Is Mexico Safe? Our perspective…

Charles (and the boys)

My name is Charles Roberts and I am the Director for Hero Holiday.  I, along with my wife and three children, the Bernardi family and the Boyce family, are all currently in Mexico representing Hero Holiday here.  Over the past couple of years, my wife Tricia, our sons, and I have been living here off and on.  Our boys know this as their home.  We know this community very well and have many friends here.  We have been fortunate to be able to partner with local government agencies and authorities to better assist the people we are here to help.Considering the media coverage of the Swine Flu, and the Drug War along the northern Mexican border, I feel it is important for you to hear from us on a personal level.  We are living here, day in and day out and would love to share with you, from our perspective, what is really (or not really) happening.Safety has always been, and will continue to be, our number one priority for all of our trip participants.  Safety is always at the forefront of every decision we make and every trip that we facilitate.I am continually saddened by the media in Canada and the US.  Their overreaction and selective coverage to the Swine Flu and to the Drug War stories in Mexico have created and continue to create an incredible amount of fear in people.  Considering the media’s business approach to ‘sell’ stories to the public, we are constantly seeing more and more ‘stories’ that are slanted to instill fear in their listeners.  Looking at it carefully, it is clear that ‘fear’ sells.

When hearing news stories, always remember to use a personal filter and your own common sense to read between the lines of what is being reported.  When considering traveling to other countries, the most reliable information is official government information that they publish for our safety.  It is direct, to the point and usually not ‘selective’ or ‘over-dramatized’.  A few trusted sites that we gain our information from are the following:

  1. Canadian Foreign Affairs (°)
  2. Canadian Health Agency ( -°)
  3. The World Health Organization ( )

These three are highly respected government agencies, and are accountable to people for what they say.  Our Canadian government will ALWAYS air on the side of extreme caution when it comes to travel advisories.  If there is any reason for concern at all, our government will clearly communicate that to us, again, sometimes to an extreme.Today, April 29th, 2009, the World Health Organization communicated again that there is no need to advise against regular travel.

WHO advises no restriction of regular travel or closure of borders. It is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention, in line with guidance from national authorities.”

If you are a Hero Holiday participant, concerned about traveling to Mexico on your trip, please do not be alarmed.  I understand that the media is making a big deal about this, and it may appear that the world is falling apart.  However, I encourage you, as I did earlier, to please filter what your are hearing, use some common sense, and research this a little further on your own.  Please do not believe everything you hear, and do not just take my thoughts on this either.  Look into it for yourself via trusted sources.  I am confident that a lot of your concerns will be eliminated.  The worst thing you can do is to make a quick, uninformed decision, based solely on something you have heard/seen on TV.Thank you for your understanding.  I hope you are encouraged by this.  I am available anytime if you would like to contact me personally.Charles RobertsHero Holiday DirectorMexico Cell: (to dial from Canada) 001 521 (616) 109-9404US Cell: (for when I am in the USA) (619) 370-6303Email:

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 30th, 2009

Sugarcane Soccer Fields

Chinese gameOver 3000 years ago, the Chinese were first recorded to chase around a ball on a field, trying to kick it through a small hole in a piece of silk cloth, competing against Japanese and other Asian adversaries. As it moved across the continent, Ancient Rome and Greece began to enjoy their own versions of the game. By the middle ages, a game that would seem to be an ancestor to what we know today was often played by entire villages – with the whole population at the same time! As it made its way across the Chanel to England, it became known as a wild and unruly sport (surprise!), and was even banned by the monarchy for a while. By the mid-1800’s, it had become the most popular sport in England and most of Europe, and today, it is followed by more than 3 billion people worldwide. It is what we North Americans have chosen to call “soccer”, but the rest of the world refers to as football. I never fully understood how the whole world could seem to be so captivated by a sport revolving around a little black and white ball until that incredible day on the side of a mountain, in the middle of a cane field.Soccer kidsAll around us were endless fields of tall stalks of sugar cane. The sun was high in the sky, and though the ocean was miles away, we could see the coastline perfectly from up this high. It had the perfect makings for a movie scene: it could have been in a time period long before any of us were ever born, as there were no vehicles, buildings, or even fashions that would really indicate the current date. Small huts made of tin and cardboard, clustered together around a central meeting point, the smell of cooking fires in the air, and most of all…the shouts of each person as they cheered for their favorite team. Yes, it’s true: we were attending an international soccer competition!A Hero Holiday TeamWith Hero Holiday, we had been coming to this tiny village in Dominican Republic. We were working alongside the Haitian people who worked in those same cane fields that we were surrounded by, helping to dig the ditch that would bring a pipeline for fresh water to their village. They were amazing people, and they made us laugh and feel at home. They were welcoming and eager to have us there, and we loved every minute of it. What we weren’t expecting was what happened at the end of the first day, and what became the way we ended every day that we were with them: the international soccer competition – villagers versus Hero Holidayers.Imagine the rush of knowing that you are doing something that others may have only ever have dreamed of? A moment brought on by total spontaneity, resulting in the rush of feeling a part of a moment that makes you feel so alive that you wonder how you will ever convey that experience to someone else. It was that kind of moment! The whole village would come out and cheer from the sidelines as husbands, brothers and sons, all in their bare feet, heartily took on the Canadians, most of them in their Nikes. In those 45 minute games on hot July afternoons, I would watch as even the young daughter of the village leader, confined to a broken down wheelchair due to Cerebral Palsy, came to the sidelines with everyone and laughed and cheered for her friends and Cheering squadfamily. The nets were made of cane stalks, and the field was where the sugar cane had been cleared. The competitors could not speak each other’s language, and they were from opposite worlds in every possible way, but that summer, as I drank in the sounds of laughter, the cheering, and the simultaneous Creole, English, French and Spanish, I realized that this is why the world loves this game! It is the reason why camaraderie can exist, why sportsmanship is a time honored virtue, why the only thing that ever really separates us from others is what we perceive, and why it is so important for us to learn from each other and pull each other up. With the exception of income levels, educational opportunities, family backgrounds, and opportunities, underneath it all, we are all still the same, and we all need moments to remember, to inspire us, and remind us that we are not so different.At the end of the last game, knowing this was our last day with them, we had an idea. We were going to capture the moment on camera, and we took pictures of each team around their net. With pride, each team member linked arms and clasped shoulders as we realized how important moments like this are to remember. As we climbed back on our truck to go back to where we were staying, we were all chattering about how incredible it had been to be a part of the whole experience, and realizing that we were leaving a little part of ourselves back in that village: the part that lives for crazy moments of love, life, and laughter.PS…Yes, they defeated us every time!School ProjectLiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) runs Hero Holiday trips to Dominican Republic every year. While there, we focus on building schools and helping with sustainable development projects. This is possible because of people like you! You can join us on a Hero Holiday in one of our locations that we go to. Please check out for more information on how you can get involved in what we do in high schools, our School Of Leadership, and our Hero Holiday trips. Your life makes the difference!Friendship makes prosperity more brilliant, and lightens adversity by dividing and sharing it.~Cicero

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 29th, 2009

RIP Sweet Baby Girl

Betsebet headstone

Waking up on April 15th/2009, no one expected anything out of the ordinary around the Hero Holiday house. We crawled out of bed, and got ready to go meet up with the group for their last day in Mexico. But before we left the house that morning our normally happy, euphoric way of life was threatening to crumble around us.
Living in Mexico has been a blur of unbelievable experiences, we constantly meet amazing people and we’re always doing things that seem worthy of the movie screen … not everyday life. And although we are surrounded by poverty and hardship, there is always a positive feeling of calm around us. So when our interpreter and friend Santiago took his pregnant wife, Julia, to the hospital on the 14th, our hopes were high that things would work out well. Even after baby Betsebet Nicole was delivered prematurely and rushed to Ensenada, her daddy close behind … we maintained a positive outlook on the situation. There is better care in Ensenada, they’ll get her healthy and they’ll come home. We awoke on the 15th to the terrible news that Betsebet had only lived a short 15 hours of life, not even long enough to meet her mother. It was obvious that everyone of our hearts broke, aching for the loss our close friends had just experienced.

Betsebet funeral

We stumbled through the next few days finishing off with our group, making preparations for a memorial at Santiago’s house, and asking some very difficult questions about life. Nothing makes the state of a country more obvious than when it touches you personally. I find it really hard not to wonder how things would have worked out if this had happened in Canada. Would Julia have received better care? Would Betsebet have had a better chance at survival? Would our friends be stressing over lack of sleep and where to put the cradle right now, instead of funeral preparations?Although babies and young children are lost daily all over the world, the sad reality is that its more likely in countries like Mexico. Countries where good health care is harder to come by, where transportation to the hospital and even the paycheck to pay for it all are harder to come by. Betsabet was buried in an over crowed cemetery, where a large group of the graves are occupied by young children and infants. Walking through that cemetery, she is but another child who was lost before reaching the age of 5. Only in this case, she is the face and the name of a little girl we were expectantly waiting to meet.
I know that none of us, especially her parents, can make sense of how such a sweet baby girl could possibly be lost this early in life. Perhaps not a single person, anywhere, can really find an answer to that question. But the loss of her life has no doubt affected us all. She has reminded us all of how precious life is, and given us all a new reason to try to affect change in this world. Everyone should be given a fair chance at life.

Betsebet funeral

It’s been a sad few days in the neighborhood, and all we can do is remember her short life and hold onto the presence she had in this world.
RIP Sweet Baby Girl.

Written by Kristi – School of Leadership Student

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 23rd, 2009

Four days of Reality…

A few weeks ago, we Nikki and I (Tara) spent four days living as a Mexican family in a cardboard shack.  We worked for eight hours a day, six am to three pm, with two ten minute breaks and an hour for lunch.  We were paid 100 pesos each day to provide everything we needed, including rent, water, food, soap, toilet paper, etc.  We were also expected to take two showers with a bucket and a cup, and wash our clothes by hand on a washing stone on the final day.  _-7

Our school of leadership class put this experiment together because we felt it would be very valuable to have a deeper understanding about the lives of the people we work alongside and build houses for.  We were fortunate enough to be chosen to go first for the experiment. Knowing we had a huge adventure ahead of us, we set off on a early on Sunday morning to our new “home”. Our job for all four days was to dig a bano (washroom in Spanish) hole for our translator Santiago.  _-11 It was exhausting work, with little to look forward to as the day finished because we knew it would be the same rigorous work the following morning (and that at the end of all our hard work it would become a huge hole full of poop!).  We got into a pattern, one person in the hole for about ten to fifteen minutes at a time, chipping away with a pick axe at the hard Mexican earth, and the other resting or pulling  buckets of dirt out of the hole.  Soon we began thinking in terms of only six more digs each until lunch…only five more digs each until lunch.  Usually though, it was safe to say, lunch was not going to be overly delicious.  With the amount of money we were making we could afford something to fill us and keep us working.  One day we had plain, cold, white rice. That was yummy.  Our budget was manageable though because there were only two of us.  Thinking about what it would mean to feed ourselves and a few children, while planning for a future and trying to build a better life, is simply impossible.  People in Canada save money to go on a vacation, for a new car, or a relaxing retirement, basically for a future filled with more luxuries and fewer worries.  A Mexican family may be able to save all of five pesos one day (which is about 50 cents) which would probably be spent on food on a day when there wasn’t anyone working.  It wouldn’t be enough for an emergency trip to the doctor, or a new tarp when the one over your head got a tear in it.  They are trying so hard to survive right now that saving for retirement isn’t even a question.  The minimal savings of an average Mexican family is an accurate reflection of their hope for the future.

                Looking across the street we saw our house, and longed for it and all the comforts we would be missing for four days.  It was _-10 only for four days though.  The hardest thing was wrapping our heads around the idea of hopelessness, because it is something that we will likely never be faced with, and it is something that is hard to create with a cardboard shack, or any other type of scenario.  This experience did, however, bring us closer to that feeling than anything else we have ever done before. Those four days gave us a small glimpse of the life of a person who struggles to simply survive.  So many people we meet here on a daily basis are working long, tiring hours to fulfill their daily needs, with hardly any thought in mind towards their wants, mainly because what they want is to be able to simply fulfill their needs.  Every task of the day was complicated.  Suddenly making dinner, changing our clothes and doing laundry became work.  Living should not be that difficult for anyone.

                It is plain to see why relationships are valued so much in this culture. Because, to put it bluntly, sometimes that is all you have.  Talking with a neighbour became the highlight of our day.  There are no entertainment items like television, ipods, or computers and, although we missed those luxuries, the joy and companionship that relationships offer is much more cherishing than any piece of software could ever give.  Something we both feel is very valuable to take home with us, and something our society could benefit from immensely. 

                We could go on and on with what those four days taught us, but it is something that you have to experience for yourself.  We both strongly suggest that if you ever have the opportunity to do something like this, take it.  Or just taking a trip to see where and how the rest of the world lives gives you such a better understanding of the hardships they go through.  Now when we meet people at the grocery store, or on the street here in Mexico, we have a slightly better idea of the struggles they face.  Except our idea comes from four days, four days that must be multiplied by a lifetime to truly understand.  Some people might try to come up with single words to describe this experience.  Words like exhausting, interesting, or eye opening come to mind.  A young teen might use the slang word “killer” to describe it, and the sad reality is, for many families, it literally can be.


(To arrive soon…video footage …to get a better look at our experience!)


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 20th, 2009

What Do You Do With a Lost Pearl?

PearlsThe harvesting of pearls is an age old tradition, steeped in legend, surrounded by stories of love, life, and loss. From the tiniest treasures worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, to the largest pearl (registered at 14 pounds!), pearls have been an ever-present part of our human history. Their worth has been calculated according to the societal demand, the trading options, and of course, their true physical beauty. A pearl’s humble beginnings happen when an oyster or mussel has something harmful introduced into its living space. It produces something called nacre, which is what begins the pearl-forming process. A pearl is a beautiful result of something that wasn’t meant to happen to that oyster or mussel – it is the result of pain. Although they are traditionally harvested largely in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, there are many valuable pearls that have been found in the most unlikely of places. They have shown up all over the world, hidden in dark places, on street corners, and even in remote mountain villages. We have found some of those pearls in Haiti.Busy StreetTrying to describe a place like Port-Au-Prince to someone in our culture is often a challenge. How do you convey the level of human hurt, the deafening silence of poverty in the darkness, or even the simple realization that comes with being able to experience life at that level? Streets filled with the full gamut of human life, passion, desperation, and misery. Listening to the sounds of commerce happening at street level while you are stuck in traffic: toilet paper being sold by the square at a street stall, wood being sold for cooking, water that is promising to be clean, cell phone rentals, rice for sale, chickens hanging from clotheslines above stalls, children and adults begging for money, food, help. It is a lifetime of sensory overload in one afternoon! Yet, if you could see past that initial shock, you would see something else at work: you would see the quiet cry in children’s eyes that are enslaved behind those places, peeking out from doorways, quickly running errands for their owners, trying to avoid harassment and danger, always fearful. These are the faces of restaveks, and they are slaves.FirlOfficial estimates would say that there are between 250,000 to 300,000 child slaves in Haiti. They are enslaved in homes, some as young as 3, forced to provide everything from meals to sex for their “owners”. Their owners are generally not rich; in fact, they are often desperately poor themselves. They have taken the children on a false promise to parents, stolen them off the streets, or found them in remote villages far away from the city.  Modern day slavery has changed from what we have known it as, but it is slavery nonetheless. A restavek is a piece of property, and therefore, there are no rules. They are beaten, abused, abandoned when they get sick, and have virtually no hope of a future or education.However, there is a puzzling and eternal law that is always at work throughout the world: when the light is shone in the darkness, the darkness is the entity that recedes – it is never the other way round. We have seen that eternal law at work even in the dark places in Haiti. Though it may seem small and sometimes dim, the light refuses to go out: as long as there is human kindness and compassion, it will survive. As other lights are added to it, it can even begin to thrive. David is one of those lights.KidsWe met David through a Haitian friend in Dominican Republic. We came to Haiti to see him and to begin to plan how LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) can partner with him and his ever-growing “family”. At last count, they were numbered at around 70, but as they are able or as the need arises, they continue to somehow always find room for one more. Their family consists of escaped restaveks, former street children, orphaned siblings, and children that have been abandoned due to medical needs that could not be met. They are a part of a growing presence in Haiti, and what they do is desperately needed. They are providing these forgotten children with shelter, food, education, and most of all hope that is rooted in love. They are leaving an imprint on history because of their dedication and compassion. How could we not want to partner with them?Girls in their new swim wearAs one of our staff members met with David on a recent visit, they sat at a laptop looking over the photos of the children that they had captured through the camera lens that week. David has never had a laptop, as he currently has no power in any of his houses. They have one cell phone, and it is powered by a solar battery. They cook on an open stove, transport each meal by public transit to each home, and in true form, the workers and volunteers often go without to ensure that the children get all that is possible on such a limited amount. They have a heart of compassion like none other. For David, this moment to see photos of his kids was a rare luxury that he savored with pure joy. As they sat and looked at those pictures, laughing and pointing out the beautiful faces, David said something so profound…”They’re beautiful, aren’t they? They were lost pearls, but I found them, I cleaned them up, and now they are my treasures.”This simple statement has managed to completely capture what it is inside of each of us that aspires to do something sKids in roomignificant in history: to capture a treasure and allow its worth to shine and be acknowledged for what it is meant to be. Yes, David, they are treasures. They are a treasure that will be remembered throughout eternity, and they are the reason why we believe in you and want to join you in the pursuit of that treasure. Each one of us has a gift we can offer to the world around us. Whether it is our abilities, our compassion, or even our resources and finances. We all play a part, because we are all in this together.Hatian BoyHero Holiday endeavors to not only educate the Western World with experience and opportunity, but also with the life-altering gift of being a part of something that brings hope and opens the way to a better future. Because of normal people like you and I, we are able to partner with heroes like David and others like him. We can all play a part in being able to empower freed slaves, educate street children, and provide shelter and security for many more like them.

And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it ~ John, First Century Christian Apostle

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 19th, 2009

Lady Luck

Mexican WomenThey make up 70% of the world’s poor. They are the majority of the hundreds of millions living on less than a dollar a day. They are often the last to eat, yet the first to face the brunt of the consequences of their poverty. In many countries their rights are virtually non-existent, and yet they continue to hold on, they continue to dream, and most importantly, they continue to work towards a future. They are the women of the developing world, and though they may remain unnamed in our time, I am convinced that their names will echo throughout eternity. Many of them sacrifice their lives for their children and a distant hope of a future: they work tirelessly for little to no pay or recognition, and yet they still find it within themselves to put others first. In our limited experience in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), we have been honored to call some of these women our friends.Mexican Mother and ChildrenFour hours south of Tijuana, Mexico, in the San Quentin Valley, is a small, nondescript town called Benito Garcia. Like many small towns all over the developing world, it has the basics: the families that call it home, the roosters that call the community to an early rise, children that play in the streets, and of course, the stories that are within. In this community, we have found women whose stories have not only touched our hearts and called us to action, but they have inspired us to see what courage can look like: they are the women of the Benito Garcia Women’s Cooperative. Their president is Micaela Agudo Lopez. She is 26 years old and the mother of three children. Micaela came to Baja from Oaxaca when she was aroundMexican Home 16 years old. Micaela and the other ten women who are a part of the cooperative are internal migrant workers. They are part of a workforce of women all over the world who are forced to move for work, and once they have moved often lack any funds to return home. They are forced to live where they are left, literally strangers in their own country. Unlike the Spanish speaking world around them, their first language is Oaxacan (pronounced wuh-hawk-un), and therefore their only employment options are working in the huge fields and ranches as hired hands in the fields, often working 6-7 days a week.Micaela began to dream about what it would be like to be able to have a better life for herself and her children. What if their children didn’t need to work in the fields with her and her husband, and could go to school instead? What if they could actually provide the money needed to send them to school, without having to be relegated to the back breaking labor of the fields? Any good idea needs someone to believe in it, and when we heard Micaela’s plan, we knew that we could sell others on the idea. Micaela rallied nine other women to join her, and they began to petition the government for land and permission to start the cooperative. The government, after a year of petitioning and requesting, finally told the women they could buy land if they had a business plan and the actual ability to buy the property. Given the financial state of each of the women (many of them single mothers with many children to feed), you would think that they may have seen this as a reason to give up, but not these women – they saw it as another step up and out of the blinding poverty they refused to let rule their lives. Their passion captured the hearts of a group of seniors from Penticton, B.C. and within months, they had raised the $15,000 needed to build and establish their women’s cooperative, “Women Fighting for a Better Future”. Hero Holiday teams helped them to build their cooperative in the fall of 2008, and it is an experience that has been marked by the understanding of how powerful it is when we all work together for equality and hope. The cooperative is run by ten women who share the workload and the income, and now, instead of working the fields, they work together to build their own business. They sell groceries and other items, and are even planning on installing a greenhouse next fall, in order to grow their own fruits and vegetables and increase their profit margins.When Micaela was asked why she does not move back to Oaxaca state and start to build another cooperative, she admits she is not yet ready for that move. Though she hates being so far away from family, she is unable to go back: in Oaxaca, Micaela is convinced that her life would be in jeopardy because of the societal pressure to leave women repressed, without rights, and without a voice. A woman who speaks up for this is a woman who puts her family in danger. For now, she is content to stay in Benito Garcia and help to empower these women and give their daughters a brighter future.March 8, 2009 marked the 98th birthday of International Women’s Day. Two-thirds of the world’s uneducated children are girls, and two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women. To be born a girl is to already be behind the eight ball in many parts of the world: the risks of childbirth (every minute, one woman dies from childbirth- this alone counts for the death of over half a million women a year), the lack of land and business ownership leaves them often with too few resources to raise their family (only 1% of the land owned in the world is owned by women), and the violence that many women are left powerless to deal with (millions of women are sexually abused, exploited, and used as “weapons of war” throughout the world each Hero Holiday Project in Mexicoyear). There is much to be done to bring women up to a point of equality and freedom, but there are some bright lights that we have had the privilege to work with recently through Hero Holiday. Micaela, you are one of those bright lights. Your courage and drive has not only inspired the women in your community, but you have shown us that to dream of change is only the beginning…fighting for change is how it happens. Thank you.Hero Holiday ParticipantLiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) runs many Hero Holiday trips throughout the year to Mexico. In Mexico, we focus on community development and poverty alleviation through building houses, community buildings and cooperatives such as the one in Benito Garcia. This is possible because of people like Micaela, and people like you. Please consider joining with us to see more change happen.Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. ~ Winston Churchill

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 13th, 2009

Mexico Hero Holiday – April ’09 – Havin’ a Time!

Oh my goodness. What an amazing 3 days we’ve just had. After traveling for what seems like forever, we finally arrived to Mexico and I’m so glad we did.standing up the houseThis is our third working day and it was the best so far. All four walls, a roof and the windows are in! We even had time to build a playhouse for the smallest girl, Rosie! She had been setting aside a pile of wood all week to create her personal dream home, complete with chair and table!This Easter Sunday has been the most memorable we’ve ever had. After getting covered in tar while constructing the roof, we made our way to the beach with the family for a quick dip in the Pacific Ocean. This day was incredible for both us and the Lopez family because we were able to have even more bonding time with the adorable children away the work site. When everyone was dried off (and thawed out) we went back to our dorms where we shared in a lovely supper. It was amazing to see the look on Rita’s face as all of the food was passed around and the smiles on her children’s faces as they shared laughs with our group.It’s hard to believe that a bunch of teenagers could get together and build a full house in a matter of days. But, what’s more amazing is how our memories are not from the nailing and painting of the new home, but of the times shared with the amazing family we were fortunate enough to meet.Even though we have all learned a few construction skills such as, how to tar and how to frame a wall, we’ve learned so much more from this wonderful family. Although they don’t have a whole lot of material things, they have enough love to last a lifetime, and each of us can feel that. The bond of their family and love for one another is amazing and we all hope one day to posess a bit of that compassion. They impacted our lives just as we have impacted theirs, but our memories of their love will last longer than a house.Written by:  Kathryn Guy

Author: LiveDifferent


Extreme Makeover Mexican Style

This morning we were all so anxious to begin work we were up and ready long before we had to be. We quickly boarded the bus and set off to pick up Rita and her five children for what turned out to be our very own version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition! The white school bus pulled up in front of the house and we waited in anticipation to finally meet the family that had brought us all together. They were so gracious, not the running and screaming you see on TV but rather had a quiet and proud demeanor as they made their way to the bus. Rita informed us that the kids had been up since 6AM and were just as eager to meet us. They boarded the bus, their arms full with the lunch she had prepared for us, her way of saying thank you, for coming to build them a home. I thought of how hard and long she must have worked to pay for it, likely an entire week’s wages. Had we ever been near as thankful for anything like this? You could see the excitement build in each of their faces as we got closer to the work site. And our day just kept getting better!We spent the morning cutting wood, framing out the four walls, and painting the sheets of siding. Not a moment went by when work wasn’t being done, not only by the group but by each family member. It was heartwarming to see each of my students bond so quickly with the family, having them communicate not through words but with the kindness in their eyes and the patience of their actions. We worked long and hard all day and not one complaint. How could we when we knew why we were there and the impact it would have on this family?building day oneAs we sat around the kitchen tonight discussing our first impressions of Mexico and the highlights thus far, I realized just what an impact it has already had on our lives as well. I feel so proud and blessed to be sharing this experience with such an amazing group of students and look forward to see what the rest of the week holds for us.Posted by Tina Smith

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 11th, 2009

Youth Making a Difference Fund Raiser JUNE 4, 2009

YouthMakingA Difference2659995980_c87493e6e5 Last summer, my brother Sean and I visited the Dominican Republic with Hero Holiday.  It was an amazing, life changing experience!Using only pickaxes and shovels, Sean and I, along with another 120 teenagers and adults, worked on building a school and the foundation of a new house. On other days we worked alongside refugees at a dump collecting garbage. We wore long pants, ankle-high boots, and thick work gloves while the majority of the locals rummaged through filth in sandals and without gloves. We were able to double some of the workers wages for the day and their gratitude was more than evident on their smiling faces.n704650516_3404848_1226 The day we visited the orphanage for the physically and mentally handicapped was the hardest emotionally. With one caretaker for every five children, there is barely enough time to provide even the basic needs for these children.One little boy made a profound impact on me. I went to his crib and said “Hello”. When he did not respond I tried singing to him. I started quietly, with “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” He began to move his arms and legs slightly. Before long his arms were wrapped around me. He touched my face and encouraged me to keep singing. It’s true… “All you need is love”.There’s no feeling quite like waking up every morning knowing you’re going to spend your day making a difference in people’s lives. After having experienced this feeling, there is no way I could NOT go on Hero Holiday again.CMW The “Youth Making A Difference” fundraiser will help make it possible for my brother, Sean, and I to relive this life-changing opportunity. A large portion of the proceeds will also go to the LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) organization to assist them in continuing to take others like my brother and I on Hero Holidays, just one of the ways in which they are helping to make this world a better place.We hope to see you there!~Melissa

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 9th, 2009

From One Coast to Another…

Booth Memorial Private Charter Our friends from the other side of the country have arrived yesterday in one piece.  Tina Smith and her group of students from Newfoundland’s Booth Memorial Secondary School arrived safe and sound after 12 plus hours of traveling. One of their first requests was to put their feet in the Pacific Ocean.  So, on our trip from Los Angles to San Diego, we stopped at the beach and they did just that, well some put a little more than their feet Booth Memorial Private Charter in the ocean. Brrr! After spending the night at the hotel in San Diego, this morning we are heading down to Vicente Guerrero, Mexico and will start building tomorrow. It is going to be a fun filled trip and I am looking forward to working with this amazing group of students!~ Andrew Bernardi, a Hero Holiday Staff Member

Author: LiveDifferent