The Shack Experience – Day #7 Who Knew Cleaning Could be so FUN!

The Shack Work Day #7Today was more of a cool down day, after the hard day working in the field. The students needed to recover both physically and emotionally. We needed to finish up a project, unloading rocks from the truck and placing them in an area of the yard. This took them just a little over an hour to do. After a short break, we headed over to a nursing home to help out with some cleaning. When we got there the students were really impressed by how nice the building was. The construction of it was completed this past February 2009 and was already full of older people. The oldest person there is 102 years old! They guessed her age by talking to the 80 year old daughter.This nursing home was set up for neglected and abused older people because they still deserve the best care. One of the men in there went into the hospital a few years ago. His wife came in and got him to sign a few hospital papers. In fact, what he really signed was his divorce papers and the rights to everything he owns. Juan, the man who runs the home, picked him up from the police station, because that is where the hospital took him when he didn’t pay the bills. Today he is happy in the nursing home but still doesn’t understand what happened to him that day.The students worked hard for three hours cleaning the nursing home. Everything was dusty, which is the norm for the Baja, so they spent most of the day dusting. They cleaned windows, doors, sky lights, fans and floors and did a great gob! During all this, they also spent time trying to socialize with the residence, even through there was a language barrier. I am sure the older folks loved watching the young spry Americanos work in front of them. A few of them knew a little bit of English and were always trying to give them tips on how to do the job.All of the students loved being there and wanted to come back again. Melissa even said that they need to spend less time in front of their computers and spend more time helping there. I wish I got that statement on video! The afternoon was put aside for them to learn how to wash clothes on a washboard, which is the most common way of doing laundry around here. I hear they saved up and got some marshmallows to have a Fiesta tonight. I am looking forward to that!~Brett Dyrland, School of Leadership Staff Member

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: October 8th, 2009

The Shack Experience – Day #6 Working in the Fields

Shack Work Day #6 started out with an early wake up at 4am. The students were picked up at 4:45am at the highway to be brought to a local ranch to work in the fields. The minute the students stepped out of the truck, they got all kinds of looks from the Mexican workers, they could not figure out why these “Americans” would want to work in the fields.

The day started with the students picking bucket fulls of cucumbers and hauling them to a big truck. They worked on the cucumbers for a couple of hours, by the time they were ready to move on to planting strawberry plants, they had picked two huge truck fulls of cucumbers. It was only 9am but it felt like they had been out there for a really long time, and they were already feeling sore. They were then taken to a strawberry field where they were given a tool and a bucket full of strawberry plants. They used the tool to help push the strawberry roots deeper into the soil. They were constantly bent over, and they got so used to being bent over that it hurt a lot when they had to stand straight up. They all worked really hard. In fact, some of the old ladies working there said that the “little white girls” were hard workers.

At lunch time, Julia (pronounced Hoolia) , our neighbor across the street from the big house, brought the students quesadillas which was a real treat because they had been eating a lot of beans and rice for meals. I asked each of them about their experience that day, and all of them were really emotional. They couldn’t believe that people do this their whole lives. There was young kids to really old Mexican’s out there working in the fields. The students were also thinkig that a lot of these women would go home after a really hard day out at the fields and go home to make supper, do laundry, and clean. The Mexicans work so hard, day in and day out, for a meer 110 pesos.

We also found out that there is no pay increase here, they all work for the same amount of income. The only thing they have to look forward to is when you have reached a certain amount of years in age, they let you work at some of the easier jobs. This is there type of incentive to keep older people working in the fields. The students didn’t really want to talk to me after because they said they had no words to describe what they had felt towards these extremely hard working Mexicans. They did say that they felt sadness for the Mexicans, because for the students, after tomorrow they get to go back to beds, warm showers,and a concrete home. The majority of the Mexican’s after work will go back to their shacks, and live such a hard life. I don’t believe this experience will ever leave any of the students minds. It was very life changing and really gave them an idea of what living the life of a Mexican could be like.

~ Brett Dyrland, School of Leadership Staff Member

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: October 7th, 2009

The Shack Experience – Day #5: Rock Picking

As the sun hit the edges of the land the SOL’s awoke for a day of rock picking. Not knowing of how the day was going to go the students all bundled up since the previous night had been excruciatingly cold. The fire was started in a brisk 5 seconds so that we could get cracking on breakfast.We started the work day off thinking we would have to fill Brett’s truck with rocks. We soon found out that we would be working for actual rock pickers! As we arrived at the work site, we were told that we had to wait until the tide came out. The main rock picker had his whole family at the site; his wife and two children. As the son quickly warmed up us students, we learned that the two children were not enrolled in school. We asked Santiago, our translator, to ask the family questions for us about their job as rock pickers and the basics of the job. Like the fact that a full bag of rocks true worth was 8 pesos (around $0.80 CAD). So to make a normal, a Mexican’s daily wage of 100 pesos they would have to fill approximately 12 2×3 bags everyday.The job itself was pretty boring and we all sat engulfed in rocks awaiting to find the perfect rock to be able to put in the bag. The only slight problem was knowing which rocks were the right ones because the last thing the students wanted to do was create more work for them and not actually help. But as we hit the last 10 mins of the job, Brett brought out the camera. The son ran up grabbed the camera and went around taking pictures. We were able to see the mere enjoyment that the child was having with the camera. By being able to help this family and just bringing a smile to their faces made everything worth while in the end.~ A School of Leadership Student living in the Shack

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: October 6th, 2009

The Shack Experience – Day #4: A Day off

A day off usually consists of vegging out at home which is equipped with snacks, entertainment, and usually a big comfy chair. But when the SOL’s  were confronted with a day off we had nothing but time to carry us through the day. We started off with walking our kids to church to save the extra expense for transportation, and on our way back, we decided to splurge on peanut butter and marshmallows. Mmm!Once we got back, we realized it hadn’t even reached lunch time. So we got out some sleeping bags and laid them across the sand in the shade. Instead of wasting our time on our computers, like we usually do with our free time, we actually had the opportunity to have a conversation. Mexicans base everything on relationship and working together as a community instead of the individualistic/task orientated life style that we are used to in Canada. After we had talked about the hot topics we decided to cool off with a nice shower. Our shower is set up like a teepee, so when it is windy it is easy for it to fall down. Which is exactly what happened while one of the students were showering a huge gust of wind knocked over the teepee! The showers that we have been taking consisted of a pot of water (warmed on a fire) and a hand full of soap each. This manages to get all of us got sqeeky clean.To kill our boredom, we decided to walk up the mountain (well, it’s more of a hill). The scenery is beautiful from the mountain. The only problem is that the wind was so strong, we could barely keep our eyes open. We quickly learned that if you lie down the wind was not as strong. So as we all laid there, encased in the wind around us, we had all found peace and relaxation. In conclusion, we found that when all the high tech electronics, easy to munch on snacks, and a big comfy lazy boy are taken away, you are able to actually build relationships and find peace within yourself.~  A School of Leadership Student living in a shack

Author: LiveDifferent


The Shack Experience – Day #3

The Shack Day 3:I think today was a great day for the students. Some of them came to a realization of what “The Shack” actually is. The Shack experience is a demonstration of a life of lack. A lack of food, clean water, sleep, entertainment and long hard days of work.During the night there was some sort of marching band music playing in the street and it started raining out. Which is not great when your roof is a leaky tarp, and is the case for some families living in our area. So, I was not expecting much energy out of them during the day.Today they did some yard maintenance around the main Hero Holiday property. Most of it was laborious work that we would normally hire out to a Mexican or two. First, we loaded the truck with dirt we got from mountains. We came back to the property, unloaded the dirt and started sweeping the driveway. Trust me, sweeping the driveway is not an easy task. It is a cobblestone road and it is rather large. I have seen it take a day or more to sweep. The the School of Leadership girls are hard workers and had it done in a few hours. Meanwhile, the boys were off in the corner of the yard cleaning up all the construction supplies, stacking lumber and bricks. All the students have a pretty good work ethic and finish all their work in record time. They always keep me on my toes trying to find more work for them.For lunch they had two hard boiled eggs each. Ouch. Not much when you are used to a double cheese with super sized fries and a drink for lunch. They were not happy when the “Gringo” boss came out with a cup of coffee in the morning and quesadillas with salsa for lunch. I explained to them, the feelings they are experiencing, may be similar to the feelings the Mexicans might feel when we flaunt our sandwiches and cokes in front of them, when all they got is a corn tortilla. I think they got the point.After lunch I took them down to the beach… to work. There is an area of the beach that has a lot of rocks that are great for landscaping. Once again, we loaded the truck with the rock. I could see them starting to slow down, but I did not rush them they were really tired. We got back to the house, unloaded the rock and their day was done. Now all they have to do is go grocery shopping, pick up their “children” from school, start a fire, and cook supper.After talking to them later, they stared telling me about their realizations. The team came to a conclusion we eat way too much food in Canada. A person can actually survive on much less. But don’t worry. Part of their plan is to eat less the first few days so they can save up for a fiesta on Sunday. They also realized that when they were working back home, they spent most of their money on stupid stuff and not even realize where there money was going. I think this experience is making them think about life a bit more. Listening from the side lines, I hear them talking amongst themselves and they are having some great debates about life. I believe this is the moment, where caring individuals become world changers.~ Brett Dyrland, School of Leadership Staff and Shack Supervisor

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: October 5th, 2009


Sometimes life sucks. Things happen to us: we make bad decisions, we trust the wrong people, we hurt each other, we can be victimized by injustice, we can be taken advantage of, and we can wrestle with things that are far beyond our control. In the end, we are the only people who have the power to decide who we become: what we will do with the hurt, the pain, the experience. Our lives are powerful and every decision we make has the potential to have resounding effects. But sometimes it can be hard to see that.AssemblyAlthough they may look like simple structures to the outside world, within many schools there is a world that is a law unto itself. In the hallways, locker rooms, playgrounds and classrooms of our schools, many important people find themselves being victimized. They are insulted, pushed around, and brutalized and the saddest part is that many of the people who see it happen never say a word. Yet, according to recent reports, when bystanders actually step in, bullying is often stopped. Where is their voice? What is it like to be locked inside of something you cannot escape from? Every day you wake up and leave your home, knowing that all that is waiting for you when you arrive at school is brutality, humiliation and rejection. It’s easy to see why fear, insecurity and depression are familiar friends to many teenagers.School violence is the dark blot on this generation and those of us who have gone ahead of them need to help lead the way out.GemGem has been touring with LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) since 2008. Born and raised in New Zealand, Gem is a creative, attractive and vibrant member of our road teams. Like everyone in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), Gem has a story to tell. When you hear it for the first time, you cannot believe it. She seems so far removed from it for it to be true. But it is real, and it needs to be told.“From age 5 until I was 16, I was probably the number one bullied kid in my school. It wasn’t just about physical abuse like bruises, black eyes, pushes and shoves. I was told I was stupid, I was ugly, I was fat, no one liked me and that I would never amount to anything. For years of constant torment, I couldn’t even go a week without a new bruise. I would even lock myself in the art room at lunch because I was scared to walk down the corridors by myself.And then there was the day like no other. I walked into my classroom and sat down. A group of girls came and sat down behind me, giggling and whispering. I just put my head down and tried to ignore it, but then it happened. Before I could stop them, they took my ponytail and simply cut it off – completely. All I remember is feeling numb, like nothing they could do – no names they could call me and no amount of bruises – could have hurt me more than this. I was so scared I didn’t breathe, I didn’t cry. I just sat there, feeling this unfamiliar wind on the back of my neck. I was almost scared to move, afraid I might fall to pieces.It has been ten years since that day, and if I tried to tell you that those words and actions don’t hurt anymore, I would be lying to you. They are still very painful memories. I wish that I would have reached out to someone, that someone would have told me it would get better and that I was worth more than what my experience had led me to believe. It wasn’t until I was out of school that I realized that there is more to life, and there is more for me. I am irreplaceable and I am valuable. Every morning I wake up and choose to believe that I am worth more – even when I may not feel like it. I have come to realize something: it wasn’t my fault that I was bullied. It’s not anyone’s fault that they are bullied. People bully others to try to make themselves feel bigger for a moment, and that’s not the victim’s fault. But together we can change that. Whether we realize it or even care about it, our words have power. They have the power to tear down, to destroy and to steal hope. But they also have the power to bring others up, to make them feel significant, and to give them hope. There is hope for you; you are not alone.It’s up to us to decide who we will be. It’s up to us to change it.”Gem and the TeamMost days of the tour, Gem stands up on a stage and shares this story. Each time she shares it, she is offering a little bit of her heart to people, and with that offering comes a tangible portion of hope. Inside each of us is the need to know that we are valuable, that we count, and that we belong. Why is it so easy to step back and watch people be brutalized, tormented, and rejected and yet so difficult to find the voices of those who are able to rise above that? We believe that we can hold out hope to a generation who needs it. Through our stories, our presentation and through sheer willingness to reach them where they are at, our road teams are some of the unsung heroes of our organization. LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)’s High School Assembly program, Think Day, is able to stay on the road because people like you help to support them, help to get them booked into schools, have hosted them in your homes, and have sat in a high school gym and experienced the message and the very essence of what we are. Through our presentations, workshops, online email response, and one on one contact with thousands of students, we are helping to turn the tide on hopelessness.There are many Gems in the world, and together, we can reach them and offer a way out of hurt and loneliness, because they are worth it. Please help us to help them.“Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”~ Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: October 4th, 2009

The Shack Experience – Day # 2

A luminous moon glistening down onto the overturning waves mirroring the starry sky above.  There is only one word that can describe this image; beautiful.break timeFor our second job in the shack experience, we left the shack at 11:30pm for a night of clamming in the ocean.  We were told the size of the clams that were acceptable and were sent out in pairs.  While digging with our pitch forks, even just hitting something was exciting, but then disappointing when it wasn’t a big enough clam.  We stayed pretty shallow but the men who do this as a job on a regular basis were going in so far that the waves were toppling over their heads. When we wanted a bit of a break, we walked to the shore to see how well we had done. By looking at the dozen we had collected, we were sure they would all be the right size. But when they started measuring them, slowly the dozen dwindled down into only a few clams.   man, this full bag is pretty heavy By the end of a few hours, we had collected around three dozen combined.  One man had been able to get four dozen on his own!  He was able to get more than six people put together. Based on the clams we were able to capture, we made the equivalent of $1.20 each.  It would be pretty tough to support a family on this amount of money…As we told the clammers that they would be able to keep the clams we got, they seemed shocked but very greatful.  We all came to a consensus that it was an amazing experience but couldn’t imagine doing it to make a living. Now, the next time I look at a starry sky I’ll think of those who work through the nights, in crazy conditions, trying desperately to support their families.anything there? It is so hard to fully explain to people what we are going through.  I imagine that living like this for an entire life time with no hint of hope for a brighter future would be constant torture.School of Leadership Student – Mexico – Fall 2009

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: October 3rd, 2009

Shack’n It Up!

IMG_1677 Our LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) School of Leadership students in Mexico get to do the coolest things: learn about world issues through our Social Justice Curriculum, help with our Hero Holidays, and work within a Mexican community of the most kindest and gracious people you will ever meet. We designed a practical lesson for our students called, The Shack Experience. This year, our 2009 students are living for one week in a shack they made with their own two hands! They will work and live the way the some Mexicans in their area do. This experience’s goal is to open their eyes to the suffering and day to day life of 2/3s of our world. Here is a bit of how their first few days have been written by Brett Dyrland, their “Jefe” (Spanish for Boss):Life as a low income Mexican can be hard as the School of Leadership students are finding out. First, the students had toIMG_1682 build a shack to live in. The rule of building the shack is that, it had to be made out of materials that were found on the street and free. They took the challenge, gathered supplies and started building. The two boys made a shack that was slightly larger than a dog house. (Have fun spooning boys!) The four girls on the other hand, wanted a larger, more spacious house. They soon realized that larger means more work. Especially after it big gust of wind blew it over. With a little assistance, they built a smaller shack with a structure that was more sturdy.IMG_1698 Day 1 was great! It began with a 5am rise for work day. The team had to take their make believe kids to school and meet the bus at the highway (about 1km away) for 7am. Their first adventure was off to the river bed to get a load of sand to finish off some work around one of the Hero Holiday yards. From all the groaning, seemed to me like they thought loading a truck with sand was hard work. They off loaded the truck at the yard into wheel barrows, placed the sand in designated areas, and leveled it all out. First load was done by 10:00am. Half way through off loading the second load, I heard some excuses saying they were done, but as any boss would do, I told them to put more sand on the sand until the truck is empty. By then it was only 12:30pm and I had to find more work for them. Six people can get a lot of work done quickly! It was easy finding more work for them: detail the truck, clean the yard, wax the truck, wash the bus, and shampoo the dogs. Each of my workers received $100 pesos (which is approximately $8.50 CAD) for the day of hard work. But then they had to pay rent, pay for their “children” to go to school, transportation to work and back and food for the whole family. So needless to say, there was not much is left for food and water, but they made it work some how.The statement of the day is “Don’t ever say a Mexican is lazy.” Most of the students have never had labour jobs before and 1111 are not used to this type of work. Many of them found it hard, especially in this kind of heat. They all have a new respect for the term “A good days work”. I think a lot of them found it hard to stay motivated for only $8/day but that is what a lot of Mexicans have to deal with daily. At least the students have a hope of getting out of this, but many will know this for the rest of their lives.I am look forward to the next couple days where they are able to do actual Mexican jobs. Jobs like clamming, field work and rock picking are all jobs we see often here. When the students go out to perform these jobs, all the proceeds from their days labor will go to help the people they are working with. They will be able to double or more the income of the person they are working for. This is such a great experience!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: October 2nd, 2009