would we celebrate what he did, and would we celebrate him? Would we show him how special we thought he was?  Bo just needed the reassurance that someone was watching out for him, taking notice of him, and valued him as he was. As I spent time with him and watched that top keep falling over time and again, I realized how privileged I was to be a part of this boy’s life. What an honor to be able to have the gift of his affection and trust.Since that trip, Bo has come to mean so much more to me: he has come to represent each life that we get to partner with in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute).  Through each of our programs, there are many people just like Bo, that we want to continue to impact and bring hope to. Bo has given more to me than he could ever realize.  He has reminded me, time and again, why it matters. This all matters because each of us matters. One life may seem insignificant compared to countless masses, but one life is how it starts.Compassion is the radicalism of our time. ~ The Dalai LamaIf Bo’s story particularly touched you, please help us help more people like him by clicking here to make a contribution.**LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) is supporting the orphanage in this story on a regular basis.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 5th, 2009

The first house build in Mexico for 2009 begins!

We got to work this morning around 9:00am. It did not take long to frame the four roof panels, three side walls, and to paint the bano and the trim for the house. Everyone worked diligently until we got rained out at 2:30 this afternoon. Yes… Rain again! I guess it is better then snow!Some of the highlights for today were: Meeting the family, seeing the neighborhood were we were building, starting the building process, the puppy purchase (I wonder what lucky parent gets the new years gift?? Surprise surprise), and simply hanging out with each other and working together as a team.Mexico Jan 2009 005Mexico Jan 2009 001Chris’ special memory for today was the bet that he lost, and his prize was unplugging the toilet that Justin exploded in. Way to go Chris!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 4th, 2009

Safe arrival in Mexico for the New Years group!

New Years Resolution # 1 – Go to Mexico and build a house for a family who does not have one!Mexico Jan 2009 011This is what this NEW YEARS team has committed to.  Everyone arrived safely yesterday into LA.  We then drove to San Diego where we spent the night at a Best Western.bus at Best Western in San DiegoThe night was young when we arrived so we hit up a serious buffet and then a late night movie.  Today we continued our trek (with a stop for groceries at the Mexican Costco)  to Vicente Guerrero and right now everyone is settling in, unpacking and getting ready for supper!  After supper we will be having an orientation time and then a bonfire here at the campground.girls roomEveryone is filled with anticipation for tomorrow as they will be meeting the family they are building for and beginning the construction process!  Stay tuned for more  updates…

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 2nd, 2009


I have been thinking a lot about what words could describe these past two weeks but I keep coming up short. The Christmas Eve bonfire, the completed house, the incredible generosity of the family we built for, some life long friendships were started and some strengthened, Neil pretending to be superman over Harv’s shoulders, Barb’s ‘special gift’ and wrestling matches… the list goes on and on! As the bus pulled away from the hotel in San Diego the other day, Tricia and I shared a few smiles and stories together. We have never felt so supported, encouraged and cared for. To the Manitoba crew (and Emily!), thank you so much for everything. We can only count the days till our paths cross again!

Author: LiveDifferent


Introduction to 52

Happy New Year!One of the main things that we have realized over the last few years is the power of personal story. One child dying of hunger is a tragedy…. 10,000 dying daily, sadly, is just a number. We have begun to understand, that hearing real life stories is the best way to get a heart for a particular issue. We want to stay connected with our past and current students, sponsors, participants, donors, interns, fans… our friends.  In that spirit, this is our New Year’s gift for you.
In 2009, we have undertaken the task of sending you a weekly story that has changed our lives here at LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute). Some will be from Hero Holiday, some from our travels across Canada, and some will be completely unrelated to what we do. Our goal in doing this is threefold…

  1. To Inspire. We would love for you to start your week off with an inspirational story that will reassure you that even the smallest of actions can make a difference in someone’s world.
  2. To Educate. It is hard to keep on top of all of the issues facing the world today. Hopefully, we can help you stay aware of the plight of people who aren’t as fortunate as us.
  3. To Support. Every story that we send you will be accompanied by a small call to action. We cannot do what we do without partners. Hopefully you will resonate with some of these stories and partner with us.

Our aim is to send these stories every Sunday night. Please share them via Facebook, blogs and any other avenue that is available to you. Let’s get the word out there and work together to bring hope and change!ThanksThe LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) Team

Author: LiveDifferent