Popeye and the Late Night Snacks

Laughter.Pure, innocent laughter.Gut spasms and sucking for air.Looking around and enjoying the fact that other people are thinking the same thing; that they are enjoying it as much as you. Feeling like we belonged there with them in that moment, we didn’t want it to end.We were tucked away from the world with them: outside a quiet village in Northern Thailand, far away from harm, predators, and those that didn’t want them. We were sitting on a grubby tile floor, munching on snacks, listening to the crickets outside the windows, and waiting to see something very exciting: the first official cartoon on the new TV set that the orphanage had just had donated. This was about to be a major life moment!Popeye 1Have you ever wrestled with how to re-create a moment for others to know your experience? You want to be able to re-live the moment over and over again, yet sometimes you struggle to recall what it was about that memory that made it so awesome. In the world in which we live and work in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), the moments of realization never seem to stop. You begin to live your life in light of what you now know: Watching a North American teenager laugh hysterically as they are being tickled and chased by a child in a village we are working in, the warmth of a hug around your knees as you are trying to explain to a group with you that the project they are working on is going to help a child like the exact one attached to your leg, the constant wrestle with attempting to communicate how insatiable poverty is and how heartless, cruel and relentless exploitation can be. These moments of laughter, shock, frustration and even intense hatred at evil can help to motivate us all to reach higher levels in what we are capable of doing. But these moments are fleeting, and I want to remember the rawness of emotion when my reality collides with theirs. I want to see the world through the eyes of others, and I want to be able to paint the picture for those who are yet to see.Working in a children’s home is hairy and chaotic at the best of times. Especially if you are a group of North Americans who Popeye 3are there to help for two weeks and don’t speak their language. But in that place at that time, underneath the buzz and hum of so many people living so simply together, there was also a steady rhythm of trust and hope. There was a feeling of belonging, of safety, of acceptance. And best of all, there was Popeye.Our Hero Holiday group had just helped finish some projects in their home and we helped to create an industrial strength TV stand that would be able to survive the many little hands that would be tempted to be all over it. We had searched all day desperately trying to find a copy of Kung Fu Panda for them to celebrate the new TV with. Kung Fu Panda was hip, it was funny, and it somehow seemed to be a little more their style. All day the rumours of Kung Fu Panda were floating around the home and the pressure was on. But all we could find was Popeye – in English. So that night, with sweaty palms, I stood up to explain to them we couldn’t find Kung Fu Panda, and we were going to have to settle for Popeye. I waited to see their disappointment…but it never came. Instead, they cheered and clapped when I said we were going to watch Popeye! Why? Because they didn’t honestly care! They were so excited to be with us and to see a real cartoon, they didn’t care about the fact that Popeye has been around for 90 years, and that he only mumbles in English. They only cared about the fact that we were sitting there on that floor, sharing snacks and holding hands in anticipation of how he was going to defeat the evil man and the white shark that were after him. They were caught up in the amazing feats and antics of Popeye as he downed the spinach and took on endless evil. They were watching a new hero emerge on that 48 inch TV screen in front of them and they were drinking in every moment.Popeye 2Sitting on that floor that night, squished in by 80 warm little bodies, I became a fan of Popeye, of snacks, and of life. What a gift. To be able to sit there and enjoy that moment, though the world was still going on around us, for that night, we were all sharing the same experience, the same warm memory, the same laughter. And like a thick blanket on an October evening, it surrounded you in its warmth. It was what we all needed more than anything else: to know that we belonged there.Next August, Hero Holiday will be returning to Thailand to work with this amazing children’s home. You can be a part of the experience! We will be finishing new projects to help this home as they continue to grow. There are currently over 80 kids being sheltered from their former nightmare of sexual exploitation and slavery, and together with them, we can create more space to save more lives and create a new future.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 30th, 2009

Presenting Houses and Hitting Beaches in Mexico

On Sunday, we presented 3 families, who had been living in tiny cardboard shacks with 5 to 8 people each, keys to nice new fully furnished houses that we had build in just 4 days!! These families were so happy and grateful for their new homes that it made it quite an emotional experience for our team members.   To celebrate, 2 of the families came out to the beach with our crew.  Although they only live about 10km from the beach, they had only been to the ocean once before (as they don’t have the means to afford transportation there), and they were so excited to go swimming and spend time with us on the beach. They kept asking us to print them a group picture of everyone on the beach, so that they would be able to remember this special day.  What a great way to top off such a momentous day!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 25th, 2009

Worlds Collide

Garbage Dump 3It’s kind of like the first drop on the mammoth roller coaster you are scared of. Your stomach feels like it’s pushing against your brain and you are totally in shock at what you are experiencing; you question where reality is in that moment. But this wasn’t set up for laughter and it didn’t end 60 seconds later with everybody saying, “That was awesome! Let’s get do it again!”.With our summer Hero Holidays in Dominican Republic, we stay in a hotel and our meals are at a buffet. I have been here for 2 months now: I know the schedule of how bbq night ends in soup and cream sauce the next day, and which lunch times will have french fries vs. potatoes. I am well aware that I am blessed to be able to sit down at this table and have the food in front of me. I never want to take the provision of food for granted. But food looks different now. My world has not just been touched by something different – I had an all-out collision.Garbage Dump2We are adopting a four year old Haitian girl and she is full of life, sass, and mischief. We met her in the community of people that work at the garbage dump in this city. Last year her mom died and her dad didn’t want her. Her family, who works at the garbage dump (one grandma and two aunts) can’t afford to keep her and so all parties involved are relieved and happy to see her move to Canada with us. Sounds easy, right? Many things sound easy in theory!Last week, as she was visiting us at the hotel for the weekend (we can’t yet keep her full-time because we are waiting on some documentation), we sat down at the buffet with her. She wasn’t feeling well, and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get her to eat what was on her plate. As the staff came and took it away, I watched the plate being dumped into a nearby garbage can. What else are you going to do with someone else’s leftovers? I didn’t really think much of it until the next morning, as I was back out at the garbage dump working with one of our teams.I was walking with one of our team members, showing them what we do at the garbage dump. As we walked, people called out, “Hola!” to us as they smiled and waved, knee deep in garbage. We work with these people, helping them to collect bottles to turn in for recycling and trying to understand their world. We have grown to love them deeply, as we work towards trying to help them have a future for themselves and their children. For many of them, this garbage dump is a source of food, clothing and provision. As I walked with my friend we talked about the crazy difference between two worlds and we dreamed of ways to bring more people to this place to help them understand that we can do something to change it.Garbage DumpWhen I looked up again, we had reached a new pile of garbage and I froze in place. The roller coaster had just crested, and I was on a free fall of realization as I scrambled to try to understand what I was seeing. It was my adopted Haitian family, my daughter’s grandma and aunt. They were standing in the garbage and rifling through the latest pile that had just been dumped. Only this pile could have been from my hotel. This pile could have been from the plate that we had watched leave our own table and be dumped in the waste basket the night before. This pile seemed to scream out to me about the great divide between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. This pile was personal.What would you do in that moment? How would you feel if you saw people that you loved standing up to their knees in your garbage, hoping to find something to eat or to sell. Words elluded me completely. I could only do what I thought of in that moment: I climbed over the garbage and reached out and kissed each of them on the cheek and hugged them. Family is family and family needs to help each other when they need it most.As I drove away from the garbage dump that day, life was a little more conflicting. There was a time in my life when the solutions were so simple: it was easy to dream up solutions for other people to make happen. But I have to choose what I am going to do to make life better for my new family and the people that live alongside of them. Now it’s personal.The statistics of poverty and exploitation are mind-blowing. But statistics and numbers can’t reach out and kiss your cheek, they can’t replace the feeling of little arms wrapping aound your legs, of grimy hands reaching out to touch yours. Numbers can’t evoke the smell of poverty or the sounds of a world that is harsh and relentless. Numbers can only numb the sting and make you feel like you are helpless to change anything. But you’re not. You are the change.Garbage Dump 4Each year LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) works to bring awareness and hope to youth in Canada and around the world. We speak in over 250 schools a year, and we bring hundreds of North Americans on our Hero Holiday trips to experience the power of making a difference through compassion and hard work. You can be a part of the change. In the 2009/2010 year ahead, we have numerous projects in Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Thailand, and Haiti. We need your help. To find out how to get involved or partner with us financially, please check out****Photo ContestYou Could Win our ‘Ultimate Photo’ Contest!Do you have a photo you want to share with the world? Do you or does someone you know want to join us on a Hero Holiday in 2010 and need some help to make it happen? Then we want to hear from you!YOU COULD WIN $250 towards a 2010 Hero Holiday for yourself or someone you choose. All you have to do is submit a photo (MUST be taken by YOU) of you and/or your friends making a difference. It could be you helping at a local soup kitchen, participating in a fundraiser, or even on a humanitarian aid trip such as Hero Holiday. Just go to our facebook page: and click on the promotions tab.You have until September 18th, 2009 to submit a photo you think will get the most votes. Then, starting on September 21st, 2009, voting will start to determine the winner. If you get the most votes from September 21st to October 2nd, 2009, you will receive the $250 credit. Get as many people to vote for your photo as possible, as each person can only vote once per day for each photo. Results will be posted on October 5th, 2009.First Place Prize: $250 credit towards a 2010 Hero HolidaySecond Place Prize: $100 credit towards a 2010 Hero HolidayThird Place Prize: Hero Holiday T-shirt and water bottleGood Luck!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 23rd, 2009

Mexico – 3 houses almost done!

The house builds are coming along nicely in Mexico.  We are getting ready this morning to head out on our final work day on our 3 house builds.  We have the walls up, roofs on, and just need to do some of the final touches such as a second coat of paint, and installing doors and windows.  Last night was our dance party… some of the costumes got a little interesting, as did some of the dance moves to match!   The biggest problem we are having here is the very sporadic internet service which makes it hard to send regular updates!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 22nd, 2009

Every Volunteer CAN Make a Difference!

Today was an earlier start for Team #3 but it was so worth the use of the wake up call! I think I can speak from my whole team when I say that we had a wonderful (or should I say, “maravilloso”) day at the Arroyo Seco Clinic. My Spanish has improved from none to very poor so at least its a step in the right direction. The language barrier isn’t as much as a problem as I thought it would be, though it would nice to be able to communicate with the local people in a bit of their own language (especially when I was trying to console a child who was terrified of the dentists). We have amazing doctors and dentists that we have been working with at our clinics. I got to work with the dentists today and although personally I have never liked visits to the dentist, I have a new found respect for the profession. They were able to relieve a lot of people’s pain today by pulling teeth which made a big difference for the patient. The dentist even let me pull a tooth. It was so exciting!A leader on our trip said something that has really stuck with me, “The only difference between us, the participants, and them, the local people, is the country we were born in”. At that moment, I knew exactly why trips like this or organizations like LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) exist. To help the people of countries like the Dominican Republic get the things they deserve and have a right to: Education and Healthcare. I have these rights back home in Canada and will definitely not take them for granted. I also came to the conclusion the I am here to help change some sad realities for others and that one volunteer at a time can help. I am so thankful to be a part of this amazing experience which has without a doubt changed my life for the better. I hope everyone is enjoying reading our blogs and looking at the pictures of what we have been up to. We’ll see you all when we get home.~ Emily, a participant having a blast on the Hero Holiday DR Medical trip.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 20th, 2009

A Return Visit

Hola,Yet another day has passed and I am never prepared for what I might see and experience in a day on a Hero Holiday (this is my second Hero Holiday DR). Today was spent at another clinic in Arroyo Seco which is a school/church that the team I was on last year helped to build.  It was so amazing to return to a village I had been to before and see familiar faces.  I was able to reconnect with one of the children I played with last year, and had brought some photos from Canada for her.  I think everyone in the entire clinic saw the photos as her grandmother was so proud to show the gift off.Today we registered over 60 people to see the doctor/dentist, as well we did school checks which would be similar to a physical exam back home.  I saw inside many mouths, as the locals pointed to teeth that had rotted, or broken and needed to be pulled.  I do not think I will ever look at my tooth brush and floss the same anymore.  I thought so many would fear the dentist, yet we saw smiles and thumbs up as they walked away with gauze in their mouth’s and a few less teeth.  The gratefulness of the people here always blows me away as they many have so little but the are so happy and appreciate of what they have and receive.Yesterday I worked in a very small one room church which facilitated three doctors each with an examination chair and a small pharmacy.  We saw over 100 people and gave away a ton of medicine.  I am finding it difficult to think that the drugs are only able to help for 5-7 days and then they will run out and be in a similar position as to what they started in.  I am so blessed to have been born in a country that medical care is covered and medication is so readily available to me when I need it.  Although many of the medications we have brought down are just simple over the counter things like tylenol or multivitamins they mean so much to the people we are working with (the Flinstone vitamins are always a favorite!).  I wish these people were able to have the similar luxuries that we so often take for granted.The smiles here are contagious and I am loving every minute of this trip, even as we have little mango covered hands reach for ours. The special friends we meet and playing soccer when the holler your name to pass you the ball, or being asked when you will return again, makes this trip so worth while.~ Joni, Nursing Student on Hero Holiday Medical Trip DR

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 19th, 2009

Mexico group arrived safely

We have a great group of students that arrived in Mexico yesterday after our bus trip from Vancouver.  As I type the crew is getting ready to head to the work sites for the first day of work! Some pictures are up on our Faceboook page, with more to come later (as long as the internet connection keeps working):

Author: LiveDifferent


Mexico Interns – Stories from the Clinic Build

guess who?Thursday had a toast-less breakfast with no power or water, requiring a little creative thinking for breakfast and getting ready. Santiago was ill today so Roberto (Angelina’s husband) came to the worksite with us to help interpret and raise the walls. We were greeted by many familiar faces from the school, many of the kids were the same and we instantly reconnected with them. With only some minor problems with two red shirted boys we have found the kids ready to lend a hand and always willing to play. We had many of the older boys helping nail and lift lumber and others helping with the painting which made the task go very quickly.With many hands from both the group and the super supportive community we got the walls position by the end of our second  day on the clinic site. Even with language barriers between the students and the community we had little difficulties raising the walls, all that was needed was a few charades and gestures. Roberto helped translate in Spanish while Shane gave directions in English to the team, overall it was quite a sight to see the building raise with so much help.Magui, the communities mother hen, brought us ceviche soya with a hint of tuna which was unknown for some time and refreshing raspberry juice to boast our energy levels. Magui is a community leader who is a very compassionate woman with an amazing soul. She leads a woman’s group who helps out in the community and does needlework together once a week.We were invited to Amelia’s for dinner for her famous fish tacos, she had a very full household with family visiting on top of the 13 of us. All of us ate way too much and lit our tongues on fire with a “mild” salsa which turned out to be much hotter.Friday, we began our third building day by raising the panels onto the roof. The children were there when we arrived and very eager to begin playing again. Many of us found it hard to work when so many smiling faces wanted to play and interact with us.Magui arrived at noon with another meal for our hardworking team of sopas which were deep fried corn tortillas topped with refried beans, sour cream, lettuce, cheese and salsa. Magui always mades sure there was plenty of food for the workers and always feeds the children in the area afterwards which just shows how much she cares about everyone.We enjoyed Kim’s famous Mac and Cheese which was amazing! We had been pre-warned about Kim’s cooking and were a little hesitant and first but it turned out awesome and many of us had several bowlfuls.i guess we have to cut it off As Saturday was our final day on the site we finished tarring the roof with a very efficient team on the roof and built three inner walls to allow space for a reception area, a doctors office and a room for his assistant. The windows and roof were trimmed and the door positioned. Santiago was back with us today feeling much better so it was great to have his help and enthusiasm which helps keep all of us going.Magui again arrived with food for the group, today was empanadas which looked a little like Mexican pizza pockets filled with potatoes and sausage. We completed all our work in the early afternoon and spent some time playing with all the kids around the site, there must have been close to 30 of them around at different times. There was one little boy named Ismael who captured many of our hearts. He has a smile that can light up a room or work site and laughter which is completely contagious. He even helped us paint whenever one of us wasn’t playing with him.8 incredible people     After working hard at the site all day we came back to the house to shower and change before heading out again. Before we left for dinner a few of us headed to the fabric store to purchase a piece of material to cover a large piece of plywood for the community and kids to put their handprints in white paint on. The artwork was then to be hung in the clinic to bright the plain wood walls. We then stopped at Sammy’s the local second-hand store we usually go to for purchasing furniture for the houses. We found a few tables for desks, many chairs, filing cabinets, a water cooler, a glass medicine cabinet and even a medical bed! It was perfect and seemed just meant to be.Later we headed down to the beach, a few swam and others just hung out on the beach before heading over to Gaston’s for a group dinner out and to watch the beautiful Mexican sunset. We had many laughs around the table over balloons popped over Dawn’s porcupine hair, a spilt and broken margarita glass, a great server and many other things. We all greatly enjoyed our meals and some flan afterwards before heading back to the house.We arrived early Sunday morning for dedication day hoping to beat some of the community members to the site to unload our purchases from Sammy’s but when we arrived there were already 30 or so people around and many of the children we had seen in previous days. Sammy arrived around 9 with all the furniture and we moved it into the clinic before beginning to paint hands for the board of handprints. Some of the children were very eager to have their hands painted while others were a little more hesitant, by the end almost all of the children had their prints on the board and many of the community leaders. We even managed to get many infant handprints on the board before moving it inside to proudly nail it to the wall.By the time we began dedication the site was full of people who each brought something, Magui and her women had a list of who was to bring what. Everything was brought from a kilo of tortillas to some chicken to even a fence post! Our Hero Holiday team began dedication with each of us saying how much we enjoyed working side by side with the community on this project and how much they deserved it. The community then profusely thanked us saying that a small group of students from Canada was doing more for them then their own government and they were eternally grateful for all that we were doing for them.  We ended on a tearful note as Magui told us how much she enjoyed working with us and for all that we were doing for her community.Following the dedication there was tons of food for everyone, there was fried chicken made right on the site with beans, salsa, tortillas, rice, and soda. After the food we visited with the community for one of the longest dedications Dawn had ever seen, it lasted till close to 1pm and was something many of us will never forget. We all played with the kids spinning them around, taking pictures, braiding hair and lots of hugs and cuddles. Many of us had tears in our eyes as we left the site, the community had left a huge impact on the group and will be in our hearts forever. It was very difficult to say goodbye to the kids who had been around for so many days between the school and clinic site.We relaxed for a bit before beginning to prepare for the next group. We began with taking down the chicken coop at the campground followed by cleaning out the tool shed and getting the tools organized for the next sites.We finished the day with some tamales made for us by the community for dinner and a debriefing to get many tense emotions into the open. Then we all headed to bed for a good nights sleep before our day of cleaning and heading to the migrant camp the next day.Jenna – Intern

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 18th, 2009

Prep Days for our Medical Clinics

Hola Amigos!It is now Day #3 of our Hero Holiday Medical trip and we have already been down and dirty with construction, a lot of pill sorting/dividing, and labeling. Not to mention a great deal of SWEATING!Everyone survived the travel day which was long but when we all arrived safely to the beautiful (and did I mention hot/humid) Dominican Republic it all made it worth the travel. Sunday morning my team (#3 woot woot!) was put to work sorting through all the bags of medicines, vitamins, dressings, an supplies. At first this job seemed insurmountable but once we broke into smaller groups and picked an area, the piles got smaller.My group sorted through all of the multi vitamins and divided them into groups of 10s, put them into little baggies and then labeled them with appropriate instructions in Spanish. I definitely wonder if I got my vitamin intake for the day through osmosis of absorbing them in my fingers! lolThat afternoon, group 3 ventured the Sosua region on the “truck” (which is a truck with a flat bed which has seats on them and holds roughly 16… we were squished like sardines!). Our awareness tour took us to our work project to see the Community Centre where we are finishing the kitchen project that the Hero Holiday July teams started. The second part was at the cemetery where Christal shared with us Danica’s full story, the reason why we started this trip. We also paid respects to her grave site. The final stop was up, over, and around to a community which has a medical clinic built and run by a charity, Servant’s Heart, in memory of Danica. The road getting to this clinic was on of the bumpiest, and twisty rides over especially because we were riding in the truck too. Very fun over all!Once we arrived we had a following of little children wanting to see what was happening. The clinic tour was great as being a nursing students it was right up our alley. There is a pharmacy, examination rooms, and a waiting room. Then we explored the village and discovered a baseball game being played by some of the boys in the street. This was very interesting because they were playing with half a baseball but still managing to hit pretty far.After visiting and walking the village, we drove back to the resort. This resort is wonderful and we definitely won’t be under fed. It is such a treat to wake up and eat breakfast right beside the ocean. All of the resort staff are very friendly and extremely nice. I am looking forward to see what tomorrow will bring!~ Meighan, a nursing student on Hero Holiday DR Medical

Author: LiveDifferent


First Day on the Medical Clinics

We are in the Dominican Republic and loving it so far. To be honest, the first few days were exhausting with all the travel and sorting the medical supplies. You should have seen all the donations our team came with, it filled the Hero Holiday office and an additional room being use to sort! It was amazing and they will be all put to good use.Today was our first nursing experience in a developing country and it was amazing! We held our clinic in a village’s local church and saw as many as 100 people in need of medical care. Some of us were working in the “pharmacy” handing out the drugs the physicians prescribed, while others were working with the doctors in making assessments, as the rest taking patients vitals as they registered to see the doctor. It was very over whelming at first with all the rush of people and the humidity, but  as everyone got the hang of things it went smoothly and was a great success. It was great to see the difference between Canadian health care and the health care in the Dominican. Unfortunately, the people of the Dominican Republic and Haiti are not as lucky as we are.It was fun playing with the children in around the clinic and holding all the babies. Can’t wait for the rest of the week and the many experiences we will have!Adios Amigos!Ashley, Abby, and Chandell, nursing students on Hero Holiday DR Medical

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 17th, 2009