Because He Belongs

medical-trip-2.jpgA name is a powerful thing. With one simple word, something or someone is identified, remembered, and even emotions attached to the designate of that name are stirred up. A name means someone has a place in the world, that they are wanted here, and that they matter. Since the beginning of time, names have been used as identification and attachment for us as a human race – like our stamp of ownership on the earth, showing that we belong here.In our modern, melted culture, baby names are more often chosen for the parents’ love of their sound, not necessarily the depth of their meaning. In our modern times in our modern world, most babies are named even before they are born and therefore come into the world already being known and identified. But that, too, is a luxury of being in the Western World, where we create birth plans that we expect to be carried out in a hospital we expect to take care of us, we determine how much or how little pain we want to endure, and we name our children based on our own particular likes or dislikes. There are so many things that we cannot even fathom not being able to control.On that particular day, I don’t think Nick or anyone else on their team thought much about how important their names were. They got up and hopped on the Hero Holiday truck as it headed towards Puerto Plata Hospital, looking forward to another great day of work. No one thought that naming a baby would be a part of the plan. They expected to be shocked at the conditions of the hospital and expected to have to roll up their sleeves to work.Medical TripThe mother’s name was unknown to us. She was a 15 year old victim of rape. Scared and without money, she suddenly went into labour two months ahead of her due date. The baby boy was born with a major heart issue and when our team arrived at the hospital that day to help out, the mother was still in the hospital, twelve days after giving birth. He needed to get to a better hospital to get the proper care and yet no one had helped them until that morning. To make matters worse, the hospital ran out of oxygen for the baby, and the situation was reaching a critical mass. Someone managed to run out and buy more oxygen, helping to alleviate a little of the pressure, but still there were so many unanswered questions.According to Nick, the baby’s grandmother was a very kind and strong lady. The tiny child was malformed and almost non-responsive. Stroking his fragile arm with love and tenderness through the incubator hole, she never left his side during the whole time the team was there. As our team approached her to offer support, one of the leaders asked her about the mother, and during the course of the conversation that ensued, Katie, the team leader was asked to be the godmother of the child. Touched, the team asked what the baby’s name was. However, they were saddened to realize that after being born for 12 days, because of everything else surrounding his birth, the baby boy still had no name. And that was when the grandma asked them the ultimate question: “Would you give our baby a name?”Shocked, the team attempted to politely decline. After all, who wants to have the responsibility and pressure of naming a stranger’s baby? But after much insistence by the grandmother, the team decided to give him a name: Nicholas (after Nick, a team member) Mykalia (after the mother). Would that little baby survive? Probably not. The odds were so huge against him that there wasn’t much hope of him ever being able to live very long. He wasn’t only the result of a rape or a traumatic birth, he was another victim of poverty and his life was proof that we must continue to fight for a better future for children such as him.Medical TripLittle Nicholas’ life has touched the earth. He has lived, he has breathed, he has been loved, and he has had a name. His life may never be known to many people in the world, but to a small group of Hero Holiday participants from that incredible day, he will never be forgotten. His tiny footprint is on their hearts.Hero Holiday is returning to Dominican Republic this summer. During our time there, we will be helping out families such as those of young Nicholas and his mother. We will also be working with Haitian refugees, helping to bring medical care and working alongside of those whom we admire to help bring hope and compassion. Please consider joining us!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 31st, 2010

Lakay Se Lakay

JudelJudel’s smile lights up his eyes and is as wide as his whole face. He is quiet and shy, but always full of insight when you sit down to talk to him. Judel is incredibly kind, meek and full of hopeful thoughts. I have never known him to be demanding or ungrateful about anything in his life, although he had many good reasons to do so. I have spent countless hours working with him throughout our years of Hero Holidays in Dominican Republic, and he quickly became one of my favourite people after our first day of working together. He loves learning new languages, and as one our translators, he is able to speak Creole, French, Spanish, English and even a little bit of German.This past summer when we worked together, Judel was on a quest to learn new English idioms. Like most people that have learned English as a second language, Judel found some things about it really confusing. Our language has close to 250,000 words and it can seem pretty overwhelming to try to understand how to use them all properly. Judel’s first language is Creole, and Creole has only a few thousands words. Rather than use single words to define everything, many things are captured in phrases in Creole, describing and evoking a mutual understanding based on cultural context. We were walking through one of the Haitian neighbourhoods where we work in Dominican Republic, and we were discussing idioms. It was a quiet, hot afternoon and everyone was trying to find shade anywhere that they could. Judel had pulled out his tiny notebook he always carried in his pocket and asked me to teach him some idioms he could incorporate into his language arsenal. After a moment of trying to think of one, I began laughing as I tried to explain to him how the idiom, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” had no real meaning in our modern world, but was based on a truth from many centuries ago. We began to joke about what a bizarre mental image some English idioms paint for their listeners.Judel and JoyAs we were walking by one of the homes in the village, a man was sitting on the caked mud out in front of his tiny, ramshackle house, sharpening a knife. He waved at us and smiled and Judel and I waved back. Judel called out, “Lakay se lakay” as he waved at the man. The man called it back to him, “Oui, lakay se lakay”. As we walked away, I asked Judel what that meant. He smiled and said, “It is a very old Creole saying and it means ‘The house is the home’. No matter where we go as Haitians, we always say that wherever we are will be our home and we comfort ourselves with that.”I have never forgotten that phrase. In fact, this past fall, as Judel and I would email each other after his return to Haiti, we would use that phrase in our emails. He would tell me about how life was in Port au Prince, about his family, and about the amazing woman that he had fallen in love with there and how they were hoping to be able to find enough money to be able to get married and start a life together. He wanted a house and family of his own, he wanted to start an English school this spring in his neighbourhood, and he wanted to someday be able to better support the family that he has in Port au Prince.When everything changed on January 12, 2010, Judel was one of the first people on my mind. His house was on Delmas, the area that was hardest hit in the capital city. I feared the worst. Frantically, about 4 hours after the news, I sent him an email, begging him to let me know he was ok, not yet knowing what to expect. I knew the only way he had ever been able to email in the past was through internet cafes, and I realized that most of them probably no longer existed, but still there was hope that he would be able to get back to us. For 12 days I waited for news of his safety with many other hundreds of Hero Holiday participants who were now friends with Judel. Nothing. My hope was beginning to fade, and on the morning of January 24, I finally posted a response to all of the questions regarding his safety. “None of us have heard from Judel and after 12 days, I now fear the worst.” I remember pressing the send button on my laptop, getting up and walking away with tears streaming down my cheeks as I tried to face the fact that my friend was most likely now a casualty of something beyond my understanding.A few hours later, my blackberry buzzed, signaling an email in my inbox. As I opened the email, the news literally made me shout out loud. In my inbox was an email from Judel:Truck“God listened to your prayers guys! We can’t return to our house and are sleeping outside. To tell the truth, many people where I live passed away during the earthquake.However, me and my family were protected  and my girlfriend is okay too! Many people we know have died and some friends in my church died and that makes me sad.”He had sent it to me from a different address than he normally did, and he didn’t sign his name; but I knew there was only one person who it could be from. How did I know? Because only someone like Judel could escape a crumbling building, be left to sleep outside, be forced to say a sudden goodbye to so many loved ones and still, after all of that, put this as the subject line on his email: Lakay se lakay!This year, LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) is joining with many other organizations and doing our best to help Haiti in their time of need. We have Hero Holidays going there this year, we have buidling projects being prepared to help out the children’s home we work with as they prepare to reach many more kids in the new orphan crisis in Port au Prince, and we are also sending emergency aid through our contacts on the ground. To help us help Haiti, go to

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 24th, 2010

Through Their Eyes

HaitiIt’s really hard to imagine what it feels like to be someone else. I have watched political leaders and wondered what it is like to carry the weight of a nation’s representation. I have watched Olympic athletes and wondered what it is like to feel the eyes of your nation as they place their hopes on you, willing you to not crack under the pressure. I have sat with street children and listened to their stories, trying to understand what their world looks like and I have also sat with many Canadian teenagers, listening as they poured out their struggles, hopes, and dreams. Now, I watch with the world as a nation tries to survive, one minute at a time, desperately trying to cling to one last hope for survival. What is that like? How can I understand that level of pain, that level of loss? What is life like through their eyes and through their experience? There is so much to be gained when we reach out to people where they are at and choose to try to understand their lives and their journey; to listen to what they are saying, not just hear their voice.The ability to process pain and trauma is sometimes only the luxury of the “rich”, such as you and I. We are blessed to live and function in a world where, although pain and loss exist, we are afforded the ability to be able to pull ourselves away from it to a certain degree, regroup, and decide how we will function from that point forward. We have access to professionals who are trained and available for us to draw strength and resources from and we can begin to process how life is going to have to look from this point forward. This is one of the luxuries of living in the developed world that few of us ever consider.Many of us in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) and probably many people reading these words right now have experienced pain and loss. We have felt the sting of the finality of death and we have walked through many crises. But always, we have had someone around us who cared, someone around us who was able to help us through it to a certain degree because they were not affected in the same way. And though they may not understand completely, they are still a source of strength to us. But what if you are surrounded by loss, destruction and pain? What if everyone you knew, in your 5-mile radius that you have lived your entire life in, is now walking through the same level of loss. Where do you turn? Who will understand and help you give a voice to those you have lost? Who will reach out with a hand on your shoulder and say, “I am here for you. I love you and I believe in you.”? Who is going to search out those children who are wandering the streets, now orphaned, and maybe not yet even aware of the full extent of their loss? Who will protect them and make sure that they have a future?HaitiSince last week’s earthquake in Haiti, our phones, email accounts and facebook walls have been flooded with questions and concerns for our Haitian friends and family. Thank you! David and the children are all miraculously okay. The homes are still intact, the 65+ kids are safe and we are thankful. However, we still have friends and translators whom we have not yet heard from and like many, we fear the worst. The magnitude of loss and devastation is beyond words and there are moments when it can seem like it is beyond hope. But it isn’t. There are still people whom we work alongside of and whom we are proud to call our friends who are in the middle of the chaos and working to bring at least some glimmer of hope and order back.The world needs you and it needs me. Though we may never stand on a stage in the international arena at attention and though we may never know what it is like to stand on a podium and be hailed a hero for our physical accomplishments, we can still take our place. Our voice, our contributions, our tears, our prayers and our actions are what can turn this around. There are miracles of hope yet waiting to happen and to be celebrated. Together we can do this.The most recent reports are now claiming at least 200,000 deaths from the immediate effects of the earthquake. It is being claimed as the worst catastrophe in the Western Hemisphere in the past 200 years. To be silent is not an option for those of us who claim to want to make a difference. LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) is responding to the Haiti crisis by currently accepting donations to be used where most needed. We have volunteers who are currently on the ground and assessing where our efforts are best directed. As a small, grassroots Canadian charity, we are able to ensure that the money collected is used in a very direct manner.HaitiOur priorities include supporting and developing our current Haiti projects, including the orphanage, Kay Papa Nou and it’s expansion in light of the new orphan crisis and any other determined immediate relief needs. If our funding exceeds what we are currently capable of facilitating in Haiti, then we will redirect the monies to other Haiti relief efforts. If you would like your donations to go towards this, please go to our online form at and specify “Haiti Disaster Relief”. In the event of overfunding, if you prefer us not to send money to other charities, please specify “Haiti : non-restricted” and it will be used towards where most needed in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute). Also, any money that is collected and designated for Haiti relief by February 12, 2010 is going to be matched by the Canadian Government and will make that much more of a difference!“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space.”~ Pema Chodron

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 20th, 2010

Update on Haiti

Hey EveryoneJust wanted to let you know that our LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) people who are on the ground in Port au Prince, Haiti have confirmed that our friends at the orphanages we work with are in fact, all alive and accounted for. However, they have all suffered much loss as they have lost friends and family in the rubble around them, not to mention lack of proper shelter, etc.Today, our LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) members helped people who were still trying desperately to reach their family members who had been buried deep beneath the rubble. There is little hope of any survival at this point, but one can always hope for a miracle.  We have two nurses from our Hero Holiday arm that have taken it upon themselves to get there and are now on the ground, helping out where they can.Our hearts are grieving with all of our friends who have lost those closest to them. Frantzo, one of our Hero Holiday Dominican Republic translators has lost 5 members alone and yet he is beside our team, helping to dig through the rubble. This is what it is to be the hands and feet of compassion and we are honored to work alongside of so many Haitian people such as him.There is great need for tarps, mosquito nets and basic needs of survival for thousands upon thousands of people. If you want to help us, you can go to our homepage and donate at www.LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute).org/donate.We are also encouraging people to give to the Red Cross, World Vision and St. Joseph’s Home for Boys.We will continue to keep you updated as we much as we are able to. Thanks for your support, encouragement and prayers.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 17th, 2010

Absolute in Haiti

I am sure you have all heard, in some form or another, about the great tragedy that has occurred in Haiti. Many of you, including myself, probably thought to yourself, “Really! This is the last thing this country needs!” It is true, parts of Port-au-Prince had looked like a 7.0 earthquake already hit it before January 12th and we can only imagine the state it is in now.I have been quite impressed by the volumes of messages and emails I have been receiving from people who want to do something to help. Everyone’s heart is broken for this nation and no one wants to sit by and let the people of Haiti deal with this disaster by themselves. LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) has been directly involved with an orphanage of 60+ children in Port-au-Prince run by a man we know and love named David. You can read all about him in our 52 blog: Currently, we have not been able to contact David or anyone connected to his orphanage. Some volunteers of LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) have decided to jump into action and travel directly to where the orphanage is (or once was…) to make sure that all the children are safe and taken care of. Once this is done they will assess if there is something that LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) can do to take care of our extended family. We will keep you posted on the progress of the team and will let you know if there is anything you can do to help.Please keep an eye on our website and facebook page ( for more updates. Thank you for your concern and desire to help.  To give towards this pressing need please contact our office, or donate online here.Hero Holiday is traveling to Haiti in May 2010. Check out the trip details on our website: haitiCheck out our 52 story on the earthquake:**UPDATE: LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) has received word that the children at the orphanage are all safe and accounted for. This is great news! We are going to hear from our volunteers as to how their homes are but will keep you informed.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 14th, 2010

But a Breath

BoysA lot happens when you take in a breath. That breath is warm, it is full of the source of life, and in the fraction of time that it takes to take it you are granted just a little longer on this earth. And when that breath ceases, the silence that is left behind can be deafening and overwhelming.There is a Psalm from the Bible that says our life is but a breath. Against the timeline of earth the length of our lives can seem so short, so insignificant. But up close, each life is not only significant – each life is interconnected and interdependent. Within each rise and fall of the sun, that life has a circle within which it operates. There are events, moments, relationships, accomplishments, successes and failures that make that life worth living; that life matters because it was lived. It matters because we need each other.Haiti EarthquakeThis past Tuesday, as each of us were moving about in our lives, the lives of millions of our friends were changed forever. For countless thousands, life stopped. With one breath everything was okay and with the next the world had literally crumbled around them. The giant earthquake that had been feared but forgotten about for years was now here and it was insatiable. In less than a minute the destruction was indescribable. Only the empty screams of the lost and wounded could paint the picture for what was left behind.But pictures can only tell so much. A picture cannot tell you about what was loved or what was lost. A picture cannot tell you about hopes, dreams, successes, or failures; nor can it tell you about the relationships that matter or what had been important to that person. A picture captures the space of time it would take to draw in a breath – even if it was your last one.My friends, whom I love deeply, now have many precious things under rubble that might never be moved: spouses, children, parents, friends, money, resources, shelter, and for many, a reason to live. It has all disappeared, never to be brought back as they were. This can’t be captured in a picture; it can’t be conveyed in a moment. It took an entire lifetime to accumulate and it was gone in one breath. How quickly we seem to take so much for granted when it is ours and how quickly our world can change and leave us in the shock of loss and pain. The reality seems more than any one person can handle, and no one should have to handle that much pain alone.David and his familyMy friend David, his wife, and his family of 60+ orphans are still unaccounted for. They are not just part of one of our projects. They are a part of our family. Over the years, we have watched and done our best to walk alongside of them in the struggle for survival and now we wait and pray to hear word that they are safe. David’s wife just had a baby two weeks ago. In a safe and just world, she should be resting and bonding with her new child, not fighting for survival and feeling the burden of orphaned and terrified children. Our translators from Hero Holiday live in the area that was struck and we are still waiting to hear word from them. Like millions of people all over the world, those of us in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) have loved ones in a tiny Caribbean island that we are anxiously hoping and praying for, and a small group of helpers have been sent out on our behalf to add their hands, their voice and their compassion.Haiti EarthquakeSadly, Haiti has known and endured decades of pain and heartache. But the destruction they now sit in is indescribable. Not only do the days ahead hold suffering, pain, loss, hunger and disease, but it also holds incredible fear for those who will be left without family or protection. Without intervention and help, slavery, exploitation, hunger and disease will skyrocket. Please don’t be silent. One of our staff members made a declaration this week that is ringing in my heart and causing a trail of tears to continually fall: I may be Canadian, but today I am Haitian.LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) will be posting updates at on what we are doing and how you can help. Our voices and lives make a difference when we choose to use them.

Author: LiveDifferent


No Limits

It was super hot and the smell was quite bad. I was surrounded by loud music and laughter. I closed my eyes and listened to the mix of familiar and unfamiliar voices that tickled my ears with their chatter and I remembered a memory I had from when we first started LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute).Ten years ago this week, LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) began to officially exist. We were 3 people and we were broke, but we had a dream. What if there was something that existed in our Canadian high schools that was edgy, relevant and, most of all, something that offered hope and perspective? What could a group of passionate people become capable of accomplishing? What would you do if there were no limits?No LimitsSince those days, we have had over 225 people travel across Canada into High Schools with our road teams, we have had over 2000 people join us on our Hero Holiday trips and have spoken to well over 1 million students in schools across Canada and internationally. Each life we reach represents a life that is powerful and full of incredible potential. Each seed of hope that is planted makes it all worth it.Over the years we have received countless emails, messages and phone calls that have continued to serve as a source of encouragement for our staff as we continue to forge ahead. We are not perfect and we have made many mistakes…but we are still here.No LimitsI remembered where I was when we determined that no matter what, we were going to see this thing through and we were going to do whatever it took to reach a generation with hope and love. Now here I was many years later, standing in the most unlikely of places: a garbage dump in Dominican Republic. Together with the Hero Holiday participants, we were hosting a party for the stateless Haitian people that worked there. It was an honour to be welcomed into their world and in that moment I realized that I could have missed out on all of this if I had given up – if we had given up on LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute). But we didn’t, and we won’t. We are going to carry through as an organization into this next decade ignited with passion and a fervency to see a generation become instruments of love, hope, and change.Whenever I am leading a workshop or speaking to students and adults, I like to ask them one simple question, “What would you do to help change the world if there were no limits?” It is hard for us to be honest when we hear those words because we have a hard time thinking of possibilities without limitations. We live in a world that is continually putting limits on our thinking: media ads tell us what we “need” and we listen, friends tell us how to act and we conform, life experience leaves us jaded and we allow that experience to shape our view of the possible, societal expectations push us to lean one way, and our attachment to money can cause us to limit our willingness to take a risk. Taking the easy road may be less risky, but a life that is lived without risk is a life that hasn’t really had a chance to live. Loving people is messy and reaching past judgment and comfort zones can seem scary, but it is always worth it. Our lives here in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) are a testament to that. Over the years we have loved, we have lost, we have taken risks and we have fallen short; but always, we have known that we wouldn’t want to live any other way. This is how change happens and that’s why we choose to be a part of it.No LimitsWhat would the world look like if more of us were willing to take a risk, willing to jump over the edge, and willing to make our voice be heard? It would look very different, and it would look more like hope. We hope that you will join us in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) in some way, that you will add your voice to ours, and that together we can help the world to look more like a world of hope and possibilities. Together, we can make 2010 the year where we lifted off the limits!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 3rd, 2010