2011 Gala “Together”

2010galaheader.jpgOur 2011 Gala “Together” has been cancelled and we will be updating you soon on a new fundraising event. Host an LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) fundraiser in your area! Watch our homepage for more details.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 30th, 2010

Gotta Have It

gotta-have-it-2.jpgFor many people, a job is a means to an end. They do what they do so they can afford to do what they want to do. There is nothing wrong with that. We all need to eat and live, and we need to have a way to finance that life. Zig Ziglar, one of the world’s top motivators, was once quoted as saying, “Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen on the ‘gotta have it’ scale.” I couldn’t agree more. Except that I would say that hope is kind of like that too – you gotta have it. But fulfilling a job can be about so much more than money. It can also be about changing the world, one life at a time.If you know me, then you probably already know about Kru Nam. I love this woman. Her passion and her guts really set her apart among the people I work with all over the world. It isn’t that she is forceful – it’s that she is a force to be reckoned with.gotta-have-it-3.jpgI needed to know what it was like to be where she is at. I needed to find out what kept her going, so I figured the best way was to just come out and ask her to share it herself:“Why do I do what I do? I help these street kids because no one else is helping them and it is hard to find people to help them. There are too many people who take advantage of their innocence and steal their dreams, using them to traffic drugs, selling their bodies, enslaving them and doing almost anything you could imagine to them. We have to take advantage of this opportunity to rescue them while they are young, because when they grow up it will be too late. They will become the ones who are causing the problems in society.Of course, there are victories in what we do; moments where you remind yourself that you can keep going. When we have government officials begin to accept these kids as human beings and recognize that they need a future like every other child then we know we have had a victory. Or even when the kids see themselves as being worth the fight, it’s a victory. It’s like planting a seed that will grow into a tree, it’s a long process; but it feels good when people can see the tree.Recently, we were able to help a mother and child. The mother has mental disabilities, and her child was begging for money on the streets. She wouldn’t let me help them for over two years, and just recently we were able to bring the girl into one of our children’s homes. It makes me happy to know that I can keep the mother and daughter together and yet help them both at the same time.At the same time, there are too many heartbreaks to count. Moments like where I helped a 16 year old girl escape prostitution. We gave her vocational training skills and helped her get a new job and attend school. However, once she finished her vocational training, she returned to prostitution. She said she felt more beautiful than before and more confident. It broke our hearts to see her return to the very thing that was destroying her life.If we only ever focused on the setbacks, we wouldn’t be able to carry on. But every human walking on the earth was born in the same way. Everyone has a life that was given to them by God: the rich, the poor, the black, the white – this is what makes up the world. If we want the world to be in peace and have meaning, we have to see everyone as equals. We each have to do our parts, and this is mine.”gotta-have-it.jpgOver the past four years, I have watched and learned from her about what it is to hang on and see the bigger picture, no matter how discouraged you may get. Along with the incredible men and women who stand alongside of her, Kru Nam has helped to see hundreds of stateless kids rescued out of slavery, prostitution, and exploitation. Through constant challenges, setbacks, and perseverance, they are helping to shape the future for kids around the world – one life at a time. They are not rich – in fact there are seasons when they themselves struggle to survive – but they are full of hope and that hope is what keeps them going.This summer, we are returning to Thailand with Hero Holiday. We are working with Kru Nam, JK, and many other unsung heroes, helping to build a better future, one life at a time. You can join us! Check out“It’s not what you’ve got, it’s what you use that makes a difference.” ~ Zig Ziglar

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 27th, 2010

Ft McKay First Nations Starts Their Hero Holiday in Haiti!

It’s been easy to forget the long hours of travel as we sit here (Cap Haitien, Haiti) is sipping strong coffee and discussing our roommates silly sleeping habits…  before these moments of relaxation it looked something like this:Monday 7am – Fort McMurray Airport. Our group of strangers getting updates about how far away Chief Boucher is from the airport…why?  One of our fellow travelers (who will remain unmentioned, but rhymes with Sandy…lol) forgot her passport in Fort McKay.8:25am – On board our Westjet flight to Toronto…also the same time Chief arrived with Sandy’s passport…whew!  We’re on our way!Late afternoon – Arrived in the T-dot..already tired, hungry and feeling like it’s been a long day.  Here we meet up with friends from parts of Ontario, and our old friend Brett, who we participated in a Hero Holiday trip with last September in Mexico. Great to meet everyone, great to have a hotel room, eat some yummy Boston Pizza, complete our orientation, we head to bed…for 3 hours2am – Barely showing signs of life, we’re all awake and in our vehicles to head across the Canada/US border for Buffalo.Tuesday 4am – The boarder crossing was painless.  The guards were fun, discussing how much they love Canada…kidding, but I was hoping 😉  They were really nice though.  A few minutes later we’re at the Buffalo airport.  It was busy at this hour, we struggled getting everyone accounted for and on the plane in time.  Luckily, the travel gods were on our side and we all made it.  Hungry, tired, still feeling like it’s been a long day (now a long 24 hours).  We’re off to NEW YORK!Mid-morning: Arrive to New York.  Continuing the theme of non-stop travel we rush to the other side of the airport to our gate.  Did I mention we’re in NEW YORK!  Many people were excited, although we didn’t get to see the city it was fun to have a brief moment there.  When we arrive at our gate, our plane is boarding for Delta flight 699 to Port au Prince.During the next 3.5 hours we all had a chance to relax…  Caught a few moments of needed rest and mingled with some locals.That afternoon:  Arrive in Port au Prince.  First impression: organized chaos!  People from various flights trying to get their luggage off of one of two baggage carriers…it took some teamwork to get all of our bags, but the leaders stepped up and got us through safe, bags in tow and ready to head through a few more moments of rush before heading onto a bus and onto…yes, another flight!We arrive at the domestic airport in Port au Prince hungry, tired and ready for some real rest. Impatience is setting in for some…impressive considering it’s been a good 36 hours so far!2 small domestic planes await our arrival.  One takes off with ease.  Arriving in the lovely Cap Haitien without a problem and heads to our current place of luxury.  We eat, rest, enjoy the air conditioning and fresh water.  The other group…..ummmmm….they arrive an hour or so later after being stuck in Port au Prince with plane problems.  They eventually arrive with sandwiches, water and their rooms waiting for them….They rested.  We all ate delicious dinner…discovering that the Haitian version of moose meat is goat!  We loved it!  With our bellies full we celebrated our arrival and Bubbinz’s birthday!  Lucky girl is 22 years old and spending it in this foreign country.  She’s happy.  We eat more, drink some, and head to bed.  Bed.  Sigh……………….Heaven, I’m sure, will continue to be this lovely Residence Royale we’re staying at.  The staff are awesome, us travelers are content and we are all feeling at home.Looking forward to today, which will bring some touring around, money exchange, and of course, checking out the site where we will be building some essential infrastructure.Yay Wednesday!~ A participant in Haiti

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 23rd, 2010

To Have the Courage of Iveta

Ernest Hemingway once described courage as “grace under pressure”. I like that. Especially because I think it describes Iveta’s life.IvetaThe first time Cole saw her, he was making his way through one of the nameless tent cities within Port Au Prince. When you are driving by them on the street they are only a blur of mud, smoke, tiny kids in threadbare clothing, and endless empty eyes. Every hour of every day is needed for survival, and if you stop to think about it too long, it can threaten to completely overwhelm you with hopelessness and grief. But compassion says to those who need it, ‘ I want to understand you. I want to see life from where you stand.’That’s why he got out of the car that day and because of that, his life collided with Iveta’s…She only looked me in the eye and pierced me with the intensity of her struggle. She didn’t ask for a single thing. Not once. I will never forget that.No tent, no dry tarp, only the relentless struggle to survive one more day.A tattered sheet covered her bed of sticks, rocks and gravel; a meager effort to stay above the puddles that would inevitably collect. She couldn’t wait in the food lines because of the constant, desperate struggles that would break out. She missed out on the tents and tarps because she couldn’t risk the jostling line ups with her baby. He was not well.At close to a year old, his emaciated skin hung from his thin, fragile frame. She had walked almost two miles for her baby to receive medical attention, yet there was nothing that anyone could do. Clearly, this child was dying and there was nothing more that could be done.As she stood there, gravely looking me in the eye, I realized that thousands around her had dry tents – and each other. All she could do was hope and believe that there could be something tomorrow.Each time we returned we brought supplies to her: food, toiletries, candles, dry tarps. And still, she asked for nothing from me. When I asked if I could take her picture, she graciously conceded.I can’t ever forget her face. She was more than a young mother without a home or any support – she was a woman with an unshakable resolve.Iveta was famous and didn’t even know it. Through a random series of events and the gift of social networking through Twitter, Cole’s photo of Evita ended up on the Ellen Degeneres Show, featured by Eva Langoria in an interview. Eva was talking about the plight of Haiti and found his photo. Despite all of the sincerity and compassion that was felt around the continent, it never had the chance to reach Iveta. This past week, Cole returned to Port Au Prince to find Iveta and see what could be done to help her further. It was too late. Poverty’s death grip had struck quietly again – unknown to the rest of the world. Her quiet struggle was over and there was nothing he could do to change it. Iveta died from lack of nutrition and health care.IvetaThis is the double edged sword of compassion. Compassion cannot exist without love, and love is the one thing that runs deeper than words. Philosophers, poets, and preachers from all over the world have tried to help us define love. It is deep, it is complex, and it can seem to be a dangerous place to live, when you consider it from the perspective of self preservation. Iveta had nothing in this world except the love that she had for that baby and in the end, from a limited perspective it might seem that not even that love was enough. But I cannot accept that: love and compassion are powerful. You don’t stop trying or believing because of loss or heartbreak. Instead, you keep on believing that it can get better. That you can be a part of making it better. That was what defined Iveta’s courage: she kept putting one foot in front of the other. I have never met her, but I cannot ever forget her. Her story is now part of my own.The world will miss your quiet voice, Iveta. Your story and your courage mattered to us. Because of your dignity and resolve, I type these words – in honour of your courage.HH HaitiIn the year ahead, LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) will be returning to Haiti and Dominican Republic, experiencing the power and strength of compassion as we work with Haitian people. When you reach out to the unknown, it can be scary, but it is never without effect. Join us and find out for yourself!“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it is the quiet voice at the end of the day, saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” ~ Mary Ann Radmacher

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 20th, 2010


marcelin.jpgIf you are like me, math is not on your grid: numbers float around, but you avoid them like the plague if at all possible. To those of us on this side of the debate, numbers are cold, harsh, and uninspiring. But many people reading this may be the total opposite: numbers give you a warm fuzzy and their linear definition makes you feel safe and secure. Numbers can paint a picture, but they can never completely tell a story. In the end, above all, numbers don’t lie.marecelins-kids.jpgFrantzo found Marcelin one day last summer, as he was showing some friends of LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) around his village. Marcelin is a very positive, upbeat guy, and he is not that different from many other Haitian dads in his village: he hopes that his kids can get an education, he hopes that his wife is well provided for, and he hopes to live long enough to see his kids grow up. He is a kind, gentle man and he and his wife are always welcoming people into their home. But there is one thing that is different about Marcelin from most other dads in his village because Marcelin lost the use of his legs through a tragic accident. In our world, an accident such as his would have resulted in a long but affordable hospital stay, followed by extensive physical therapy, and resulting in eventually getting his life back. But in his world, medical care was beyond his grasp, physical therapy is something he has never even heard of, and the only place he has known since that fateful day was the dirt floor of his house that is sandwiched to the side of the mountain that looks out over Cap-Haitian, Haiti. Sadly, Marcelin, his wife, and their children are global health statistics, and in fairness to the rest of us, sometimes it can be hard to remember that lives such as theirs are not statistics.Marcelin is unable to do anything for himself or his family – yet. When our friends found him on the floor of his house, confined to a dirty, disintegrating mattress, they were moved to action. A quick trip to the market changed the immediate situation, but Marcelin and his wife needed more. They needed help to build a future for their family and it was here that life began to take on hope. A small financial gift from a Canadian friend helped Marcelin’s wife to start a small business to provide for their family. A sponsored trip down the mountain to the closest hospital helped give Marcelin access to medical care, therapy and medications. Over the past few months, he is starting to feel the return of feeling in his legs and doctors are hopeful that he may one day be mobile. Now, with the help of a Hero Holiday group from Canada that is arriving next week, Marcelin’s kids are going to have a school to go to in the coming months. Hope showed up at his door, and hope is what is going to change his family’s future.mrs.jpgIf you look at the numbers, in Marcelin’s world, it is pretty easy to think you understand: 1 in 2 people in Haiti live on less than a dollar a day, 40% of Haiti doesn’t have access to basic health care, and 80% of Haitians are unemployed. But if you look at Marcelin’s world with the possibilities of hope, the story is very different. The numbers stay the same, but hope is the wild card in the equation. Hope allows for all things to be possible, and for people like Marcelin to not give up.I used to think that hope was a feeling, a good wish or even a desperate emotional appeal. Sometimes it can be unrealistic and sometimes it can be almost nonexistent. But hope is more than these things – hope is about recognizing today’s reality in light of tomorrow’s possibilities. And as long as you have hope you have enough to hang on to for week, LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) is going to be in Cap-Haitian, Haiti, building a school near to where Marcelin lives. Schools change lives and communities because they provide an opportunity for a future that did not exist before. A school may be the result of the Hero Holiday participants’ work in Haiti, but the full effect of what they are going to do is going to echo in years to come. Their lives are changing things in Haiti, but when they return home, Haiti is going to change them.LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) exists because of hope. You can join us! To find out more about how to get involved financially, how to be a part of a Hero Holiday, or how to have us in your community, check out

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 13th, 2010


sometimes-4.jpgSometimes you miss the boat completely. Sometimes you screw up everything so badly that you are convinced there is no turning back. Sometimes you wish you didn’t need to ever get out of bed again. And sometimes, you realize that maybe you are somehow making a difference. And sometimes you have moments when you realize that it is totally worth it.I was a massive baby. I was one ounce shy of 10 pounds, my mom was a teenager and I am sure she was probably feeling like she did not bargain for this. But there have been times when she has talked about how much pain giving birth was and then she said it is like you can’t even remember it once you see that baby and you realize that it is worth it all. Sometimes, that is what following through on a dream can be like.sometimes-1.jpgThe first year we ever did Hero Holiday in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) was a wilder year than we could have ever imagined. We were in the middle of trying to relocate our organization to another city, we were in the middle of a massive building project for our headquarters because we were desperate to have a place to work out of that was suitable, and we were always facing a new financial challenge every minute of every day as a small charity. We did a lot of things wrong, did a lot of things right, had a lot of amazing people around us that supported our passion for change, and managed to frustrate others who couldn’t go there with us. But I will never forget what happened at the very first school in Canada that we talked about Hero Holiday in.We were in North Bay, Ontario, and in the middle of our high school presentation we stepped out and invited the students to join us for something that we believed could change their lives; something that we believed could change the future of our nation. We invited them to consider investing in helping others through humanitarian work and joining us in the Dominican Republic to build some houses for people that were desperate for adequate shelter for their families. At the end of that presentation, our team stood back, awed by what we saw: hundreds of students lining up to sign up their name for more information on how to get involved with Hero Holiday. It was the point of no return. We were in it to win it.sometimes-3.jpgSomewhere along the road that year in Canada, we were at an event that Rana attended. We stood on that stage and challenged the students to consider joining us on our first ever Hero Holiday. As we finished the presentation, Rana turned to her friend beside her and said, “I am going to join those people.” And she did. That summer as she was a part of our Hero Holiday teams in Dominican Republic, Rana had the chance to work alongside of one of our doctors and learn about all the possibilities that exist with providing health care in the developing world. That year she went into university, with the intention of getting into Med School.sometimes-2.jpgIt took Rana a while to get into Med School. She was turned down by many, and had to continually push to write more tests and conduct more interviews. But this last month, I had the privilege of being the first person that Rana told about getting accepted into Med School for this coming school year. I was so proud. And as I hugged her and told her how excited I was for her, she said, “I am doing this because of what happened in my life with Hero Holiday. You guys gave me the chance to realize what I can do to make a difference, and it is because of that that I am going into Med School now. It inspired me to want to be a doctor in the developing world.As I type these words, I am reminded of all of the Ranas in the world: so full of potential and wanting to make their mark on history. And when you get the chance to see it happen, it is always worth it. You are going to make a great doctor, Rana.For all of you Ranas out there, the ones who know that if they are just willing to hang on to what they believe they can do, on behalf of all of us in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), I want to say thanks. You make it worth it for us – all the time.Hero Holiday has changed our lives because each of us has realized that we can be a part of something incredible. To find out more about Hero Holiday and all that we do in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), check out“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.” ~ Winston Churchill

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 6th, 2010

Ryan Ranelli

ryan-ranelli.jpgRyan is very familiar with what it means to live passionately. Born into a boxing family from Sudbury, Ontario, Ryan’s life has been one of focus, determination and perseverence. Ryan has devoted the past 12 years of his life to boxing, with 3 of those years on Canada’s National Team. He is now the founder and owner of No Excuse Fitness and Training (, based out of Hamilton, Ontario. His passion is now spent between continuing his boxing career and motivating and improving people’s lives through the power of fitness, healthy eating and time management.


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: June 1st, 2010