First Impressions of Mexico

“I can’t believe I get to live here” – is all I’ve been thinking as we’ve been exploring the cities and sights around us here in Mexico this week. But even walking outside of our gates to our house, the poverty is undeniably evident here, and one begins to wonder if Mexicans have the same thought when they walk out their door in the morning. Honestly – doubtful. Considering I live in Canada, have free health care, and my house is a lot bigger than those here, and I don’t skip out the door blown away by the beauty of the trees and the birds that day.  I guess what I’m trying to say is: Mexico is a beautiful place, and I hate to think that some of the people here haven’t even been to see the gorgeous beach a couple miles from their house because they have to work every day. At first, this thought made me sad. I thought everyone here must be very stressed out all the time, trying to make ends meet, working day in and day out. But then I started looking at people’s faces as I walked down the street. Almost every person you come across, no matter how young or old, will offer you a smile.

Walking into a store, the storekeeper always says “hola!” and the overall atmosphere is so much more welcoming than I am used to. It’s hard to wrap your head around people being so much more welcoming, happy and friendly in a place where the social and economical issues alone are unfathomably worse than at home in Canada – where people are not per so unfriendly, but if you walked down the street smiling and saying hello to everyone… some people would enjoy it, while others might think you just escaped from the looney bin. I can’t wait to start actually working with the people here, and learning more and more about them and their ways of life. I still can’t believe I get to live here!

~ Alex, a School of Leadership student just beginning her first semester in Mexico.


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: September 7th, 2010

If You Could See What I See

KatieGrade 9 can be difficult and the challenges can seem endless: cliques, changing emotions, and moments of self doubt. But for Katie, grade 9 wasn’t only difficult, it was practically unbearable.Her earliest memories revolve around pain. The pain of childhood abuse, a broken home, and the insecurity of poverty punctuate all the other memories she can recall. Words and actions that seemed to reinforce a lie that she was tempted, time and again, to believe about herself: you are never going to be enough. As she entered grade 9, she seemed to live in a world that didn’t exist – at least to all of the other kids in her school. Unable to fit in anywhere, she decided it was easiest to stay under the radar and not get noticed. It somehow made it easier to deal with the pain. But then, it happened.KatieShe couldn’t remember when exactly it was that she started to get sick – moments of blackness and loss of vision, odd vertigo that would strike when she least expected it, and slight confusion at times. Until the day she was rushed to the hospital and whisked into emergency brain surgery. A mass was blocking her spinal fluid, basically squishing her brain. What ensued was a torturous six weeks in hospital, with a needle poking out of her back and constant physical pain.Coming back to school proved to be even more difficult than before her surgery: now she wasn’t only the kid that no one noticed, she was the kid with the shaved head that didn’t want to be noticed. Feeling embarrassed and humiliated by all that she had experienced, Katie began to look for somewhere to fit in, and eventually, the inevitable happened. They accepted her and welcomed her on one condition: she did things their way. Over the course of the year that ensued, Katie’s life became a spiral of drinking, drugs and promiscuity – all to numb the pain that wouldn’t leave her alone. The pain of never being enough.However, this all came to an abrupt end when she woke up one morning in her own bed, but with a hospital gown and bracelet on – only this time it was due to alcohol poisoning.The first people she saw when she opened her eyes were her parents, but they refused to look at her. Their treatment of her only seemed to reinforce the lie: she would always fall short of doing anything right. It was a lie, but somehow, when you believe a lie long enough, it can become your version of truth.Determined to prove everyone’s judgments of her wrong, Katie set out to remove herself from the friends that had helped to drag her into this mess in the first place. It was futile. Threats, abuse, attacks came relentlessly. The only people she had connected with had now turned their backs on her as well.In a final effort to preserve her life and future, Katie moved out of her parents’ home and in with her aunt. A new school helped to give her a new start on life and eventually helped her to begin to believe that she could come up from all the pain. But it had to be a choice and she had to be willing to see the potential in who she could become.KatieLife sometimes has a way of tricking us into thinking that this is all there is. When it gets difficult or our circumstances seem to be too much to bear, we can tend to think that this is as good as it’s going to get – end of story. And out of all the things vying for our attention, pain screams the loudest – always. But, like each one of us, Katie was given the choice. Somehow, by grace, she chose to believe, one last time, that she was worth it. She chose to believe, one last time, that the pain didn’t have to define her.This past summer, Katie led one of our teams on our Hero Holiday in Dominican Republic. There, her life was turned upside down, yet again, as she realized that there is so much that she is capable of doing, if only she is willing to believe. Today, along with her husband, Shane, Katie gives leadership to one of our high school touring teams. This week she will begin to step out onto a stage and share her story: the story of hope.You can have us in your schools this year! For more information on how to have an LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) Think Day presentation, email us at”Dum spero, spiro” (Latin) “While I breathe, I hope.”

Author: LiveDifferent


School of Leadership Orientation in Hamilton

LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) would like to welcome our School of Leadership students to Hamilton!  This school year holds a lot of adventure as they take their turn spending one semester touring with our Think Day presentation delivering a strong and valuable message of self-worth and purpose to high school students all over Canada. The rest of their time as SOL students they will call Mexico their home as they complete a course on International Social Justice and assist in hosting Hero Holidays, our humanitarian aid trip experience.Welcome students, we look forward to seeing the impact you will have on the people you will encounter over the course of this year: changing the world, and being changed in the process.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: September 2nd, 2010