Amie Medeiros has been a part of the LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) family since 2002. During her time working in our office, she has worn many hats: bookkeeper, office manager, volunteer coordinator, student relations and many more. Amie now lives in Brampton, Ontario, and is a mom to two incredible kids, Jessica and James.
One moment is all that it takes. One moment where you breathe in, breathe out, and realize that life is never going to be the same. From that point forward, things are irrevocably beyond your control and you are waiting for the world to stop spinning – only it never does. The sun rises and it sets without your permission. The rain comes and goes and you have no say in it. The world keeps moving forward, but you are frozen in time, fully aware that you are hurting, but not knowing what to do to make it stop.Miguelina was someone whom I have grown to love over my brief time with her. We first met beside a dusty open-backed truck on a piece of property tucked back at the base of a mountain range. From where we stood I could see the span of the Atlantic Ocean over the treetops of the coconut palms. We were standing in a garbage dump, and though all around us was beautiful, the beauty was overshadowed by the stench of the garbage, the buzz of the flies, the roar of the trucks unloading, and the constant, choking dust from the filth.Miguelina is a very young mother. She has a two year old and is very pregnant with twins. I am trying to get to know her and find out how long she has been here. I don’t remember her from last year, and I am fearing the reason why I am finding her here now. She confirms it with tears in her eyes: her husband was crushed in the earthquake, and she found out after his death that she was pregnant. Scared, alone, broken, pregnant with twins and starving, she brought her child with her, walking across the border and continuing on foot for a few days until she arrived here. She has nothing. Nothing except her child, the two on the way, and the will to survive.As I stand there and talk with her, I think about how different our worlds have been since that day in January. I think of where I have gone, what I have done, the people I have had the chance to spend time with, the work that I have been blessed to be a part of, and most of all, I think of the security that I have had knowing that I am loved, provided for and safe. But not Miguelina – her world has been frozen in time.I watched as other Hero Holiday people with me would chat with her, compassionately helping her collect as many bottles as possible. She needed all the help she could get, and was grateful for the attention and concern. But I wanted to know how we could help her in particular. Surely someone like her would have a running list of everything they would ask for if given the opportunity. I know many who, if they were in her place, would be able to rattle off a long, growing list of what they would need or want if given the opportunity. Our time has run out for the day and we need to leave. As we are loading everyone on the truck, I see Miguelina talking with one of the girls with us. They are speaking French and she looks up shyly as I approach them. “Migelina, is there something we can do to help you? Is there something you need?” Thoughtfully touching her belly, as if to caress her twins, she smiles shyly. “Perhaps new blankets would be nice for the babies.”New blankets are easy: they can be bought and delivered. They are tangible and can offer proof that something has been done to help her – that someone cares. Stopping the pain of loss and the ache of loneliness is not so easy. We each hug Miguelina as we get ready to leave, and I wait until the end. I hug her one more time and hold her close. For that brief moment as she clings to me, almost desperately, I feel the sharp ache of her loss and her fear of what tomorrow holds. As we let go, I touch her face and kiss her cheek. “We will not forget you,” I promise. And it’s true. This week, one of our Hero Holiday friends is delivering some supplies to her in her village and checking to make sure she is okay. Because sometimes we just need to know that someone has reached out, touched our lives, and they are not going to forget.LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)’s Hero Holiday projects are continually growing and always exciting! We would love to have you join us and be a part of touching lives like Miguelina’s. Check out www.livedifferent.com.
These past two and a half weeks have been the most emotionally and physically draining weeks of my life. However this experience has also been the most eye opening and rewarding weeks of my life.While we have been in the Dominican Republic we have been given the privilege to play with, give countless piggy back rides to and work alongside some amazing children. At the job-sites, children love to help us with whatever we are working on. It doesn’t matter whether it is shoveling Meckla (Spanish for concrete), wheel burrowing countless loads of gravel and helping us dig trenches. They have often put us to shame by working so hard at such a young age. These children often work barefoot, without work gloves and continue to smile the whole time they are helping us. When we stop for lunch they patiently await our return. When we return we are greeted with smiling faces. They continue to work alongside us after lunch often with empty bellies.Throughout these past couple weeks, these children have quickly become our amigos. I have met countless children who have found the true meaning of happiness at such a young age. I however am still struggling to find this at the age of nineteen.One child that I have met who has found this happiness is a nine year old boy named Antonio. I was introduced to Antonio about a week ago when I saw him cleaning my friend Miranda`s shoes and we quickly became friends. Many children living in the Dominican Republic have to work to help provide for their families. Antonio is one of many children that have to help their families by shining shoes. He makes between 100 and 500 Pecos a day. This is not much money considering he comes from a family of nine. He is the only child in his family that is required to work because he is the second oldest. Antonio starts his work day around 7am and finishes at around 5pm. I can always count on being greeted everyday by Antonio’s smiling face when we unload the trucks after a day at the worksite. I cannot help but feel angry that I have the opportunity to go up to my room and have a shower while he sits outside the resort trying to find people to shine shoes. Yesterday Antonio saw Miranda`s IPod and he was amazed by it. He asked one of our translators, Smith, if we have a lot of IPods in Canada. We told him that we do have a lot of IPods in Canada. I did not have the heart to tell him that we come from a society that thrives on materialist wealth so much so that we have to continue to purchase the newest IPods when they come out (even though the IPods we have now work perfectly fine). The trip is quickly coming to an end and I cannot help but wonder what is going to happen to Antonio. I wonder if he will continue to shine shoes for a living or will he become a construction foremen like he aspires to be. We read so many statistics about poverty and some of those statistics have now become personal for me. Whenever I read or hear any statistics about children now, I picture all the children that I have played with, laughed with and spent time with. I will never forget them or the memories we have shared.~ Emily, a DR summer intern
I climbed up to the ledge knowing there was no other way down; no lower ledges or escape routes. The rock was slippery and the climb steep. It was a choice I made originally to face what I thought to be an irrational fear. I would have to jump. I would have to go against every instinct in my body and leap, leaving behind the solid rock that lay beneath my trembling feet, (if I planned on ever getting home that is).I looked down at my team members’ expectant faces and then at the clear blue water beneath. I was frozen. It was like time had stopped in its tracks and wouldn’t let me budge. I began searching for loopholes knowing full well that none existed. And in these minutes (I won’t say how many), an anger so deep rose inside of me. “This isn’t who I am!” My head was screaming. I am never the girl who “can’t” jump. When I was seven I believed I could fly. I would throw myself into the air, all limbs flailing and I would land hard, bruise my knees and scrape my elbows. But it was all for that feeling that even just for a “one Mississippi” I could be surrounded by nothing but the air I breathed, so immersed that it filled my soul. It was my being, even if it was just for a moment.However, in those minutes before I took the plunge, I learned the most valuable lessons in the entirety of my trip thus far. I learned what it was to feel helpless, to be lost in one location, unable to move in any direction. I learned what it was to feel like you’ve lost who you are and also the impact that a friendly face can have in a time when you feel like you have been defeated (thanks Chace). But perhaps the most important lesson was that just being here is not enough.When we come on Hero Holidays we, of course, come to make change. But more important than that, we come to find understanding because with understanding we can truly find compassion and the drive to see more change made. However, doing the fundraising, getting yourself here and walking these streets is not enough, it is simply the climb. Every participant here has done this climb, set themselves up to leap, given themselves the chance to find true understanding of what it means to be a part in the never-ending cycle of poverty. But now we have to find out how we throw ourselves in. How do we let go and truly become a part of this experience? Understanding can only be found when you are swimming in the water not looking down at it.And it is not easy. The things we see here go against any form of normalcy, stretching far beyond the comfort of the world in which we live or daily lives in both good and bad ways. For instance, on my final day at the dump I was invited into my new found friend`s makeshift shack made of sticks and sheets. It was their place to get out of the direct line of sun after many hours of catching up on the past few days missed, picking and sorting through trash looking for recyclables. I felt honoured to have been invited in. However, as I sat with her friends and mother on old giant tins, the flies were swarming. They clung to every limb, I could feel them landing on my back sticky with sweat. I jerked my body and swatted at them, disgusted by their quantity and disturbed by their never ending buzzing.But then I noticed something that disturbed me even more. As I looked around at my friends I noticed a lack of jerking and swatting on their part. In fact they were sitting quite still, seemingly enjoying the shade. Suddenly I felt embarrassed; ashamed of myself for making such a fuss over something so normal in their lives which they had no power to stop. I began to wonder “what does it mean simply to accept flies; to sit, unmoved by their constant swarming and crawling all over your tired body?” It is so wrong in so many ways but there was something inside of me that had to understand, something couldn’t bear to have our worlds separated any longer by something so simple. And so, for a moment, I decided to be still. I allowed them to land on my limbs, my sweaty back and there I found myself, plunging into a new reality, so immersed that it filled my soul. It was my being, even if it was just for a moment.~ Danielle, a DR summer intern
Hola all!Well its been a fun, yet hectic couple of days.Lets begin with Friday. Some of us started off the day with a nice invigorating hike and cave exploration. The other’s had the privilege of pouring a cement pad for Martine (the lucky recipient of last year’s house) so that he could add on to his house for his brother to come live with them after being injured in a car accident. Fun was had for both groups, but the fun really started when we all met up at a “oasis” as we liked to call it. It was the most beautiful setting for palm tree’s and pool’s. We enjoyed the sunshine, and some of the girls enjoyed a toss in the pool (compliments of the young ‘Gentlemen’ of the group) After a delicous meal of fish tacos we met as a group for one of our last times in Mexico. It was in this last meeting that students had the opportunity to encourage our teammates and share what makes them special to each of us. After that we had a super happy fun Fiesta (Sundae’s, Pinatas, Dancing and Fire Crackers incuded)Saturday some of us got an early start to the day. The girls decided that the extra fire crackers should go to waste, so we..I mean they.. lit them outside the boy’s room to ensure the trip went out with a ‘Bang’. The morning was filled with cleaning packing and tearful goodbye’s as we left our friends, and Mexico behind. But not before we headed to La Bufedora, a popular market where you can buy “everything you never needed” (according to Andrew) We spent some time bargaining and bartering our way through the market, and some of us discovered that they were quite skilled at the art. After shopping we headed to the boarder where things went quickly and painlessly. We continued to L.A stopping for dinner at Jack in the Box, which was delicious. We pray for safe travels home tomorrow, and that we would all be able to zip up our suitcases. See you all soon!Buenos Noches.-Meghan & Lisa.
I have been doing volunteer work for the majority of my mature life. But never before, have I felt my emotions shift from sorrow, remorse, pity, and frustration… to outright fury. I walked hand in hand with an eleven-year-old boy today. He works seven hours a day. He works six days a week. He works in a garbage dump, fumbling through it to find plastic bottles. He makes, if he is lucky, a dollar fifty a day. He has two brothers, and two dead parents. He is the sole provider for his two younger siblings, and the worst part is… he seems to assume that his role is justified, when it is so obviously not. Our world has forced him to think this way, forced him to push out his desire to learn and play, and forced him to accept the responsibility of being the breadwinner… at the age of eleven. He said he chose me out of our group because I looked strong, and if him and I could pick up the bottles fast enough, he might have time to rest before he wakes up, and repeats the next morning.I went to the dump for about two hours, and by the end of it, I was sweaty, tired, and frustrated. He will probably do it every day of his life. Imagine that, waking up every morning… no soccer practice, no basketball tournament, no dance lesson, no sleepovers, no school, no holidays… just walking the hour and a half to a garbage dump, and picking up other people’s trash. The stench of it is vomit inducing, and the sorrow in the eyes of the people who work there makes me cringe every time I make eye contact. It is impossible for us to reconcile that sort of life no matter how hard we try. Complete empathy is impossible, because of the way we were raised, and the opportunities we were provided with. Nevertheless, try. Try to imagine that life, every second, of every hour, of every day. Waking up, telling your little brothers that your off to the dump, and then walking by yourself, picking bottles, getting your dollar fifty for a long day’s labor, and then returning home in an attempt to find food for your two awaiting siblings… the only family you have left. This boy, at the age of eleven, lives this life. Every single day he gets up, walks to the dump, and picks trash. He does not even understand that there is more to the world then what.If I were to ask people back home what their aspirations are, some common answers might be: ‘I want to become a doctor. I want to see China. I want to write a book. I want to become an actor.’ People back home do not even understand that because of where we are born, we are given the opportunity to comprehend those dreams. I asked this boy what his dream was… it was to have his own bed. Literally; that was his dream. He desired a place to sleep, so he could have a good nights rest for the next days work. Our aspirations will always begin with ‘I want,’ whereas his will always begin with ‘I need.’ The contrast between the two is astronomical in its simplicity, yet our world chooses to ignore it. Their lives are so restrained by the world’s failings that they are not able to expand, hope, and flourish we are.So commonly a misconception of the wealthy is that the impoverished are lazy, and have forced themselves into that sort of life. But that is not the case. Whereas at home there are many things we ‘half-ass,’ in places like this they are not even allowed to. Their circumstances stifle their ability to enjoy life. They are forced to apply themselves as hard as they can, with what is given to them. They are born into this world without consultation, as we are; yet we won the lottery of life. We have been blessed and born into a nation that provides us with our basic needs. We spend almost all of our time pursuing our materialistic, or social status-based desires, whereas these people spend all of their time pursuing the means to have food at night. This child, which I walked hand-in-hand through the dump with; has done nothing wrong. He has not failed in any way to deserve the life he has been forced to live. We have failed him.The world has failed these people; we have overlooked the fact that they are identical to us in terms of value. We assume subconsciously that our lives have more significance because we have more ‘stuff’ then they do. But they love, smile, cry, hate, and feel the same way we do. They are human beings. It was in this truth, and in the reconciliation of this fact, that I became angry. What right do we have to push them further into the dirt, and lift ourselves higher towards the clouds? What right do we have to turn a cold shoulder to them when they cry out for help? What right do we have to live fully, when they are surviving emptily?If we are reborn into new lives upon our deaths, I pray for most of our sake that we win the lottery of life once again. Because if we don’t, then maybe… just maybe, we might have to live as they do, and we might have to reconcile how they feel. A nightmare for us to imagine, a reality that they are forced to live.~ Mason
I have been with Hero Holiday in the Dominican Republic since the beginning of July. So far, I have had an awesome experience and am really proud of all the work that is being accomplished by all participants. I came on a Hero Holiday last year and thought that I was therefore prepared for everything, I wasn’t worried that I would become emotional or that I would have a hard time dealing with my surroundings. The more that I have been experiencing this week, the more I really connect with the people and am reminded of how good I have it back in Canada. I do not use up a lot of my time fulfilling my needs, but most of my time is taken up by fulfilling my wants, this is the opposite with most of the people that I have met so far.
One particular person who has remained in my memory is Jeffery, he lives in a community where most of the people are forced to collect plastic bottles from a dump in order to earn an income, making about a dollar a day. Jeffery is only fourteen years old and is faced with having to work in a garbage dump in order to survive. Jeffery’s story is typical of many Haitians living in Dominican communities after the earthquake. He was in his home when the earthquake hit, he said that he only broke his arm because a brick fell on it as he was trying to escape but that his father passed away after being hit in the head by rubble. Jeffery and his mother were able to leave Haiti eight days after the earthquake but had to leave five other siblings behind. Now they live in a small community and walk very far each day in order to get to the garbage dump, if they have enough money saved up they are able to call their family in Haiti, but that is not very often. I worked alongside Jeffery for about an hour and had a hard time comprehending what it would be like for him to do that job six days a week and about six to seven hours a day, with very little food in his tummy.
It doesn’t seem fair that I am fortunate enough to live in Canada and that a brilliant boy like Jeffery will never be able to go to school because of his unfortunate circumstances. After meeting Jeffery I feel as though it is my responsibility to do whatever I can to make the world a better place for those who are stuck in the cycle of poverty. I gave Jeffery, a pair of my gloves and my shoes (which fit him) because it was all that I could do and felt that I needed to do at the moment. As the truck drove away from the dump and everyone was waving to us, I caught Jeffery’s eye and he was smiling at me, with such a beautiful smile. Seeing that smile gave me hope that we as a society and as individuals can make a huge impact on people in the smallest ways and that the world can change for the better.
Buenos Dias!Today was a scorcher on the work site but we couldn’t let the heat slow us down. A few of us went to a Mexican “Costco” to buy some inventory for one of the families’ small store that they own and run off their property. The rest of the crew finished the painting and the trim in the houses. We had to add the windows and doors for obvious reasons, as well.After a hard days work and a good scrub in the shower, we attended a local church service that was close to the houses we are building. The pastor spoke English and Spanish and was able to preach to both audiences which was welcoming, to say the least. A brave few shared their testimonies with the group and were able to put into words what God was teaching and showing them on this trip.Tomorrow we finish the houses and dedicate them to the families. It promises to be an emotional and wonderful day. Please pray for safety and the ability to finish so the families can begin their lives in their new homes.Thanks for the love and support, your prayers are being put to very good use.Hasta manana,Miranda and Lauren (on behalf of your Mexico 2010 group!!)
Hola from Mexico!!!Today we started off early to avoid staying in the heat of the day as much as possible. We were greeted by a crowd of eager children who gave us hugs, pound-its, and high fives. Our focus was mainly to get the house physically standing with hopefully a roof! We succeeded! We also were able to get both houses mostly painted and Banos (bathrooms) installed.For the most part our group has been feeling a strong connection to the people of the community especially the children. We played soccer, and even brought out a parachute that was a big hit. We have made many amigas and amigos that have really touched our hearts and brought out the child in all of us (even Darren and Kevin).We had a special opportunity to bless one of the families in a huge way. Early this morning when we greeted the families, the one Mom informed us that she was not feeling good. We made the decision to send her to the doctor because the pain had been increasing over a few days. Her diagnosis came to be a liver infection which is currently being treated with antibiotics and pain killers. She will make a full recovery and we covered all of her medical costs.The day flew by and we finished with a delicious dinner of floutas (cheese and potato wraps deep fried), and also a trip to the candy shop!We would love to have prayer for all of our safety and also that of the families and community.Thank you for all of your support.Love,Exit 4:12 Missions TeamTamara + Alexandra
Buddy Bonding(including: interns, kids, families, and yes- horses!)
Buddy Bonding(including: interns, kids, families, and yes- horses!)
Thursday morning (July 15) was a strikingly heartfelt day as we watched our friends from first week drive off in the rain towards the airport. Some heading back to the west coast, others to the east. Although we were sad to say good-bye each intern left behind knew that it was the beginning to new and lasting friendships. All eighteen interns and a few team leaders spent the next four to five days bonding as a Dominican family! On one of our days off we were to go to the different communities such as La Union and Agua Negra to drop off some extra donations such as clothes or shoes. This night turned in to so much more than just putting smiles on a hundred little faces.We were all on our way to Agua Negra, which translates to black water, where we are currently building a home for a family. This time was a little different- as it was pouring rain and the streets and homes were flooding. I had always heard about how bad this community gets when it rains but to experience it first hand was unbelievable. It was difficult to process the thoughts and feelings that I experienced that night as I walked through the streets with black water up to my ankles. I remember being able to come back to the hotel to rinse off my feet from the dirt and debris it was exposed to while considering those families who go through this weekly. We complain about rain and how it ruins our hair, not thinking about how it can ruin someone’s home. The people in Agua Negra, some of the kindest people I have ever met, are forced to deal with these unfortunate circumstances everyday. Many of them spend hours trying to remove the water from their homes with a broom or a small pale while others place buckets on the ground to catch the drops leaking in from the roof. Although this night was hard to grasp, it was also opened my eyes as to what I am doing here. We toured the village and ended up standing in front of a home that we built last year with Hero Holiday. The grandmother and her grandson who were currently living in this home were completely dry and safe from any flooding roads or leaking ceilings. It was amazing to see how all of our hard work last summer really helps those who need it the most.Early Saturday morning all of the interns loaded up on the bus and headed out to the ranch! we spent the day horseback riding through the town. Our final destination was along a gorgeous beach where you could hear the waves from a mile away. We stopped at a restaurant by the beach to get some refreshments and then headed back out! This was our first day together and it was great to finally bond as interns. Although we had already spent the week together with our teams, it was a totally different experience getting to know one another more personally. There are so many amazing people out there and this excursion gave us the chance to realize that. I learned more about each individual and our Dominican family became stronger as we prepared for the next group. Nothing will be able to break the bond between us as we went through the month of July experiencing mixed emotions and tough times together.Saturday night was something extraordinary for every intern. We packed up a white sheet, laptop, and a projector and headed off to La Union. With those three items we created a movie theatre for approximately seventy-five people. We set up “Finding Nemo” on the computer and hung the sheet from the railing of a balcony. I sat with Jessie during the entire movie and couldn’t help but to constantly look around at every single smiling person there. Not only the kids, but the parents as well were all gathered around gazing at the movie. You think about back home when we go to the movies all the time or see the premiere of movies at midnight and all the excitement builds up- it was like that, only it had a different excitement for me. I was excited to see the kids’ reactions, hear them laugh, and share this memory with them. This experience was fun and uplifting and allowed for us to create relationships with the locals. So far this has been my favourite Hero Holiday memory as I spent the night with Jessie on my lap never letting go of my hand. It’s a feeling difficult to describe but one that I assure you will stay close to my heart forever.Sunday evening was an interesting night to say the least. Some of the interns were interested in going to experience the cultural aspect of Dominican church. My friend, Megan and I were discussing church and how there is something unusual but amazing about it- it’s universal. Everybody there believed in a God and that he was there to guide each individual in their path as they struggle with their circumstances. As we walked into the church we heard the band playing and all of the locals singing and chanting along with them. This service was special because a couple of our translators that we work alongside were taking part in it. One of them was in the band while the other was being welcomed back from a retreat. After being at church for a little while I started to feel very warm and happy. I couldn’t help but to smile as I saw each individual in the crowd praising the Lord and having such strong faith. As I was sitting there I remembered a lady I interviewed last year who continued to tell me that she believes her life and her family will have a wonderful life because of God. I couldn’t help but to think that each person there was thinking the same way and how this one belief can bring so much joy and happiness to people who barely have food for dinner. It was amazing to see how different their mass was compared to back home. It was upbeat and informal but was an incredible experience that we all enjoyed and hope to do again sometime.Our five days in between the trips was awesome. I learned more about each individual and our Dominican family became stronger as we prepared for the next group. Nothing will be able to break the bond between us as we went through the month of July experiencing mixed emotions and tough times together. We will always have each other to lean on and discuss the struggles we may have once we go back home. Overall, we have met faces we will never forget, created friendships that will last a lifetime, and have a summer that will forever be engraved on our hearts.~ Bianca, a Dominican summer intern