More Than a Runny Nose

KidsInfluence. We each have it, we are each affected by it. By definition it means “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others”. We can be influenced from everything from music to alcohol to people; some can be detrimental and some can change our lives and perspectives for the better.KathyIn LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), we have a saying: “Hugs may be free, but here they are ten bucks.” In our world, a “Hug” is represented by a little pin that costs $10, and that $10 goes towards our projects that we partner with internationally in the developing world. A Hug is literally the gift that keeps on giving. This amount may not seem like much according to our standards and $10 won’t get you very far in our world, but change has to start somewhere. A life that is changed is never the same, and every voice that is added to it gives it power and influence.Danielle is 25, and is a singer/songwriter from a middle-class suburban family in Red Deer, Alberta. She is a life that was changed. One day in the college she was attending, she was listening to Vaden, our CEO, speak about the exploitation of children in Southeast Asia for sexual slavery. His stories rocked her world: they made her angry, they made her cry, and they broke her heart. But Danielle realized that spent emotions won’t bring about change in the world – her life will. From the outside looking in, you might wonder what someone like her could do or why she would even care about something that really does not appear to affect her life in any way. However, Danielle saw it differently: she saw it as an opportunity to allow her life to impact the lives of those children from so far away.Danielle worked part time at the Second Cup in her city, and she got an idea: why not use her talents and influence to inspire change?Hugs CardThe goal was $10,000, as that was what was needed to build a house for twenty kids. Could she really do it in one day? She showed up that morning, set up everything with some friends, sat down, and began to play. As people came in, she would point to the info sheet she put out, with the pile of Hugs that were available for purchase. One day, one girl, one Hug at a time, inspiring others to join her; and at the end of the day…there was $13,000! Three months later, in Northern Thailand, 25 people joined Hero Holiday and helped to put that money into a home for children saved from sexual slavery and exploitation.
“It was one of the most exciting and rewarding things I have ever done. Just to know that I was a part of helping this project. When I heard what LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) was doing to help, I was moved to tears. I first bought a hug for myself, and everything began to snowball from there. When we set up to play and began to tell people the truth about what was happening in the world around them, they were moved as well, and wanted to be a part of making a difference.I think passion is everything. When people felt the group of us excited, they wanted to be a part of the change. It’s very contagious…people want to get on board of something that is making a difference.  I want to do it again!”Emotions are a start, but they are not the solution. Anger will end in frustration, tears will end in a runny nose, and indifference will end in perpetuating the problem. Our lives in action, one step at a time is what changes things. For those of you who are living your passion, whatever it may be, thank you. For those of you looking for something to add your voice and passion to, why not consider becoming a member of the Hero Network in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute). It can start with a HUG, and end with global change. For more information, contact”…As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” ~ Nelson Mandela

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 29th, 2009

Urgent Request for a Physician

doctor.jpgThe developing world faces many challenges, but one of the greatest is the lack of access to health care. This summer, we hope to be a part of the solution. From August 15th-25th, we are returning to Dominican Republic with 50 Western-Fanshawe Collaborative BScN students and the Fanshawe College Practical Nursing students. In addition to some regular projects, we will be hosting medical and dental clinics in villages and communities, free of charge. Each day is an adventure, and each day is filled with incredible memories as a result. The trip, affectionately called “Danica’s Dream,” is named after a little girl who inspired the building of a clinic that we continue to support and partner with.However, we have an urgent need! We need another physician to accompany our medical supplies, to help with clinics, and to share their expertise and knowledge with those who need it most.Do you know anyone who can help us? Are you a medical professional who may know a doctor that would be willing to invest some of their time this August to be a part of the Hero Holiday experience? Would you be willing to approach your family physician or any doctors that you know, on our behalf?If you have any suggestions or questions, please contact our Hero Holiday department as soon as possible: or call 1-866-432-4464 and ask to speak to the Hero Holiday department.Together, we can bring love, hope, and change!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 26th, 2009

Victory Chant

Mother and DaughterSex education. Everyone needs it, every preteen dreads it, and every parent sweats about how to handle it. Chances are, if you grew up in the school systems of the Western World, you may have colorful memories of grade one theories of how babies were made, the “ask anything” box at the front of the Health class in Junior High, or uncomfortable talks with your parents. Truthfully, we consider it our right to be informed on what our choices are, what we can do to protect ourselves, and the possible consequence of a rash decision along the way. After all, it’s our body and it’s our right – isn’t it?Front StepIn that sleepy little mountain village in Dominican Republic, nothing much happens too fast – except the obvious topic in question. Like most cultures, youth end up being sexually active at a young age. This is cause for concern in any culture, but when they are also without access to the basic means of survival, health care and education, it can become a lethal combination. It’s about more than their sexual activity: it’s about the pressures that girls face when they lack empowerment, and how the cycle will continue without intervention. Without knowing their rights, young women can be robbed of future opportunities, a healthy body, and even peace of mind.  Knowing all of this, we decided to do what we could. One fateful night, with eight Hero Holiday nursing students from Canada, we came to the community clinic that we helped build, to have our first ever “Sexual Health Seminar”. We had no idea what the response would be. Would the girls show up? Would they be brave enough to try to learn how to protect themselves? Would they even be allowed to be there?A few brave faces showed up. All of them under the age of 15, all of them nervous and wondering what to expect. The nursing students were determined to make this fun and memorable, as they each recognized that if tonight was successful, not only would these girls be better equipped to make wise decisions, but the community would respond to more opportunities such as this. “No pressure,” we warned them, “but you better be good!”Girls LaughingAttempting to break the ice with the girls, they spent a few moments joking with them and trying to gauge where they were at. In the world in which these young girls come from, it’s not easy to be female: many young girls end up having their first child before they reach 20, and an increasing number of them end up as single mothers. HIV and other STI’s are spreading at an alarming rate, and due to a low literacy rate, it is hard to find ways to educate girls on their choices and their health. How can you teach people who can’t write down what you are saying to be be able to recall it for the future?No problem! You give them visual aids (yep, we used a banana and a condom!), you give them laughter mixed with truth about their health, and then, you give them the best tool to remember everything: a chant! 
The team focused on teaching them that abstinence was the only sure way of staying STI-free. They told them that they have a choice to choose when and if they are going to have sex. In a culture such as theirs, women are rarely educated about the consequences of unprotected sex, and they are often left without the understanding 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, the girls boisterously shouted out “NO SEX! NO SEX!”  Their reasoning? That was the second half of the chant: “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, not everyone in the village fully appreciated our health seminar that night. Outside the clinic were some teenage boys…who looked pretty discouraged!!The global AIDS crisis has proven that it is without prejudice: rich and poor, literate and illiterate, young and old, male and female have all been victimized by its ruthless damage. However, being poor, young, uneducated, and female means you are among the most vulnerable. People do not get sick in the developing world because they are stupid or reckless; most often,they get sick because they lack the basic human rights of education, understanding and access to health care. This summer, Hero Holiday medical and dental students and doctors will be visiting this village and many others like it.  We need your help to make it possible to continue, and to be able to increase our reach. Together with the communities we are working in, we hope to help build a healthier future for the people who live there – because we all deserve it.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 21st, 2009

Celebrity Bash

Bubbles and KidsLike you, I have had my fair share of great parties: amazing locations, crazy moments, and hilarious memories. If I were to pile up all those parties, I still would have a hard time thinking they came close to this one. There were many similarities to other parties such as lots of food, great music, laughter, games, and party favours for everyone. But that was where the similarity ended. The party’s location may have been only 5 minutes from the all-inclusive resorts in this tropical paradise, but it was way more memorable than playing pool games with drunk, sunburned guests – it was in a garbage dump.I can remember when we told them that we wanted to throw them a party. Shocked disbelief, followed by shy smiles. They kept asking me why we would do this? At first, I could read their confusion as they tried to figure out what a group of Canadian teenagers and a community full of stateless Haitian garbage dump workers could possibly have in common. But we persisted, desperate for them to understand something: we just wanted to celebrate them! We simply wanted to show them how much we loved them, how much they meant to us, and the best way we knew to do that was to throw a huge party! How could they resist, honestly?Helping at the DumpEvery day that we came here seemed to mirror the last: watching as the task master of survival forced people onward. Entangled in poverty, disease, and hardship, working from the break of day until late afternoon, hoping to make enough to make it through another day. We were only visitors here, trying to help ease the load and increase the production, but our lives were affected in ways we never deemed possible until that time. We had worked beside them for the past eight days, and now we wanted to celebrate our similarities and our bond: we wanted to have the hugest party they had ever been to.I remember driving through the gates of the garbage dump that afternoon, feeling nervous butterflies in my stomach. I felt like I was 8 years old again, hoping my friends show up to my birthday party. Would these friends turn up? Would they actually come out with their families? As we rounded the last turn, a shout came from the back of the truck I was in, “They really came! Look at all the people!” As we saw the crowds, the cheering started and the waiting kids began to dance up and down and wave, shouting out the names of their friends on the truck. In our excitement, we quickly began to unload the necessary items for a party this size: giant speakers, a huge roasted pig, and gallons and gallons of rice and beans.Soccer at the DumpAs the music started to pump out, the kids began to laugh and dance together, grabbing the hands of the closest Canadian visitor. Little boys grabbed the soccer balls and gathered together quickly into teams, as older boys grabbed the baseball and bat and started a second game not far off. The smell of barbecued pork lingered in the air, as people lined up to fill their plates with precious meat that they had not had in a long time. For a brief moment, I stood in the centre of that crowd, closed my eyes, and allowed my senses to drink it all in. All around was laughter and chatter, camaraderie and friendly banter. People enjoying a moment, feeling like they belonged, knowing that they mattered. I opened my eyes and looked around, and burst out laughing as a realization came to me: The crowd that was at this party ranged in age from a few months to 70+ years, crossing every imaginable socioeconomic status, all savouring the moment, and all standing on top of a giant hill of pure garbage!As the sun began to set and the good byes started, so did the tears. They were tears of goodbye, of thankfulness, and of sheer awe at what we had just pulled off. It had taken a lot of work to get this together: I had to sweet talk the municipal workers into opening the gate on their day off, we had to carefully plan and package over 400 gift bags for the families, and we had to overcome many obstacles along the way. But it was all worth it! Like the great philosophers, the Beastie Boys once said, “You gotta fight for your right to PARTY!”Some may wonder what the point of that party was or why we didn’t do something more constructive with our time and money that day. But for those of us there, we know the real reason. Imagine living a daily existence where you are not wanted or acknowledged, being relegated to work in a garbage dump for your survival. Imagine hearing that someone believes in you, wants to help you, and wants to celebrate you. And if they are willing to celebrate your life and your family, perhaps you can also continue to push forward and hope for something better for the future. Knowing that someone cares about what you are going through can sometimes be what enables you to continue. Compassion and love are never lost on those who need it most.This summer, Hero Holiday will be returning to work with the community that works at this garbage dump. We are working with them to help build a better future for their families and we are choosing to stand beside them where they are at today. This is possible because of people like you. Join us!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 14th, 2009

Haitian Orphanage Emergency Project Part 2 – “The Orphan Diet”

Some of you may remember back in December 2008 when the Haitian Orphanage Emergency Project was Thanks to the generosity of many, this Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti was able to continue taking care of 68 little children who were in desperate need. Those finances helped to buy food (which was their biggest need at that time, and may arguably still be their biggest need), school supplies, wood to make beds and paid the rent for the building they are in.n740462746_1316554_4979.jpgRight now, “The Orphan Diet” is part two of a fundraising effort for the basic survival of these children. If you have not heard of the Orphan Diet, click here.However, we have an exciting announcement to make about this upcoming project: we have a generous donor that is willing to match every dollar given towards the Orphan Diet, up to $15,000! We could turn $15,000 into $30,000! This amount of money will go a long way to getting these children the help they need.more-kids-and-food.jpgWe will be focusing on getting these children medical attention (many of whom have never seen a doctor in their lives), renovating and updating their facilities, buying some much needed food, and more school supplies. You can be a part of this! Within the next year, we are planning our first ever Hero Holiday Trip to Haiti! Please stay tuned to our website for applications, dates and pricing. This trip will be for anyone 18yrs of age and older.To join the Haitian Orphanage Emergency Project facebook group page, click here.To see the original video from the Haitian Orphanage Emergency Project, click here.To donate to the Orphan Diet:

Mail Cheques and Money Orders to:Suite 400, 44 Hughson St. NorthHamilton, ONCanadaL8R 1G3*Cheques are payable to LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) (Please memo your cheques: ‘the orphan diet’)By Credit Card (by telephone)To make a donation via credit card, call toll free 1 866 432 4464

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 9th, 2009

Dreaming of Fried Chicken

ChildIt can be so hard to find them in the midst of the crowd. They may come into your life as a small hand slipping into yours, or as a set of sad and underfed eyes that search yours for a sign of hope. You may be walking alongside of them in a small sleepy town in Southeast Asia, in a village in the outback of Dominican Republic, or standing beside them in a grocery store in a tiny town in Mexico. You may think that they are merely poor, that they are clearly lacking hygienic resources, or you may not think anything at all. But the disparity between you and them would leave your head spinning. The difference between what security means to you and what security could mean to them are worlds apart, and this great imbalance is all because of a small piece of paper. Without it, they will never climb out of poverty’s grind, they will never get ahead, and they will always be left vulnerable; because that small piece of paper is much more of a privilege than a right.I remember sitting there at that picnic table so clearly in my mind: the smell of burning incense from a Buddhist temple nearby, hearing the hum of traffic just outside the gate of our yard, neighbourhood dogs barking at an annoyance down the street, and most of all, the stunned silence in our group around that table. We were left speechless, as tracks of tears streaked our faces. Realization was beginning to dawn on us and we began to process what life was like from their perspective.Though they may not even be aware of it yet, they are in for a long battle ahead of them, all because of a small piece of paper.Street in BurmaWhen Kru Nam told the children that Hero Holiday was coming for the first time, neither of us knew what their response would be. Before we began working with them through Hero Holiday, they had received few visitors. Hardly anyone knew of them, and even less were interested in taking the time to come see a little ragtag group of former child slaves and prostitutes in Northern Thailand. There were 60+ children crammed into a three story storefront building in a sleepy town along the Mekong RIver. They were dirt poor, wearing threadbare clothing, living from day to day, and they were all without official identity. They were from all over Thailand, Burma and Laos, and yet they were trafficked from their homes when they were too young to know where home was, and because they were stateless, they had no way to get back. They little group owned nothing, except a common love for each other and a persistent hope that life together was much better than being back where they had been found.Ice CreamWe were coming to get to know them in preparation to work with them and help in anyway. We told them we could do whatever they wanted. Did they want to go on an elephant trek? A bamboo raft ride? A day at an exciting park? No, they didn’t dream that big yet because they were craving something much more humble: the dream of swimming in a real pool, eating fried chicken, and having ice cream. I know it seems so simple, but to a stateless child without any clothes to call their own, the thought of owning your own bathing suit and using it in a real pool seems like a pipe dream. When your diet consists of daily doses of rice, with a little bit of cucumber and fried egg, the dream of fried chicken fills you with anticipation. And when you are in +35 C weather, and someone opens up the ice cream freezer on the back of a random ice cream seller’s motorbike and tells you to take as much as you like, you are living the dream!So here we were, in a pool in the middle of nowhere, all wearing spiffy little matching swimming caps (pool regulations!), trying to make sure none of the children were drowning, and laughing hysterically at their antics. Little boys pulling wrestling moves on the guys on our team, pretending to be Muay Thai fighting masters, and screaming and jumping into the pool every few minutes.  Young girls squealing and chasing each other in the shallow end and laughing at how silly the Canadians looked with the swimming caps jammed down on their heads. Spontaneous hugs around your legs from a little one you have to look down to find, arms wrapped around your neck when you bend down to hand them the ice cream, and grateful smiles and laughter at opening their lunch bag and finding the fried chicken. Despite what they had been through, these kids were so real and so alive! It seemed that every fiber of who they were was determined to make the most of this experience. For a brief moment of respite, they could forget the hurt, the loneliness and the loss and they could just be normal, carefree kids. For those of us who were a part of it, it was a glimpse of heaven.Later that evening, sitting at that picnic table on the property where we were staying with our team, we were left without words. My hands still remembered warm little hands holding mine in trust, fresh memories of laughter at the wrestling antics of the little boys with the guys in our group, and most of all, feeling so alive. Like your life counted. Like you were part of something that brought joy – even if just for an afternoon. But all of this overshadowed with one thought that was so disturbing: how can the world say they don’t exist? Those little hands are real; the squeals of laughter and the pure joy on their face was real; our lives were touched by theirs…because they exist. Though the world has denied them an existence and labeled them as stateless, they are more real now than ever. They are young lives full of wonder, dreams, hopes and fears. But they are also young lives full of courage and resilience, and they deserve to have a voice. They deserve to have their place known in this world.Slums on RiverAccording to the latest Unicef estimates, 36% of the births in the developing world are going unregistered each year. This means that almost half the children in the world are denied their right to a legal identity at birth, mostly due to extreme poverty, oppression and race. Birth registration is a ticket of citizenship, and it provides rights and privileges to citizens in the realms of food, health, and education. Without it, they are also denied the right to vote, the right to marry, the right to own property, obtain a passport, and own a business. Without birth certificates, children are extremely vulnerable to exploitation to slave traders, drug traffickers, unscrupulous employers, criminal gangs, and prostitution. To be stateless is to be without peace, stability and resources, and in the cycle of poverty, it is almost impossible to escape from on your own.Buddies Along the Border are working to get these children registered and to enable them to have the best education possible. Each year, Hero Holiday teams join with them to accomplish projects and to celebrate their lives. You can be a part of helping young lives such as these have a future with hope. Join us!To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow.~ William Faulkner

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 7th, 2009