Now He Knows His Name

I have shared this story around the world, and each time I have the opportunity, I am blown away by how lucky we are to be able to do what we do, and how amazing it is to have people like you join us…In the summer of 2007, on one of our Hero Holiday trips to Dominican Republic, I found a little boy who has become a symbol of hope to thousands of people. This is his story.Change the WorldWhen I met him at the garbage dump where he was working, I was instantly in love with his huge smile and gentle eyes. He was a 12 year old Haitian orphan, left in the Dominican Republic from the age of 4, alone, malnourished, and without an identity. When I had asked him his name, he said that he couldn’t remember what his mother had called him. I couldn’t sleep for days after meeting him: I would close my eyes and see his eyes and wonder if he remembered his mom or felt that he had been ripped off in life. The students with me on the trip gave me the answer to the obvious question: “Why don’t we just give him a name?” Brilliant, I know!The next day we returned to his village with our students and a medical team to do a clinic. I was immediately scanning all the beautiful little faces looking up at me and searching for my special face. When I saw him, I jumped out of the truck and we ran toward each other. His laughter was infectious as I smothered him with kisses and love. He knew that I had ‘regalos’ (gifts in Spanish) for him that day, so he was even more excited to see me (let’s be honest!)Hugs and SmilesWe went to a quiet place where two other orphaned boys were and I brought out their gifts. Their eyes filled with excitement as I brought out shiny basketball jerseys, some rice and beans, and a brand new can of Pringles chips for each of them! They were so excited! They kept asking, “For me?” and I choked back the tears as I saw their eyes when I handed them their new clothes. I could tell that they had never owned anything so nice before and the whole moment seemed almost holy and surreal to me as we stood in this dirty alley and shared such an intimate experience. I pulled my little friend aside and I brought my translator to help me. I told him how much I loved him and how special he was. I told him that I thought for a long time about a name for him and I wanted to give him something special that would remind him all the time of how much he was loved. I had searched for a meaningful name and I had found the perfect name: David, because ‘David’ means to be loved and cherished. His eyes lit up and I asked him if he understood that. He nodded his head and as I kissed him through my tears, I saw a little tear in his eye. As I held him, I told him that from now on, whenever we saw him, we are going to call him David so he is reminded of how much he is loved.That was two years ago. Today, he still answers to the name David, and he still hugs me shyly as he sees me. Only now, through all the attention that we gave to his story, a missions agency helped him get adopted into a home, and he is safe, well fed, and full of life. David’s story is about more than sympathy or even empathy; it is about love – the highest human aspiration. Is not the goal of all to love and be loved? Love is patient and kind and keeps no record of wrongs and when I look at David, I see love. He is not living in the anger of the past and how much he feels ripped off with where life has left him. David is gentle and so willing to open up his heart to me.Each summer we are reminded of how great it is to share these experiences with such amazing people. In each country, on each Hero Holiday trip, the people that join us make me want to continue to forge ahead and be the voice for the ‘Davids’ of the world. Together, we are going to make a difference for the poor and the exploited. Somehow, I have to believe that in my heart. Every moment we have to make a difference has the possibility of leaving a resounding impact through to the generations to come. Our lives are an amazing gift and the best possible thing that we have to offer is our own willingness.Mexican SmilesIn David’s village, there are 36 orphans. All of them are displaced people with no country of origin that will recognize them. They are enslaved by poverty, and some of them I have met were physically enslaved and exploited before they got there. They have escaped violence and abuse, and are currently still very vulnerable and needy. They need education and they need people like all of us to see their cause as our own and to see them as our own children. We succeed when they succeed.Who would have ever thought I could find something so beautiful and valuable in a garbage dump?Hero Holiday is currently happening in both Mexico and Dominican Republic, building homes, schools and community structures to help improve their quality of life and give them hope for the days ahead. This is possible because of all of the amazing people that join us, that help to sponsor our building projects, and help to get us into High Schools to get the word out on what we do. People like you. Thanks!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 16th, 2009

Clinic Build – Mexico Interns 2009

mx internsWe started to build today.  It was fairly laid back since we were lacking some materials. We were surprised by Adrian’s punctuality this morning and had to rush in order to get ourselves and our lunch together. We were accompanied by a few children who were at the school during our last build. There are only a few of us but we managed get everything we could done. We’ve have some walls and some roof framing finished. A woman named Maggie came along with some delicious strawberry water to keep us going, it was incredibly refreshing.Lately, we have been quite relaxed around here. Most of us interns went up to San Diego to see off the other group, get a long hot shower, shave their legs and phone their moms. It was a long drive with a relatively sad atmosphere since most of the group was making their way home. We still had a good chat with the men at the military checkpoint and took some great pictures with them. La Bufadora made for some interesting purchases but it was slightly stressful. Our different appearance made us a healthy target for vendors trying to make double the price their items are worth.  We assisted with shuttling everyone to the airport before starting a long only-interns-and-Kim drive back to Vicente Guerrero.  Since then, we had a day-off: BEACH! Where we got covered in sand no matter what (suntanning or rolling in the dunes). We were at the sand dollar beach and we actually saw some dolphins!! The water was amazing as usual and we had fun creating makeshift shelters from the wind and subsequent sand. We watched the beautiful stars that night around a bonfire, a great ending to a great day!The house has a whole new feel now. We have less people to socialize with but are getting to know each other better. We are interacting more and more like a big strange family. All of us are very excited about our goal of getting a clinic into a community who needs it. It’s pretty fun to have this project before the next group comes. Tomorrow’s work day will be topped off with an authentic Mexican fish taco dinner at Amelia’s. Apparently, these will be incomparable to the ones you buy on the street. Its about time to go and mingle with the rest of the people in this lovely house so…Buenas Noches!

Laurisse (Intern – Mexico 2009)

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 14th, 2009

Cows, Chickens, and Missing Teeth

DentistryThere is a word that when spoken can cause even the strongest human to shake with anxiety. Whenever it’s mentioned, the symptoms can be similar in many of us: sweaty palms, clammy skin, hair follicles standing on end, even lack of concentration. Images can be conjured up of traumatic childhood experiences, threats from our parents, and even the smell of the dreaded anaesthetic. The word? Dentist.I was one of those not-so-blessed kids that became intimately acquainted with the ceiling tiles in my dentist’s office. I knew how many there were, which ones to focus on, and which ones annoyed me. I had the timing of the freezing down to a tee, and I even had memories of a particular tooth flying out of my mouth and bouncing off of my unfortunate dentist’s temple before it finally landed at the opposite end of the room. However, in retrospect, I owe a huge thank you to that dentist because he had the foresight to help me have the set of nice, full chompers that I now own. My dentist was awesome!Dentists have been open for business since 5000 B.C. The need for good teeth is nothing new. However, it is often an unattainable dream for those who most need it – the world’s poor. Like any kind of medical care, dentistry costs money; but the irony of dental care is that many of the issues could be prevented if we all had access to something as simple as a toothbrush and the basics of dental hygiene.DoctorOur patients that day didn’t have access to a reception room TV or even a coffee table with six month old magazines. Instead, they had an open-air waiting room next to the make-shift receptionist table under a palm tree on the side of a dirt road. As motorbikes wound through the crowd, cows munched on grass in their waiting room, and chickens dodged human feet. Each patient possessively held a paper with a number: their lucky ticket to freedom from pain and anxiety. Dental pain sucks, and when you can’t afford to feed your family, the last thing on your mind is trying to get a good dental plan in place. Many of the people there that day, when an opportunity like this comes along, would be willing to do whatever it takes to get the care that they desperately need.As each new patient laid in the dental chair (the bright blue plastic lounge chairs from our hotel) the atmosphere was not one of tension and anxiety, even though many of them were having teeth pulled. Rather, it was one of light heartedness and laughter. As they waved at their family and friends on the sidelines, they smiled confidently at our team members. Behind the rows of lounge chairs, small groups of kids excitedly took turns holding a large set of fake teeth, enamored with a toothbrush and what it can do to make teeth clean. It was hard to keep a straight face as I listened to them chatter and encourage each other about how to brush properly. After they had their dental work done, many of our new friends would jump up from the chair, shake their dentist’s hand, even hug and kiss them on the cheek. As they walked away, holding their cheeks, they would give the thumbs up to the other people in the “waiting room” under the palm tree, letting them know it was going to be fine.Later that evening, as we sat around and discussed the day’s events, our Hero Holiday dentists shared with our team that it was one of the most rewarding days of their entire careers. Really, how could it not be? How many times does a dentist get a hug and kiss for pulling someone’s tooth and causing them obvious pain?Having funThis August, Hero Holiday is returning to Dominican Republic to complete another dental and medical humanitarian trip and partnering with the Nursing Program from the University of Western Ontario. We will be doing an extensive number of clinics in communities that have only dreamed of being able to see a dentist or doctor. We will be doing health seminars, clinics, and providing vital care to those who need it most. This is possible because of people like you. Thank you for your support, your partnership, and even your willingness to learn a little bit more about what we do as an organization.**Please consider posting our 52 stories to your Facebook and/or Twitter accounts, as well as encourage others to sign up to receive it to their inbox each week. Together, we can bring influence and change!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 9th, 2009

Final Days in Mexico – August 2009

Our internet has been pretty scattered here this past week.  Parents and friends, thank you for your patience in receiving these updates and photos.The last few days have been filled with:HARD WORKpainting houseDOING LAUNDRY BY HAND (by the way, Jeff said thanks)laundry dayBEACH TIMEbeach dayfun on the beachDANCINGdancingswing and a missDEDICATION DAYschool dedicationhouse dedicationAll efforts resulted in these two incredibly well built projects!schoolhouseWe are all looking forward to a deserved day off tomorrow as we are planning on heading to an old volcano and the beach again!For more pictures, please check out our Facebook page.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 8th, 2009

Loving it! (Mexico August 2009)

Melissa roofing! (and showing off her guns)So here I am in Mexico, on a Hero Holiday, and so far, I am LOVING it! Our drive down from San Diego was great because we drove along the coast, and I couldn’t keep my eyes away from the window; that is one thing I love about being in a new country: having brand new scenery to look at.When we arrived at our new home for the week, we were all really excited. We are staying in actual houses, dorm style. There is the main Hero Holiday house where we eat, and hold debriefings. The boys are in one house, and girls in the other. There is a big yard where we can play football or soccer and right outside of the boys house is where we have bonfires.Our team is working on two projects this week: an extension to a school, and building a home for a family of 12 currently living in a very small home. The first day on the site I worked on the school. The concrete pad was already laid, and so we started working on putting together the roof panels, the walls, and painting the existing school. There were a few kids around, and they were VERY eager to help. They would take the hammer right out of our hand and start swinging it…and they were actually really good at it. There was also one local man who set up a stand for us to “shop” at. Some of us bought things from him, since buying from a local vendor is much better than buying at a commercial store. Our team worked really hard on the school, and by the end of the day we were exhausted. However, we were all looking forward to tacos for dinner!!! We went to a taco stand down the road, and I ate the best tacos of my life! Later on, after a very thorough debriefing we ended up at the circus! It was a very funny show and a great way to end off our very first working day in Mexico.The second day of work I spent at the house build. We finished building the walls and put together the house. This took us until about 11am, and then Charles had a great idea. I had been told by the team there the previous day that the family was very, very shy. So he decided that we would all take them out for ice-cream to break the ice and get to know them better. It did work, and they started talking to us more.After lunch, we put the roof on the house, and paneled it. We also painted the trim that will go up on the outside of the house and I had some of the girls and the kids helping us out with this…they really enjoyed it. This took us all afternoon, and the roof required us to really work like a team. It took all of us, and all of the strength we had to lift the roof panels on top of the house. When we got home, we had some time to relax before dinner. After dinner, we had a late debriefing and then had a huge bonfire, with Chase, one of the guys on the trip playing guitar and singing. It was a really fun night.Having been on three Hero Holiday’s in the Dominican and spending some time there on my own, my natural thoughts are to compare it with this trip and the Mexican needs and culture. Since I have never been to Mexico I was not really sure what to expect and I have found that it is not much different. The people seem to have the same attitude; happy with what they have and very grateful for us being here. There is a lot of need here as well, however I have found that the homes are much more spread out than in the Dominican. I feel right at home here, just like I do in the DR and I cannot wait to finish the house and hopefully make our family’s lives a little bit easier.Melissa (Hero Holiday Participant)

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 6th, 2009

Its the Circle of our Lives

Think Day, Hero Holiday, School of Leadership, ONE Book … LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute).org has a variety of interesting programs, but are they related, tied together somehow? LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) is like a ring, no no not the one ring…you know the one…”in the darkness bind them?” That’s not us, that’s some other guy. At LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute).org every one of our programs support and lead into the other. Someone asked me today what I do for LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), in what capacity I work for them. The truth is that my job title is irrelevant. Each of our jobs support and are connected to each other’s. LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) is a circle.I just returned from a Hero Holiday trip in the Dominican Republic. I met some fantastic people. There are few things more surprising than how content the people of Dominican Republic really are, compared with someone living in a developed country. Even more surprising is the effervescent joy that overflows and spills onto us from the displaced people of Haiti living in Dominican Republic. There are too many stories to tell here and now. For more on Hero Holiday, please visit Hero Holiday’s site or subscribe to 52 Stories. What I’ve come to realize is that my job, my official job at LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), is incredibly tied into Hero Holiday. The members of Team 3, my Hero Holiday team, had students (and one mom) from all across our fine country. Almost every province was represented by Team 3’s members, and we even had a girl from the Yukon! Most of these participants were there because of Think Day, a multimedia motivational experience that visited their schools. That is my job, Think Day. I am a Road Team Manager, along with my husband JP. We travel with teams across Canada from September to June (we break for Christmas of course!) tirelessly (most days) driving, setting up, performing, speaking, running workshops, discussion groups, etc etc etc. We tell our stories to bring hope and courage to our listeners and to let our generation know that they have value, that their voice can be heard, and that we want to join our voice with theirs to change our world!On my Hero Holiday trip I saw those values not only realized in the lives of our participants, but applied to a people who are considered regrettable and forgettable by a world who has done very little to better their situation. All year I talk, and I talk, and I talk about social justice and trips like Hero Holiday, telling Canadian students that they can do something about the injustices they see in their world, and that it is just that; THEIR WORLD. And here they were! All 19 of them on Team 3 asking the same question I asked myself over and over again this year. “Have I actually accomplished anything? What is it that I’ve really done?”The answer to my question was in the 100+ students who participated in Hero Holiday Dominican Republic Week 1, and more directly in the 19 members of my team. Not all had been at the shows that I spoke at, but there were quite a few who had been, and most of them had seen an LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) show or had known someone who did, and that was why they were there! Their experiences in Dominican Republic taught them, not just told them, that they matter to the world. They matter to that stateless Haitian child, or to that Dominican Grandmother. They are actually making a difference.My purpose in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) was reflected in the eyes of a girl who had been given the power and opportunity to help when she thought she couldn’t. When she thought she was helpless to do anything about the situation she saw in front of her, I got to help her realize that we’re stronger together and that we really could help this life, this girl, this time.Hero Holiday had changed my life before I had ever been on one and experienced it for myself, but now it’s not just stories, it’s real. I got to work alongside some people I had met briefly in a gym somewhere in Canada and had asked “Now that you know, what will you do?” and they showed up. That gives me 19 new reasons to keep going. To keep telling my stories, stories about myself, and about the people I have met and been inspired by. To keep touring, and driving, and setting up, and tearing down, and talking and talking and talking, because though you may not all come on a Hero Holiday, some of you may. Some of you will hear for the first time that you are valuable, that your life counts for something, and you will take that message with you wherever you go, including a Hero Holiday.I will step out onto the road again with fresh perspective on what it is that I do. 19 faces and stories to keep me going, and this is the cycle, this is the circle: Think Day, School of Leadership, Hero Holiday, 52, One, Think Day, School of Leadership…So watch for us this Fall. Are we coming to your school? If we’re not and you want us there, CLICK HERE .

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 5th, 2009

Building Day 1 – Mexico August 2009

I am sure you are wondering about this picture!!!  Please read on…IMG_2083Today was a busy day filled with anticipation, excitement, hard work, good times with new found friends, the taco stand, and a special treat, THE MEXICAN CIRCUS!This morning we got off to a late start to our job sites because we had to finish up some orientation.  When we arrived at the project sites, it did not take the students long to make up for lost time!  It was great to finally meet the family that we are building for as well as the school teachers and children that we are building the classroom for.  We are all looking forward to getting to know the locals as much as possible throughout the rest of this week.The taco stand was great as usual.  For those of you who have been here before, you know what I mean!The circus was, well, very Mexican!  It was fantastic!  They really know how to work a crowd, especially a few of the closing acts!  They were simply unbeatable.  I think my stomach will be sore for hte next few days because I laughed so hard tonight.OK, now for those of you wanting to know more about the picture of the police officer with David in a head lock or if you simply want to see an few more other pictures from today, please check out our Facebook Photo Album by clicking here.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 4th, 2009

August 2nd, 2009 – The drive to Vicente Guerrero

We arrived in Mexico safe and sound. Check out the pictures on Facebook, do you think that anyone was tired today?We are just sitting down to supper now and then that will be followed up with orientation. First day on the job sites tomorrow, stay turned for more pictures and stories.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 2nd, 2009

Two Pieces of Pizza with Some Baby Powder on the Side

KidsIt was hard to hide the smiles behind our hands as we watched their struggle to figure out what to do. During the prayer before the meal, eyes darted open to double check that the pizza was still in front of them; needing reassurance that it wasn’t all a dream. When they were finished the prayer, the adventure began as small little hands, grasping tin soup ladles, tried to figure out how to eat the piece of pizza in front of them. It was our last night with the kids before our Hero Holiday team headed back to Canada, and this was our way of saying thanks. Like any good party, we needed pizza – only this pizza had to come by taxi from an hour and a half away and now sat in front of 85 sets of eyes that were trying to figure out how to attack it. They had never seen it before. They had heard rumours of the existence of pizza, but none had tried it. Despite their frustration with figuring it out, there was an excited titter of giggles as they realized they could pick it up with their hands and not get in trouble. I silently breathed a sigh of relief, glad that the food choice had been a success.Baby Powder VictimOnce the pizza had been cleaned up, it was time for the real party to begin! One hundred of us sat in a circle on the floor of the dining hall as the music started. Around the circle, two bottles of baby powder began to change hands. The music blared and the bottles flew from hand to hand – and then it stopped. Our team looked at each other and wondered what was going on. One of the workers turned to us and said, “Whoever is holding the baby powder when the music stops, gets to pick someone to dump it on!” We laughed, not thinking he was telling the truth; and then we stopped laughing and gasped in shock as we got a cup of baby powder dumped on our heads by one of the children holding the bottle. Now it was on! Within moments, one hundred adults and children jumped up, started dancing and laughing and dumping baby powder on each other. The air was thick with the powder, and the floor was slick and slippery. All of us were covered form head to toe, laughing as we dodged little boys doing penguin dives across the floor in the powder. Over and over again, our team members would look at each other with incredulity as we exclaimed, “I can’t believe this is happening!” Little hands grasped ours, dancing and giggling and holding us tight, knowing that this was the beginning of our good-bye.Cole wearing baby powderAs the music faded, the children started to sing a song to us, as they hugged us one by one. With each new child that came forward to say thanks, I felt like my heart was going to burst with the intensity of emotion. Little arms clung to my legs as their owners had tears streaming down their faces, neither of us wanting to let go. This is what love can feel like; this is what hope can do. Each of these children opened up their hearts to us and let us into their world, willing to trust us despite what they have been through. Each of them had stories of abuse, exploitation and loss, and yet each of them were so full of life and passion that it seemed hard to envision anything else. Through their eyes, we glimpsed hope, as they told us of what they wanted to be when they grew up and  what they wanted to do for other kids that were caught in the same cycle that they had been rescued from. These relationships were rich and full of life.As gifts of necklaces and flowers were placed around our necks, one little girl clung to my hand and wouldn’t let go. Sobbing, she laid her head against my arm as I held her. I felt loss for her in that moment, as I wondered if she knew who her mother had been, and what she was feeling at that time.  As I looked up, her 18 year old sister came to stand beside me with her young baby on her hip. She smiled shyly at me as she handed me a parcel. It was a card to take home to Canada. She had painstakingly learned how to print some English words of goodbye and thanks, and my heart was touched by the effort. However, it was the closing line of the card that made me burst into simultaneous tears and laughter:“We will miss you and we love you. If it gets cold in Canada, wear a sweater.”In case you are wondering, I have adhered to her words of advice!Next summer, Hero Holiday will be returning to Northern Thailand to work again with these amazing kids and their staff. We would love to have you join us in August of 2010. For more information, check out www.heroholiday. com. Come prepared for a wild ride!

Author: LiveDifferent