Today was a very windy day! Lots of sand flying everywhere!
Despite all the wind/sand tornadoes, our team managed to finish painting the outside panels, build and sheet all the exterior walls, as well as all the end walls. We received LOTS of help from all our little Mexican friends! We also managed to support the community by spending our pesos at the sweet little market they have conveniently set up right next to our job site.Very smart business move! We ended up shutting down the work site early due to the strong winds. We were up to putting up the walls, but the wind was nearly knocking us all over with the wall. Will start putting up the building first thing tomorrow!
Best part was when the playground equipment arrived and hearing the children cheering and calling out “columpios” (Swings!) Even got to “test” them out briefly! Can’t wait to paint them bright colors tomorrow!
We had a super yummy supper thanks to Dawn & Julia, then off to the beach to watch the sun set!
RFC Youth Group Starts Their Hero Holiday in Mexico
RFC Youth Group Starts Their Hero Holiday in Mexico
RFC Youth Mexico Trip
Saturday & Sunday March 27th& 28th
We have arrived safely in Vicente Guerrero, Mexico! But our journey was not without adventure! It started with a hoodie left on the plane in LA, and then Sofia, our Mexican team member, (she was an exchange student at our school and decided to join us on our trip since we were so close to her neck of the woods) had her flight delayed until noon, then 3:00, then 5:00, then 7:00, and finally left at 9:00! So we didn’t meet up with her until the next day on our way south to Vicente Guerrero. Sunday we were on our way. Made it over the Mexican border without incident, and then the van carrying our luggage broke down. We sat on the side of the road for about an hour waiting for a tow truck. When he arrived they found the van too heavy, but eventually Santiago was on his way with a flat deck to haul it down. With the van was too heavy for the trailer, we had to unload everything into the truck. We did arrived in time for supper!! We and our luggage are now safe at Erma’s dorm at last.
Monday March 29th
Our first day on the job site we were overwhelmed by the children! They were so trusting, and overjoyed to see us. We had a great time playing with them! Don’t worry we got some work done too. We managed to put the roof panels together and nearly have the walls put together! The weather was very hot, in spite of all our sunscreen, we have many ‘rosy’ sun kissed faces. Supper was thoroughly enjoyed at the local taco stand! A few brave or crazy (you decide!) people tried the cow intestine instead of chicken or pork.
As the bus rolls north I sit here reflecting on the last eleven days as I prepare for the two day drive back home. Today is the beginning of the last leg in what is now my fifth trip to Mexico – my Hawaii. I can think of many words to describe this latest journey, not the least of which would be awesome! Awesome TEAM, awesome staff, awesome “home away from home”, awesome family (how else do you describe a dad who wanted the front of his new home ‘grande’ graffitied with the names of the TEAM), awesome beach day(s), awesome “holy mole that’s hot” Mexican food, awesome church family (our second project), awesome times around the fire and in the living room reflecting on life and our place in it. Each trip has left its own unique signature upon me and this trip has been no different. This has been the smallest group so far but the small group allowed us to be together for all activities and this facilitated great conversation and openness in our ability to share our experiences with one another. We shared tears together, asked “soul searching” questions, were humbled by the humility of the people, and laughed so much our jaws ache. As the lush green hills flash by, the excitement of heading south eleven days ago has given way to sadness – yes even tears – as we head north. I have never looked forward to this leg of the journey on any of my trips and I take great comfort in knowing that my sadness is being shared by eighteen other incredibly awesome people. Each “Blessed to be a blessing”, having received far more than we gave.
The past couple weeks have been really busy touring all the high school/ Jr high doing our Think Day presentations. Besides staying in amazing billets, we have been visiting some tourist hot spots like Peggy’s Cove, Hopewell rocks, grand falls and old Montreal. I was amazed on how beautiful Peggy’s Cove was! It was a sunny day and windy so the waves were nice and high. We took many pictures and filmed the boy’s medieval battle on the rocks. Because it was so windy and the waves were so high some of my team members got pretty wet.The next spot we hit was Hopewell Rocks they told us that if the tide was high we wouldn’t be able to see beach but lucky for us by the time we arrived tide was down so it was safe to walk around. I was so excited and I couldn’t believe I was there. I was jumping around and dancing with joy. I then realized that if I would have been in that same situation a year ago I wouldn’t have acted this way. Being on the road has made me a more confident person. It has also showed me my values and has helped built a stronger level of respect for myself and those around me (which is very much needed traveling for hours and hours on a bus with 8 other team members).Doing the Think Day presentations has such a strong impact on each of our team members. I run the lights and you think that it would be easy to get distracted during the show but I am inspired by my team member’s personal stories every time I hear them. When my teammates share these heart felt personal experiences it makes me realized my values and wants me to be able to be that voice for those who are voiceless. I have been able to be on stage and speak to the students at a school, let me tell you it is weird to hear your voice for the first time. My leader (Meagan) interviews me about my first semester of School of Leadership in Mexico. I am able to share my experiences of culture sock and living in the shack. It’s good to be able to talk and inform the students about the reality in Mexico through a 19 year old’s perspective.The road has really made me find myself and I am starting to be that person I want to be. One that inspires change!~ Melissa, Eastern Tour / Team #2
As I type out these words, it is pouring rain all around me. I am sheltered from the rain and yet I breathe in the dampness and feel the thick air of humidiity that accompanies a downpour. Port Au Prince is 136 miles to the south of where I am sitting right now, and I am guessing that today, like me, they are feeling soggy. But the difference today is that one million of those people have nothing to keep them from the rain except – if they are lucky – a tent tarp. And if they are among the even more fortunate, they are with family and friends.Tragedy is somehow lessened when we are comforted by family, or at the very least, close friends. Knowing you are loved somehow helps to lessen the jagged cut that runs deep into our souls, our emotions, even our spirits when our world falls apart. But what happens when there is no way for you to know you are loved? No way for you to understand that your life matters, that you are not just a problem to take care of or a life to exploit? What is life like without the knowledge, the tangible evidence that you belong?Two weeks ago, when Cole got back to the orphanage compound in Port Au Prince, it was late. He was tired, hungry, overwhelmed. As he walked through the gates into the property, he was ready to get to his pail of clean water, wash up and crawl into the tent that he had set up earlier in the day to return to. But to his surprise and their mutual confusion, there were 30 new, dirty and scared little humans laying side by side on rough, woolen blankets on the dirt ground around his tent. Not exactly an encouraging welcome party! Asking around the compound, he learned that they had just arrived from a nearby tent town, each of them either orphaned, abandoned, or without hope of parental provision. All of them confused and scared, yet not a single one of them crying or making a fuss. Some of them were trying to sleep, and some just sat and stared straight ahead, too overwhelmed to yet process where they were.They were brought here because although there was scant resources available, at least they were safe, tucked away from child traffickers, sexual predators, and other street violence. They may be without basic necessities right now, but at least they are together and in a place where they are wanted and loved. In this home that LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) helps to support through Hero Holiday, hope still lives on. Though many days it may be fragile and precarious, it can still be felt and it can still be shared.In the middle of the crowd of new faces was a little boy, probably about 7 years old, holding on to a child-sized suitcase. As he opened it up, Cole couldn’t help but notice the contents inside: one pair of pants, one t-shirt, and a water botttle of milk. As the little boy pulled the precious bottle of milk out of the suitcase, he did the unexpected. He did what adults often fail to remember to do and children seem to never forget: he turned to the other little boys around him and willingly shared his treasure. This is not what he would have chosen as a family now, but nevertheless, it is the family he now finds himself in. And families are meant to share their resources, look after each other and stick together. And around that little boy were 29 more reasons to hang on and make it through to tomorrow.There have been many promises made to Haiti in the hopes of recovery, and time will tell if it will come to pass. But in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), we recognize that each of us can do what we can with what is in our own hands. We are hosting our first Hero Holiday to Haiti in May, with the hopes of many more to follow. Though the current trip is filled up, the need is great. If you would like to help us help them, please donate at www.livedifferent.com/donate and specify Haiti Hero Holiday.As well, this summer we still have openings left for our Dominican Republic and Mexico trips in July and August. To find our more, go to www.heroholiday.com. You belong here!”Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much a heart can hold.” ~ Zelda FitzgeraldAuthor’s Note: This week, as I wrote this 52, all I could see in the photos, the stories, and the voice that came through were they eyes of my daughter. She is Haitian and like these children, she had been orphaned. When you see life through the eyes of love, you are never the same, and when you realize that there are stories behind each face, you can’t turn away and forget. LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)’s best selling book, ONE: A FACE BEHIND THE NUMBERS is available on our website. It is an excellent resource for understanding how to not only look at the statistics of what is happening around us, but to hear the stories and see the faces that are making the difference. Check it out at www.one.livedifferent.com. It is available online and through chapters.ca and amazon.ca. All proceeds go to helping us help others.
I attended a Hero Holiday last summer to the Dominican Republic for 10 days and loved it! I has never felt so at home with a group of people that I had never met. When I came home, I felt satisfied with my experience and thought that I wouldn’t go back. The more I thought about my experience and how it had affected me, the more I began thinking about doing a trip again. My parents at first were against this because they wanted me to work as much as I could in the summer, since I will be going away to University in the fall. Finally, after a lot of convincing my parents approved. I decided that I would applyfor the internship program in the DR. The first day that the applications came out, I filled mine out and sent it! I was so ecstatic when I received that e-mail that I had been accepted!
When my church heard about me going on a Hero Holiday again, they immediately agreed to support me and raise as much money as possible towards the trip. I felt so blessed that they would be willing to help me with something that I am so passionate about. We started planning all the activities that would be offered throughout the months of December until April.The fundraisers included, a Spaghetti Dinner (which was a huge success), Music Night, Supper and Movie Night, Penny drive, Brick-by-Brick fundraiser and a Yard Sale. The amount of funds raised so far has been very overwhelming and I am so appreciative of everyone’s hard work.
Since almost all of the funds are raised I am becoming very excited about the trip, the friends I am going to meet and all of the memories that I am going to have for a lifetime. It is so exciting to know that I get to do what I am so passionate about, NOW!! I do not do a lot of things on my own and don’t think that I could have done this unless I went last summer and met all of the wonderful people that are dedicated to this organization. I am so thrilled to be able to spend a month making a difference in the world with some of the most amazing people that I have ever met!
Last Tuesday when we arrived in Mexico, I had no idea what to expect and how much this trip would change my perspective on so many things. Now, on the final day, I can take a moment to look back and let the trip sink in. I learned so much more in these last 10 days than some will ever learn in a lifetime, and I feel so privileged to have had this chance. Not only did I learn about poverty and the ways I can help, I learned about and experienced a new culture and what seems like a whole new world.Getting to work along side the Mexican people blew me away. Their willingness to help was incredible. Day after day we had women, children, and fathers on the work site constantly looking for some way to help us build. Even after a long day of work in the fields, they were there. Their perseverance and dedication was truly inspiring. I got to see first hand how much of an impact a school makes for a community in Mexico. Having an education and a chance to go to school is not taken lightly here. The enthusiasm shown by the kids towards school is a definite contrast to the way we, in Canada, treat our school system. It was quite refreshing to see how important and valuable an education is to everyone here.Along with learning about the values of the Mexican people, I learned a lot about my own values. Before coming on this trip I never thought I would do something like a Hero Holiday. It didn’t occur to me that I could make such a difference by just stepping out of my comfort zone and trying something new. And little did I know, that I would step out of one comfort zone into a whole new way of thinking.If I had to pick a feeling or emotion that stood out the most in the last week, I would have to say my sense of accomplishment was overwhelming. Seeing a whole school go from the ground up and knowing I was a part of that was amazing. Not only being part of the building but being a part of bringing such a blessing to so many families is where I find the biggest sense of accomplishment. This trip was more than I could have ever asked for it to be.It was such a privilege to do my part and I will never forget a moment of it.~ Anna
Tina’s Story – Raised almost $10,000 in one night!
Tina’s Story – Raised almost $10,000 in one night!
Nobody likes to ask for handouts but when it’s approached in the right way, people are more than willing to give. It’s been my experience that once people know what Hero Holiday is all about they will help out in any way they can. I’ve organized some very successful fundraisers in the past, everything from a penny drive to a gourmet meal and auction. One of the most successful was a Wake-a-Thon held at the school. Students at the school who weren’t able to go on Hero Holiday wanted to support the cause and rallied together, raising almost $10 000 in one night! I even had a local resident call the school that night to find out more. When a student had approached her for a donation she thought that it was a scam, “How could teenagers be involved in something so wonderful?” After being brought to tears for not having faith in the younger generation she wrote out a cheque and sent it to the school the following day. This just goes to show that people are willing to give when they know where it’s going! And this is where LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) and the Hero Holiday staff plays a huge role. It is crucial to get the word out and they have a great PR package that includes everything you need. So if money is standing in your way don’t hesitate to contact them. With their support you’ll be well on your way to most amazing experience of your life!!!
I sent out letter to friends, family and local businesses asking if they would consider sponsoring me in my efforts. I also challenged them to go a week without coffee, or consider even giving up as little as $10 as every little bit helps. The $10 we spend on Tim Hortons each week is merely pocket change to us, but the ability to help someone else is so much more valuable. I have never had an issue raising the money, I try to send out thank-you cards when I return to allow my sponsors to know what I did and to see the difference they helped to make. It did cost me just over $100 to do this, but I was able to raise 100% of the funds for my trip. Below is an example of the letters I sent out to potential donors: Hola Amigas & Amigos, From August 15th to August 25th 2009 I will be participating in a humanitarian trip to Dominican Republic organized by Hero Holiday. They believe that this generation of Canadian youth has the capacity to positively affect change on the Earth. Throughout the year, they provide opportunities for students to participate in humanitarian relief projects by bringing practical assistance to those living in extreme poverty. Activities include building homes, distributing supplies, providing food, operating mobile medical clinics and working with children at risk. This summer I will be returning to Sosua, Dominican Republic with a medical team consisting of 40 nursing and medical students from the University of Western Ontario. Our group will consist of a number of RNs, two dentists and a doctor to run mobile medical clinics. We will also be helping with the ongoing construction projects, visiting a local orphanage and spending a day working with people who live in the local dump. Please consider joining me to help bring change to the lives of a community by helping me raise $2300. Cheques are payable to Hero Holiday; please also fill out the attached payment and donation form. Receipts will be issued for donations of $10 or more. My first payment deadline is March 15, 2009; however, donations will be accepted until June 30, 2009. Thanks for your consideration and being part of this outreach. Joni Renzella
Genelle’s Story – Recommend getting a fund-raising buddy
Genelle’s Story – Recommend getting a fund-raising buddy
It was really intimidating looking at the amount of money that I needed to raise in order to be a summer intern in the Dominican Republic. However, I was lucky and I had my best friend going with me, so I had someone to work with on the fund-raising. I would really recommend getting a fund-raising buddy or even a group of people together to work towards a common goal. We started out by doing a spaghetti dinner and fashion show, we got everything donated to us by local business’ and all of the clothing we used for the fashion show was from the Salvation Army. Our second fund-raiser was a coffee house hosted at our school, we got local talent to perform and served coffee, tea and hot chocolate along with some baked goods. We also had a raffle draw, where we sold tickets to win a hand made quilt, pillow or blanket. Then we had a movie night at our school, where we charged money for admission and sold popcorn. We made hand made jewelry and sold it at various places throughout the community. One of our local hairdressers offered to give us half the proceeds for every student from our school that got her hair done for prom. It was very helpful to get the press involved as well, because once we got ourselves in the local newspaper about what we were doing and posted our address’, money began coming to us in the mail. Both of us are also involved with the church so we asked the congregation for money and they were glad to help. Another really helpful thing to us was local groups and clubs such as the Optimists, they are always willing to help the youth. I really hope this can help someone else who is struggling with coming up with fund-raising ideas.