Team 2 started off the week in Thunder Bay, Ontario: a place devoid of any warm weather. But what it lacks in heat it more than makes up for in cheap movie tickets, so the gang hit up a local theatre to feast their eyes on Harry Potter’s wizardry ways. After a visit with the lovely folks at Bishop Gallagher Catholic School, we high-tailed it out of there toward Dryden in hopes that we’d beat the snowy weather, but approximately one hour into the journey, the skies opened up and massive amounts of snowflakes were suddenly kissing the windshield of our beloved bus! Finally, after an ‘adventure’ up our billet’s driveway, we slept for the night before waking up to more of this:which was rather convenient for our ten hour drive to Manitoba! Wesoon decided to embrace the snow despite the protest of our snottynoses and rosy cheeks, which worked to our benefit since we wereheaded for the Pinaymootang First Nation’s reserve where the snow only kept coming. After a fun show there we took an adventurous trip into Winnipeg. Instead of braving the weather some of us decided to watch ‘Elf’, while others decided to get some much needed rest before our huge show at John Taylor Collegiate the next morning. I mean, their school slogan is ‘Blood, sweat and tartar’ – how awesome is that?Now we’re all cozied up in Brandon, Manitoba, after a day full ofWendy’s and tanning sessions. Yes, tanning sessions. It’s cold outhere, and the members of Team 2 have to stay warm somehow…Andrea, Road Team Manager for Team 2
When we were asked what we had done to get to know our community while we were living in Mexico beyond activities that were planned by LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), we spent a long time thinking and came up with nothing. We had not done one thing in our 3 months of living here to get to know the people of our community. Personally, I was very upset that I had not stepped outside of my comfort zone to just leave the house. A challenge was put in front of us to change this, so we stepped up.After throwing a few ideas out on the table we, the SOL’s, would throw a carnival in one of the lots next door for the kids of our neighbourhood. Nothing would be paid for by LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) or planned by the facilitators; we were responsible for it all. A lot of work needed to be done! We brainstormed about possible games and activities and came up with some great ideas such as a face painting station run by the one and only Em Cost; Alex and Shane had to be called in for reinforcements later due to popularity. Balloon animals were made by the dedicated Zoe who only learned to tie them just hours before on an internet tutorial. There was soccer for the older kids, parachute games, a water relay and lots and lots of free lemonade. Our prize possession of the SOL Carnival was the bouncy castle that we rented for the day. Yes, I said bouncy castle. Complete with a bouncy area, climbing wall and slide. Once the kids were gone for the day, we may or may not have spent some time in it ourselves.It was a huge success. I was a little nervous about not having ANY kids show up or having TOO many but we had about 60 kids show up which was totally manageable. Our friends from around the community who are bilingual came and helped out which was awesome; don’t know how we would have done it without them. We all dressed up in silly clown clothes and had a lot of fun with the kids. I personally think that it was one of my highlights of Mexico. Hopefully SOL’s in the future decide to continue with this, and maybe, just maybe they can even make it better…but I doubt it. Ours ROCKED.Matt Strong, a School of Leadership Student living in Mexico
I currently live really close to the beach. The surfing beach, actually. Vaden and I are living in Dominican Republic as we wait and hope to bring our 5 year old adopted daughter home to Canada. I keep telling myself I want to get into surfing, because it just seems to somehow up your cool factor: casual conversation, dropping the ol’ line: “yeah, I surf” just seems to be so enviable. In fact, the whole concept of surfing seems to be surrounded in all that we pursue in life: looking for the best wave that will carry us through safely until it pops us out on the other side with only great memories and friends surrounding us and cheering us on. However, life is not always like that. I don’t actually think it ever is, to be honest. And until I met Carlos and his family, I thought that the possibility of surfing was something you needed a board and ocean waves to do. I was wrong: it could happen in a way that could be disastrous.Carlos’ real name is Hilario. He lives on the edge of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic with his wife, Felicita and their four children (Jorkeli, Joskar, Jocairy, and Ruth). Carlos is a good man. He works long, hard hours, fighting to keep food on the table for his family and to keep his kids in school. He and Felicita only dream of the best possible future for their children. And since the day I met them, I only wanted the same thing for them. It sounds simple until you realize where they actually live.Their community is called San Marcos. It sits on the edge of the city, connected by loose dirt roads that often wash out in the rain, with houses clustered around a river ravine at the base of the mountain. The trees are lush and the mosquitoes are plentiful, and yet it is the best they can do: here they own their own land and take quiet confidence in the fact that they are together. Carlos and Felicita’s house was tiny, with only two rooms. There was no running water or dependable electricity. As I stepped around to peak over the back of their house, I realized the full extent of the danger they lived in every day: their home was almost falling off the edge of the eroding ravine, threatened to surf down into the creek 15 feet below. It was held to the side of the hill with scraps of wood and other odd materials that they were able to collect to help them just a little bit longer. But how long before it was too long?This past summer we were able to build a new house for Carlos and his family. It has a real cement floor, with enough foundation depth to keep his family’s precious new home secure. They are not going to be surfing down that ravine any time soon; they are going to be safe. If feels good to know that tonight, as I sleep with my little family and know that we are safe when it rains or storms, I know that Carlos and Felicita are also safe – thanks to so many amazing Canadians who joined with them this past summer and believed in the power of hope.This Christmas, we are going to be delivering Christmas Hampers to Carlos and Felicita and many other families like them. The gifts will be filled with food, children’s gifts and needed household items. We need your help! Check out www.livedifferent.com/hampers. This is how hope begins!
Looking for an amazing Christmas gift? Give a Hamper of Hope!
Looking for an amazing Christmas gift? Give a Hamper of Hope!
Tired of Christmas consumerism and the same old kind of gifts? Here is a unique gift idea: Help a family in need with a hamper full of food and supplies! You can choose one of the families that we have worked with this past year to help, and “gift it” towards a friend or family. Click here to choose a family and to give:
When we left BC, we knew we were in for a long trip home – and 3 days without showers – so arriving safely home in Ontario was cause for celebration and immediate cleanliness!Our time in Hamilton was definitely different from being on the road, and I know most of us took advantage of our time by seeing friends and family. It felt great to be welcomed back with smiles from house advisor Bryan, and even better to find the groceries we had left behind in the cupboards and fridge! We had to get a bit of fresh food, but a great part about having a kitchen is getting to create food with friends. Jacob and I cooked an apple, tomato, red pepper, and caramelized onion pizza – it sounds weird, but I promise it was delicious. The finished product even LOOKS edible! Although it wasn’t the same as when we left the Magill house (many less people!) but for Sarah, Jacob, Jenna and I, it was home. And even better, we got to spend some time with Team 1, because they came home just a few days after we arrived!Hamilton is a city that’s built on bricks, based on steel, and bursting with talent. Student Sarah even got the opportunity to be apart of rapper Manafests’ video shoot, while Jacob and I took in local talent at the art crawl. From pottery to paintings as varied as they come, the art crawl gave us the chance to see a piece of the city that is truly unique. Some team members were also lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Santa Clause Parade that took over downtown last Saturday! Another special thing about downtown Hamilton is Jackson Square, located beside the Cops Coliseum. Affectionately deemed ‘Michael Jackson’ square, or ‘MJ’ for short, it houses the Hamilton farmers market among other stores. The farmers market is a great place to grab fresh produce and baking – I bought a pint of strawberries for just a dollar!On the topic of a dollar, in Jacobs Hero Holiday talk he mentions the value of it – and continues to receive bags of sun chips from his fans daily! The band boys also receive their fair share of attention, especially in the shows we do at all girls’ schools! More importantly, students across the country are getting excited about Hero Holiday. Hearing so many young people talk about their plans to go really drives home the reason we do what we do – something important for us to remember these last 5 weeks of tour.Time is racing by – just the other night, Sarah and I spent nearly 6 hours in a mall and hardly noticed the clock! Though a little home time was nice, I know being back in the bus and on the road feels normal – Jenna and Jacob have already gone swimming in Elliot lake, and the bus is already a little disorganized.. But that doesn’t stop us. Northern Ontario and Manitoba are in for a taste of Team 2 – don’t worry, we’ll see you soon!
I know Barbie gets a bad rap. I know she can be seen as a symbol of all that is wrong with our perceptions of how women should look and act. Like the multi-billion toy industry that North Americans are enslaved to, she is often over-priced and kind of ridiculous. However, this week, I saw Barbie do something I never knew she could do. Barbie brought hope to a little neighbourhood in the middle of the outback of Baja California, Mexico. Barbie reached out and touched a young girl’s life, and we got to be a part of it all.Micaela moved to Baja California from Oaxaca (wuh-hawk-ah) in southern mainland Mexico with her mom when she was two years old. Forced to move to find work and survive, there were many years full of good memories but persevering endurance as she grew up. She gave birth to Octavio when she was 15 and Jessica when she was 18; sometimes life leaves us with few options and she was never given the option of family planning. Micaela sells items and handicrafts in the market in town. She is a good mother and a faithful daughter. Her husband had been in America working for four years. He missed most of his children’s early years, and last November, shortly after arriving back home, he left Micaela and the children and moved across town and in with another woman. Perhaps he couldn’t handle the uncertainty of what Micaela had no option of escaping: the uncertainty of how long Jessica will be around.Jessica began to get sick a year and a half ago, when she was 5. A tumour began to grow on the side of her face, and tests confirmed it was cancerous. Micaela had no choice: she had to take Jessica two hours up the coast to the hospital. When she arrived there, without extra clothes, blankets or money, she was told that she would need to put Jessica in treatments immediately and it would take a month. She didn’t even have enough money to take a bus home. Our LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) staff and students sent up emergency supplies and money and wanted her to know how much her and her family were loved and valued.After two rounds of chemotherapy, Jessica is home with her mom and brother. School has been hard, as she has missed so much this year and she is easily tired and can’t walk very far. Though there are uncertainties as to her future, Micaela and Octavio work hard to make their home one of love and comfort for Jessica. And that is where we came in.Like every parent, Micaela would like to give her kids the moon, but unlike many of the homes we all grew up in, there is no money after the necessities – and sometimes even those can’t be met. Our Leadership students were at her house, helping to build an extra room to give Jessica some space. There was nothing to put in that room. But Jessica had a dream of what she would like to see: a pink doll house full of Barbie’s.Shelby was one of our Hero Holiday interns in Mexico this past summer. Moved by Jessica’s story, she sent money to help us and to remind them that they were loved. And this week we watched a dream come true as we pulled up to their house and made Jessica close her eyes as we set out a little girl’s fantasy: a huge pink Barbie house and camping van, tonnes of Barbie’s to complete the picture and a big pink quilt that said “Princess”. All of us counted to three in Spanish and watched as tears ran down her face as she tried to comprehend what she saw there.For me, it was hard to decide what the best part of the morning was: seeing Jessica holding her Barbie’s close, helping to break the pinata outside to celebrate, or watching Shane, one of our Leadership students, work in a sea of pink as he tried desperately to figure out how to put the dollhouse together!Will a dollhouse cure Jessica? No. Can Barbie change a life? Perhaps…when she is combined with a little dose of hope and a big serving of love.To find out more about how to join us in Mexico for our Hero Holidays, check out www.livedifferent.com. This is how hope begins!
A few weeks ago we (the School of Leadership students) began a special project for our Mexican Princess – Jessica. Jessica is eight years old and has cancer. When asked in the summer if you could wish for anything what would you wish for, she said a Barbie playhouse. Jessica needs a place indoors to play because of her cancer. So our plan is to build an addition onto her house and put a Barbie playhouse in it. We spent the first day and a half digging out a hole to make the floor level with the rest of the house. The ground was so hard to dig because it was clay and then there were tons of big rocks that we had to dig out. We were finally able to pour the concrete foundation. The next day we started to build the walls and roof. Jessica’s mother made us ceviche for lunch which is soy and fish and veggies with lots oflime on a tostado. It was delicious! The next day we painted the inside of the addition purple and the outside blue.It took almost a month but finally we acquired a three-foot doll house and a Barbie camping caravan. A family from Canada that heard of Jessica had some Barbie dolls sent down to Mexico for her. On Sunday we went to Jessica’s house and delivered her wish. We got her and her brother to close their eyes. When we told them they could open them Jessica was so overwhelmed that she didn’t know what to do. After a couple minutes of coaxing, Jessica opened up a Barbie. After that we set about to assemble the doll house and caravan. The guys spent almost an hour putting together the 3-story dollhouse. Octavio, Jessica’s older brother, tried to pretend that he wasn’t interested in the doll house but didn’t succeed and by the end he was helping set it up with us. He was just really happy that his sister got a doll house. We also brought over a brand new Tonka truck for Octavio to play with. Getting to know this family and seeing the joy on their faces as they played with their new and old toys made all the hard work digging in the hard clay well worth it. We left with tears in our eyes, happy that we met this family and could help make a small part of their dreams come true.
Zoe Bigaukus, a School of Leadership Student living in Mexico
To know Bill is to be inspired by him. He can’t help it – he brings out the best in whomever he meets up with! Bill is the father of three amazing kids and is now a grandpa to his new twin granddaughters.Bill spent 29 years in education – 4 of those as a classroom teacher and the remaining 25 as a middle and secondary school administrator. In July 2006, as he retired from his last principal-ship in Parksville, B.C., Bill chose to invest his energy in new pursuits: helping out LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) in any way possible.