Sing for Valeria

BrianWhat is it about those moments of magic that leave us coming back for more? Why is it that once your heart has been touched by life’s sweetness, you can’t go back? Maybe you do it for the rush: the sharp intake of breath that reminds you that you are alive and present and that this is your experience, your life, your memory. In those moments you feel torn between wanting to try to re-create the moment for others, and cherishing it for your own. Maybe that’s what Brian felt when it happened. Perhaps when he was lying in bed that night, as he was falling asleep, he tried to process the whole experience, wondering if he would be able to re-create it in his own words. I think he succeeded:House BuildHalf of us knew where we were going and none of us knew what to expect. The sun had already gone below the sea, so we could only barely recognize the face of Maria, the mother of the family for whom we are building a house this week. She greeted us from the warm yellow light pouring out the door of her original house, and we stepped inside onto the tidy dirt floor. Pitiable in broad daylight, this shack, her home, in the midst of the cold of the night, was as warm and welcoming as any house blessed with a mother’s touch.Once inside, I was careful to avoid a young chicken hurrying on its way out of the crowding house, and the stove just by the door, dutifully cooking tortillas as any respectable Mexican stove would be doing at this hour. To my other side sat the family television. A Spanish black & white film set in the Middle East entertained the family up until we arrived. This was to be a special night for them; a special night in a special week. This week they are to get a new house, but tonight, their daughter starts on the road to a better life. Valeria cannot walk or talk due to complications from meningitis and tuberculosis, which she has been battling since age two, but like I said, tonight was a special night. We came with Angel, the locally-known charity wheelchair-builder from the Orphanage, to measure her up. After looking past the sticky fly trap, spiraling down from the ceiling, humming with immobilized flies, I saw her—Valeria, upon the bed where she spent her days. Angel sung, “Baila, baila, baila!”  Valeria danced with a joy untainted by the truths of her life—an enviable joy. She relished in the presence of her family and these strangers who she knew were here to help her. We forgot about the damp, moldy walls and the scores of buzzing flies, and became part of the magic. We moved her, hammock-style, using her blanket, in front of Angel’s wheelchair. He measured her. He was proud of her size—much bigger than when he last saw her two years ago. Her father held her hand. That’s when I knew how important this moment was. The new house will be convenient. This wheelchair would enable her to experience sunshine, her community, and the dignity of mobility. For Valeria and her family, this chair is a chance to share the flavours of life.MexicoThis past week, Brian and our other School of Leadership students, who are currently living in Mexico, returned to see Valeria’s family. Only this time they came bearing a gift: a wheelchair that she can use everywhere she needs to go. Brian helped to carry her outside onto her new wheelchair. It was the first time she had been outside in five years! For the special occasion, Valeria was wearing a new dress that had been made for her by Laura, another School of Leadership student. In Brian’s own words, Valeria “just giggled to herself mischievously” as she was being wheeled around. As these words are being typed onto this screen, I am imagining the songs that were playing in Valeria’s heart: songs of freedom and hope, of thankfulness and joy. Valeria is a life that was changed by someone else’s kindness, and her heart has touched ours.Moments of kindness are a gift, but they can be found everywhere. Our School of Leadership students live that experience every day, and we are proud of each one of them. Thanks Brian! You are a part of the picture we call LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), but even more than that, you are a vital piece of the picture of what our world needs to look like.”Three things in life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.” ~ Henry JamesHouses in Mexico are one of many projects that we complete on our Hero Holiday trips. This is possible because of people like you. Thanks for your support and for adding your voice to those who need it most.If you would like to know more about our School of Leadership program, please contact us at or email Your life is powerful and you can join something that is making a difference!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: September 27th, 2009

Mmmm smells like popcorn!

IMG_4283  Monday, September 21, 2009Building Day 3Today we were expecting it to be a big day.  And it was….We basically finished the exterior of the house!  Complete with the finishings on the roof …….we’d say (Mandy and I) it was the toughest task of the day because we spent the entire day smelling tar.  Here in Mexico, they use the old-school style of roofing: shingle rolls, tar and some good ol’ fashion hammering. It doesn’t rain much so they can get away with it.Although we’ve heard stories of “tar fights”, the biggest debate of the day was how to REMOVE tar from our skin.  We heard gas works, paint thinner works….our favorite choice, butter!  Mandy is a genius. Minutes later we were squeaky clean of tar, smelling like buttered popcorn……..deeeeelicious!After a full day of hard work, no beach for us.  Instead, a change of pace with a trip to a local cafe that serves up some delicious Starbucks style options at Mexico style prices :).  As we slurped on cold drinks, we watched a movie called “Pay It Forward” starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, Jon Bon Jovi and the kid from “The Sixth Sense” (we can’t remember his name, haha).  Essentially, it was tears, tears and more tears.  A solid reinforcement of our purpose here, and in life….Tuesday, September 22, 2009IMG_4234 Building Day 4Finishing day, Part 1!  We finished windows, put in the door, polished off the roof completely, primed and started to paint the inside a lovely light blue.A couple of us also had some time to have an extensive chat with the Mama of the house we’re building for.  She told us stories about her children, specifically the disabled daughter, Valeria.  She’s the sweetest, happiest 18 year old ever.  She doesn’t need to see or speak or walk to be happy….her soul solution is beats.  Mama told us that she dances and shakes to the rhythm of our hammers….it was true.  We saw her doing it.  Somehow it was heartwarming and heartbreaking atthe same time.It was an extra long day.  Hot, humid, and smelt like paint.  After all of that, only one thing could cure our tiredness……. ocean :)Another Canadian fantasy day at the beach.  Sunshine, HUGE waves, a bit cold (we’ve become wimps in 5 days, lol) but nonetheless, fantastico!IMG_4236 Waves work up our hunger, and it just so happened that we came home to a delicious, homemade Mexican feast.  Can’t remember the name of them right now, but they are corn tortillas stuffed with roasted chicken and potatoes, deep fried and topped with whatever our hearts desired: guacamole, salsa, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, onions and anything else we could find.  Amazing, just amazing.  We’re eating like royalty…………….and loving it!PS. Because we love Luke, we locked him in the bano today 🙂

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: September 23rd, 2009

Fort McKay – Welcome to Mexico

Thursday, September 17, 2009The trip started off early, with a flight from Fort McMurray, AB, on our way to sunny LAX airport, California.  For a couple of students this was the farthest they’ve been from home……..flying into Los Angeles being the beginning of many eye opening experiences yet to come.  Waiting for us at LAX was a group of friendly faces, who welcomed Dallas and the rest of us with open arms.  Dallas’s bag decided to go to Toronto instead of LA!  Needless to say he was looking forward to buying awhole new wardrobe.  We drove from LA to San Diego, where we did a little shopping, and spent the night in a hotel.Friday, September 18, 2009A bit of a sleep-in was welcomed by all as we met by the bus at 845am.  Bye hotel, bye big city, we’re off to change a family’s life!  Border crossing was only a few minutes from the hotel in San Diego.  After a quick stop there (no hassles), we continued our drive into Mexico……hola Mexico!Immediately there was a change in scenery.  From the nicely layed out structure of San Diego, complete with flowers, palm trees and manicured lawns, we crossed into Tijuana and couldn’t experience any more opposite. Homes on top of homes, unfamiliar smells, unkept streets…….we’re not in California anymore.Looking across the border, we can see “the other side.”  We realize thousands of Mexicans can too.  Every day of their lives. They can look over from the top of a hill and see American, the land of opportunity.  Reality sets in for many of us what we are getting into.  As we drive further and further into Mexico, there are less billboards, less commercial influence.  Real Mexico is coming.buggy A little fun before we see anymore………a surprise beyond surprises…….fun beyond all fun.  Dallas and Andrew let out a secret they’ve been keeping.  A stop in Ensenada is actually a 3 hour adreneline rush adventure!  Dune buggy rides!  How to I explain this experience??…..  Picture 4-seater open cars with super engines and tires built for ripping up the desert.  We rev our engines (drivers are those who have their license, of course) and set off for a cruise around the town, on our way to the Baja 1000 race track.  We are grinning from ear to ear.  The feeling of the wind blowing all around us, open desert scenery for miles….at this point in our lives we are all the best dune buggy drivers Mexico has ever seen.  Passengers hang on and giggle with glee.  Of course, because it’s Mexico and plans are never plans, our professional guides, Victor and Gabriel, have something up there sleeves.  They lead us and our buggies to this gorgeous farm land.  On this farm land is what has to be the greenest grass in Mexico, with the plumpest cows eating it.  We’re at a CHEESE FARM!  Not just a cheese farm, THE cheese farm.  The one with fancy cheeses in glass walls, that tempt us onlookers so badly our mouths arewatering!  Luckily, we also get to “test” the cheeses.  By test, I mean we gauge ourselves on the unbelieveable quality and richness of the cheese.  If only we had $100 each to buy to small portion of it to take home…….sigh.This slight stopover to eat caused a delay in our eventual arrival to home sweet home……Casa de Dawn, Andrew, Anthonie, 4 dogs and the SOL group in Vicente Guerrero.Buenos Noches Mexico.  Gracias for the awesome day.  Manana….Saturday, September 19, 2009Building Day 1YAY!  What we’ve all been waiting for!A thorough cultural orientation in the morning lead us to the site of our build.  Mama of the house welcomed us.  With the expert leadership of Andrew and Dallas, we wasted no time sorting, cutting, hammering and essentially building the beginnings of a home!  A HOME!  This is an incredible lesson in so many things: teamwork (HELLO!  We barely knoweach other and all of a sudden we’re changing lives….whoa….) and carpentry.  Who knew we all have a bit of carpenter in us? Framing a wall The family we’re building for also shared something with us that made us realise that what we’re doing for them is valuable: the mama and her son slept on the lumber all night to make sure no one stole it….(tears welting in my eyes as I type that).  Perhaps we are more grateful than they are for this experience.  To round out the day, the beach was calling. Canadians + beach = Canadian fantasy in Mexico.  Too bad it was the foggiest day EVER.  Good thing we’re Canadians and none of us cared.  LOL.  We all hit the water like champs – body boarding and bouncing around in the salt water like it’s our second home.  Maybe it is!   Pizza dinner made us full, campfire smores felt like home, and cozy beds couldn’t have been better.Great day.  Satisfying soul day.  Another day tomorrow.Sunday, September 20, 2009Building Day 2Ok, before I go any further, I need to put in a personal statement.  Canada needs Yogurt con Coco (coconut yogurt). Breakfast is the best with it!  So, this morning we’re up early on site early.  We made it to site just before 8am.  We’re motivated, energetic and ready to see some more progress. Raising the house  Our goal for the day, to have all four walls of the house up and the roof on too.  Lofty ambitions.  We also start painting the family’s chosen house colour.  A gorgeous, bright royal blue. The colour quickly brightens the brown, grey, and colourless site.  It’s a happy colour.  We love it.  The family ishappy with their choice too.  More sawing, hammering.  Added lifting, moving and adjusting.  Before we knew it hours had flown by and the last roof panel was being added to the top of the house.  It looks huge next to the family’s current (and soon to be former 🙂 house.  The team uses our last bits of energy to share some enthusiasm about using our own hands to build a home.  Is this our real life?  Yes, it is.  We CAN build a house in a week.  It’s up the to family to make it their home… soon.   Our hard work warrented yet another trip to our Canadian fantasy place… playa (the beach)!  This time it’s a sunny, hot and FABULOUS.  La playa at it’s finest.  More body boarding, clam digging (yes, clam digging…..using only our feet) and this time many quality moments laying in sun.Ahhhhhhh…………………….life is GREAT.Sliding the roof onOH WAIT!  Our day isn’t done yet.  We’re in Mexico. We need TACOS!  The local taco joint in Vicent Guererro is called Smoky’s.  How to sum up this……….MMMMmmmmm, Mmmmmm AMAZING.  Grilled beef, pork and tripe (a.k.a. intestines) tacos with fresh-made flour tortillas, queso (cheese) and condiments – Mexican style.  Guacamole, salsa, hot sauces (3 to choose from), lettace, onions…………goodness.  Thousands of choices.  Thousands of happy taste buds.It is now bedtime and everyone is tired.  Tomorrow’s Day 3 and the house will be pretty close to complete….  Can’t wait.Written by:  Fort McKay Participant

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: September 21st, 2009

Hello from Mexico!

As a group, we decided that for our first blog, we all wanted to do it together. We wanted to each write about what we have experienced here so far and how we felt. These are some of those experiences.Roxy – I had a pretty comfortable life in Alberta. A beautiful home, making good money, and doing what I love to do -looking after kids. But this year I felt like we needed a change. We had all this “stuff” but it wasn’t fulfilling me. I just felt so sad , and empty all the time, and I would think “What am I doing here?”  When we decided to move to Mexico, I was scared, nervous, excited, and happy all at the same time.  A couple of days into being here, I did a load of laundry that was life changing! Here in Mexico they hang their clothes up to dry, which is a new concept for me. In Sylvan Lake, where I live, it is a by-law that you can’t have clothes hanging up in your back yard on a clothesline because it looks bad. Here, in this village, they don’t have dryers, so you see clotheslines everywhere. I had just done a load of clothes and went over and started hanging them up on the line. The sun was just setting, and I started crying- one of those good cries. That feeling of sadness melted away and I felt like I was home. Not just physically but emotionally, mentally, I was at peace. Something as simple as doing laundry changed my life. Home is where the heart is, and mine is here.the-girls-in-san-ignasio-1_m.jpgBrett – Every so often we do reviews with the students to get there opinion of how things are going, and talk to them, one on one. There is a written portion that was completed before we had a meeting with them. When I was reading the reviews, I got to know things about them I did not know before. Through the whole process I was blown away by the students, and I came to realize something. They are starting their life with an experience that many do not get, and through this some of them will be able to influence nations. They are young now, but they have the ability to become doctors, lawyers, mayors, and world leaders. I may not do much in my life to change the world, but if I have a part in changing the life of someone who does, that’s enough.Melissa -Back home I work in grocery store, I prepare food and put it on display. While down here, I noticed one of the boxes from a strawberry farm was one of the brands we get in our store. I make $13 an hour to put them on display and these workers who work all day in the hot sun, get 100 pesos a day, which is about $10. It really made me angry because they do all the work, yet they get paid the least through the whole process of getting the strawberries to Canada. It really gave me something I could relate to. This realization made me never want to complain about the simple tasks I do at my job ever again.Kelsey-When we were driving through Mexico into our town of Zapata, Charles told us that on average the field workers make 100 pesos a day which is about $10. When I heard that I got really angry because at my job I make more than that an hour and I do nothing compared to these workers. Most of them have family to take care of as well, where as I just blow my money. It took me a while to grasp the concept of how this could even be possible. I realized how much I took for granted at home, just how fortunate we are and how I want to make a changeadrian-ready-to-work_m.jpgAdrian–  I love this place, I love the lay of the land, the friendliness of the people, and the weather. I love being able to just kick back and relax in a hammock and spend time in your thoughts. It is a care-free place where you can get away from the everyday whenever you feel. There is no real time just time spent.Bryan– I’ve recently come to be aware of the power of what we are doing here.  It’s not always obvious in day to day life, but there are times when I realize the gravity of our decisions and the actions they lead to.  Staying in the Comfort Inn, before going down into Mexico the next day, Adrian and I spent some time in the hot tub with Brett, Roxy and Charles.  I heard the story of Vaden and Christal’s new daughter being carried across the river, and I knew right then and there that…well…this is where it’s at.  This is where great things are happening…and I am part of it!  Just last weekend, simply by making the choice to investigate Hurricane damages in the Southern Baja, we ended up playing a vital role in bringing food, clothing and medicine to isolated villages devastated by the hurricane.  We are truly making a difference, and I’m embarrassed to say that it has taken me six years of Hero Holiday trips to Mexico to fully understand that.Laura– As I look back at my life in Oshawa, I see my family, friends and part-time job at Sears. This was what my summer consisted of, drama from which high school couple broke up, which one got back together, things that seem to consume others’ entire life.When I came down here the society seemed to care about more important things. They cared about the people who they meet off the street, and were consumed with providing everything they had to make their new friend feel comfortable. We were putting food bags together to be sent to families that had been stranded by the hurricane that hit Southern Baja. While we we’re putting these bags together everyone was working together for a greater cause, we weren’t scoping the web to see the celebrity scandal of the weekend or going out to a party and getting drunk. Everyone was there to help and provide hope. The people that we’re organizing where we we’re going, were also providing a place for us to stay and even food for supper and breakfast. I am not talking just about the group of LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) that consisted of 12 of us, I am talking about 31 people to eat and sleep.Most people would suspect that we would have to find our own place to stay, or pay for our own meals, but that is how North America operates. Whether you are rich or poor you offer everything because this is their culture. We think that we need to come down and help these people because they have LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)ly nothing. But that is not true…. they have each other, something that Canada should really consider to model after.

Author: LiveDifferent



CoryThe music from the Hero Holiday video fades and the stage lights start to come back up. The empty stage is suddenly filled with Cory, grinning from ear to ear, waving casually to the gym full of expectant high school students. “Hi guys! My name is Cory, and if there is one thing I love, it’s burgers! I love every kind of burger: cheese burger, mushroom burger, chicken burger, deluxe burger. I love burgers! I also love making a difference and having a good time.”Five years ago, Cory, his mom, and two other siblings were sitting down to watch a movie, waiting for their dad to get back from his mountain climbing expedition. The phone rang, and from that moment forward, life would never be the same. Cory’s dad had slipped and fell from a cliff during his climb, and that fall took his life.Untimely death is always unjust. Intense loss and grief can rob you of the ability to Mexico House Buildmake good choices and to protect your relationships. You are left wondering if you will ever be free of the blinding ache that steals from you, moment by moment. Being a teenage guy who is faced with so much pain and loss can be almost too much. At first your friends can try to be supportive, but being guys and being teenagers, there is only so much support they can offer. The hardest part about watching someone go through loss is how it can somehow put the same panic in you. What if you end up being hurt by the same thing? It is awkward and uncomfortable to know what to say or do for that person, and many people hope it just goes away.  But time moves on. Pretty soon, you are the only one who is mindful of how much you hurt, how much you have lost, and what you will never again experience. That’s where Cory found himself, and the best answer seemed to be to find ways to numb the ache. He wanted to forget about it – to stop feeling like the centre of everyone’s pity.Smoking pot seemed like a good answer, if not completely logical.Smoking up may seem harmless enough: you feel good, you forget the ugly stuff, you are united with the people around you by the fact that you are all reaching out to the same replacement. But just because you are numb doesn’t mean it will go away. The drugs don’t stop it – they just help to dig the hole for you. They are a greedy cohort, demanding your money, loyalty, and emotions. Pain doesn’t stop because you will it to, it needs to be faced. Loss is unavoidable, and no matter what you try to do to make it any different, it still comes down to the fact that you have experienced it and you must choose who you become in spite of it. Cory was slipping into a deep place and his family was scared they were going to lose him.Cory’s mom and sister found out about Hero Holiday through some friends. They worked tirelessly to convince him to take a chance and go to Mexico on spring break with 80+ other teenagers from his city. Reluctantly he agreed. Ten days without pot. Could he do it? Did he even want to?To his surprise, amazing moments happened on that trip: unexpected friendships, intense moments of laughter, a lot of hard work, and an intense cultural experience. But it was when they stood in front of the Mexican family’s completed house that Cory was changed.  Although Cory’s world seemed to be different from theirs in almost every other way, he realized that he shared an affinity with them that was more real than anyone else could understand: they had lost their father too. That day, under the Mexican sun, Cory’s eyes were opened. If they could get this far, so could he. He could get through this; he could turn his life around and begin to make it count for something more.Team PictureToday, Cory is touring with LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) as one of our School of Leadership students. He has returned twice to Mexico since the time that he stood in front of that house, and each time he has returned with a little more resolve to leave his mark on history. Each week, Cory shares his Hero Holiday story with thousands of high school students, hoping to give them the courage to step out and recognize how powerful their lives can be. He shares it because he has realized that change is possible, we just need to be willing to try. And, of course, because he loves burgers and gets to eat them almost everyday in the high school cafeterias that host our teams!Want to be a part of making change? Check out LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) helps many families in Mexico have safe and secure housing. If you would like to know how you can help us, please check out our website for projects that we are currently committed to.Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. ~ Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: September 20th, 2009

The View from Here

I wonder if what is purple to me is the same color combination through your eyes? I wonder if the tones and sounds that I hear are the same for you? I wonder if I would have the same sense of justice if I had been born somewhere else, had fewer opportunities, and didn’t have as many people believing in me? What if my intellectual capacity was diminished or my cognitive abilities were restricted – would I still feel as motivated to reach out to the world? Would I give in to discouragement? Would I give up completely?Unless you have walked in someone else’s shoes, it is impossible to completely understand them. Although we are unable to ever completely see things through their life lens, it never hurts to try. In fact, it is sometimes the best gift we could give them and ourselves.Orphanage 1We first met Ricky in the summer of 2006. He was about 12 years old. At least, that is what the workers at the orphanage guessed to be his age; no one could be sure as he just showed up on their doorstep one day, abandoned by all family and provision. He was tiny. Small, bony limbs, atrophied beyond use caused him to remain curled up in a little ball in an oversized crib. His crib was by the open door of the one room orphanage. One of 60 children in that small place, his life was one of endless monotony. Confined to that bed, he rarely left that location for anything. He was fed, changed, and bathed there.From his crib, the sun was visible – barely. To see it, he had to look through the open door over his left shoulder, with his neck craned at an awkward angle. I stood beside his crib that day, watching as he strained to see the sunlight. I felt helpless, angry, guilty, overwhelmed by all the emotions that assaulted my sense of justice and equality. I listened, tears running down my face, as he mumbled and groaned to himself, lost in the unknown world of his mind. What was he seeing from that perspective? Did he see life as I saw it? Did he see himself as being different, or did he embrace his life and give thanks for every breath like I do? I wanted so much to reach him in that place in his mind. I couldn’t go there, but maybe, somehow I could touch his heart with love.I began to stroke his cheek and sing to him, as I had seen so many of our Hero Holiday team members do when they stood over the other kids in the room. Slowly, the more I sang, the quieter he became. I began to whisper to him words of love, telling him how precious he was and how much he meant to the world. And then the miracle happened…Ricky stopped rocking and groaning, and for one brief moment, his liquid brown eyes turned to my face. His hand that I thought would be unable to do anything reached up to my cheek and touched it. And then he smiled. Not a patronizing smile to make me feel better about myself or to get me to stop. It was a genuine smile, full of life and trust. It was a smile that made me want to stay there forever, allowing myself to be lost in the innocence of it.Orphanage 2I don’t know what Ricky sees when he looks up from that crib, but I know what we see when we look at him: precious, irreplaceable life. Ricky is one of over 200 million children around the world. One in every 10 children born in the world are born with a disability, and of those, 80 % are born in the developing world. Many of them are not as severely disabled as Ricky, but many are not as fortunate, either. In this orphanage, Ricky is fed, clothed, cleaned and cared for. He is known by name and treated with respect. Many of the children in the world’s disabled population are forgotten, shamed, abused, and exploited. They are the extremely vulnerable being made more vulnerable each day.Orphanage 3In the home that Ricky is in, Hero Holiday has helped to build and paint a new building for the children. This new building has many rooms, clean floors, and colorful murals on the walls to make it cheery and accepting. Each one of those kids needs to be surrounded by security and inspiration, just like you and me. On each of our Hero Holiday trips, we endeavor to empower participants to realize what a gift their life is and how much their compassion can help to change lives.For all the Ricky’s of the world that we will each, thank you. Thanks for your time, your passion, and your support. You are a part of his story.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: September 13th, 2009

So Long, Ignorance

Blissful ignorance is not such a bad thing: you live your life the way you want, you can ignore any uncomfortable thoughts, and you can justify all of your choices. Being ignorant of calories makes ice cream way more fun, being oblivious to other people’s feelings makes it way easier to be honest, and not feeling like you have to answer to anyone makes staying up late much more appealing. In fact, ignorance can even be blamed for a lack of understanding – that is, until that lack of understanding smashes into something called realization.Alissa is one of those people that you can’t help but like. As a nursing student from London, Ontario, she is outgoing without being gregarious. She lacks pretense. She loves people. When Alissa joined our Hero Holiday medical trip, Danica’s Dream, she got more than she bargained for.Danica 4Medical trips can be a stretching and growing time for all of us that are involved.  It can be rewarding, exhilarating, and incredibly heartbreaking to be exposed to this side of humanity. At the end of the day we are always ready to unwind and celebrate what was accomplished, dreaming of how we are going to take this experience and translate it into change in our own world. Not everyone will understand why we do what we do on these trips, but we do our best to equip people with what it will take to live your life in light of understanding. I have spent countless hours talking, listening, and communicating with those who are wrestling with how to live out life change in the world that they are returning to. Some fail. Many succeed. All are forever different.Two weeks after returning from our medical trip, a letter from Alissa showed up in our office, describing what the experience has meant to her…Danica 2The words that Christal used to describe poverty continually ran through my head; the statement that she used was honest and raw. It gave me a deeper perspective: poverty is an overwhelming and insatiable beast that shows no mercy. Throughout the trip it became less of a word and more of the beast that everyone talked about. It now had names and faces. I witnessed it. I hugged and kissed its victims. How could it be just a word?At first, I begrudged you guys; I hated you for taking my ignorance away. The bliss of not knowing was a comforting lie. You took away the reliable excuse that I just didn’t know it was happening. In all honesty, to make myself feel better I tried to ignore the initial feeling of guilt that you all so knowingly speculated we would feel when we returned home. When it finally became overwhelming, I felt the need to share it with others in order to offset how selfish and guilty I felt. I found that no one really understood, or they didn’t care. This led to feelings of anger and frustration. (Ironically, how can I be angry with people for doing the same thing that I was guilty of before the trip). In fact, ignorance is bliss.But, although it may sound cliche, I feel as though I am in the right place at the right time. My life has greater purpose and meaning than just finishing school and getting a decent job…I am aware that there will most likely be situations that seem impossible to overcome with outcomes that look bleak. But where there is hope there is a possibility for change and if I am only able to make a difference in one person’s life, to make them feel important and worthy, to make them feel loved, happy and healthy, then it is entirely worth it.Thank you so much for showing me how good it feels to truly help other people.Danica 1Like Alissa, we have come to accept that not everyone will be as passionate as we are with what we are a part of. Not everyone who hears about our participants’ experience will be as excited as they are about Hero Holiday. However, we do this with the dream that somehow our lives will ignite a flicker of hope for someone else. Alissa showed us it is possible; we just need to be willing to try.Thanks, Alissa, for being honest and willing to share your experience. Thanks for working so hard to be a part of change. Thanks for believing in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute). Together we move forward.Danica 3If you would like to find out more about LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), Hero Holiday, or our School of Leadership program, please check out LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) has numerous projects throughout Canada and around the world that need your help to complete. You can join us and become a part of the ever-growing story.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: September 6th, 2009