This Doesn’t Feel Real.

As I walked to the bus at 5:30am, I had no idea what to expect for our first show. Was this actually happening? The week before was full of show run throughs…I never thought the day would come that I would actually be talking in a school. It didn’t feel real.  Sitting in the cold bus trying to stay warm, I put my iPod in and frantically began reciting my story over and over in my head. I tried to catch an hour of sleep, but it was impossible!

As we pulled into the school parking lot it was still dark and it felt like we were just going to a new location to practice show run throughs. We began setting up and it started to feel more real. There were kids coming into the hallways and looking in the doors to see what we were doing. They could hear the bands music and were already interested!

It was almost ready to start the show and all of the kids started cramming into the gym. I started to get really nervous. This WAS really happening. We are not just practicing in a room full of empty chairs. There were 12 & 13 year old students and teachers waiting to hear what we had to say. It had to go smoothly. Allie, Shane and I took our places at the back with the sound board, lights and laptop and waited for it all to begin. Our team leader, Shane, said his lines and the show began! Everything went great and then it was my turn to go back stage and prepare to speak. I have never spoke in front of people, other than my close group of friends. I was always the quiet one who’s face got bright red when she spoke and kept to herself. As I stood back stage my mind went completely blank and I didn’t think I could do it.

As I walked onto the stage, in front of all those kids a huge feeling of relief came over me and it wasn’t so bad after all. I felt relaxed. All those kids wanted to hear what I had to say. They were actually interested. They looked up to me. It was amazing. It was the first time I wasn’t scared to be in front of so many people.

After the show the girls went crazy for the band, Bondless and the rest of us took opportunities to talk to the students and get to know them. I have never been asked for my autograph before or been asked out by a 12 year old boy… twice! Just to let everyone know, I did have to shut him down. I think he understood.

After we got back onto the bus to head home, I was already thinking about our next show and how excited I was for it. I am excited to get on the road and meet more amazing students!

jessica-3.jpg Jessica, a School of Leadership student on Team 1

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 31st, 2011

A Second First Impression

164563_1661289625529_1635840011_1516832_2700821_n.jpgOverlooking the waves of the ocean with the sun in my face…oh Mexico, how I could get used to you.However, Mexico wasn’t always like this for me. I’ve been here before, but my first impressions weren’t as good as the ones that I have now. You need to understand that the last time I was here, it was because my family went on a vacation during winter break to sunny San Diego, California. On New Years Day, we decided to walk over the border into Tijuana. For a fourteen year old girl that was living in a town with the population of 1500, this was culture shock to the biggest extreme.I’ll admit, I didn’t want to be there. With street vendors constantly wanting you to buy their things, and people shouting things at you, I told myself that I was never going back to Mexico…ever. It’s in those moments when you tell yourself you’re never going to do something, when something comes up and you have to do it.Now I’m back here in Mexico for 4 months. I’ve only been here for what’ll be my 5th day, and I’m LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)ly loving every minute of it. It’s funny to think that just a few years ago, I was dreading this place. Sometimes all you need to do is take a second look at things, and have a more open mind to see how wonderful the things that are around you really are. It might take a lot of courage, and a leap of faith, but it’ll turn out for the best. There’s nothing to be scared about in Mexico unless you tell yourself otherwise.167581_10150092126380789_511115788_6057980_4239705_n.jpgSarah, a School of Leadership Student living in Mexico

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 28th, 2011

“Fire”…The Four Letter “F” Word

jessica-1.jpgIt evokes different images for each person that hears it: It warms, protects, fuels, provides, and sometimes it devours. It’s the four letter “f” word, fire. It can only start if many different chemical elements and states are in place, if the air movement is right and there is the perfect reaction of elements. Of its own accord, it often starts in the most unlikely of places, but once it is properly ignited, it can become a powerful, destructive force to be reckoned with.Jessica’s family didn’t dream that when they all left for school and work that morning that their lives would never be the same. But it happened without their permission, and it was insatiable. By the time they were notified, it was too late – they could only stand there in shock as they watched their family’s home be consumed by the flames. Each room, each member’s personal belongings, and all of their family’s material memories were lost in the heat and smoke. It seemed like too much to comprehend, and yet they were left with no choice but to move on. That night, as she was getting into bed at a family member’s house, Jessica took an inventory of all of her worldly possessions on the floor beside her: donated clothes, shoes, and toiletries.jessica-2.jpgFor the next while she was plagued with guilt, as she found out the fire was believed to have started in the electrical wiring in her bedroom. Oddly enough, numerous reassurances from family and friends didn’t seem to change how she felt: responsible that she hadn’t realized it before it was too late. A few weeks later, LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) came to Jessica’s school. As she sat in the audience and listened to team members’ stories, she was inspired to think outside of herself, and she signed up for Hero Holiday. Her family and friends got behind her and helped her with her fundraising and that summer Jessica joined hundreds of other participants in the Dominican Republic. She was never the same.When Jessica returned home, she was not only changed, she was empowered. She knew that her family had experienced a horrible trauma that few would understand, and she knew that she could take that experience and decide one of two things: to dwell on it and turtle from life, or to recognize the opportunity that lies in the loss. She chose the opportunity. Jessica began to get involved in her community, continued to stay connected with her Hero Holiday network of friends, and continued to challenge and inspire people in her hometown to make a difference where they were at. And this past September, Jessica joined our LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) School of Leadership and headed off to Mexico for the first half of her year.It was this past November that everything came full circle in her life. As she joined the other students in building a house for a family, she realized that she wasn’t so different from them. The family that they built for had been living in a cardboard and tin shack, with only basic cooking utensils, blankets, a worn out mattress and minimal clothes. As they were presented with the keys to their new house that they worked alongside of Jessica and the other students to build, they were in awe of what they were now in possession of. They had a real home, and jessicas-3.jpgtheir family was safe, warm and together. They had all that they could have ever dreamed of, and Jessica, the girl who had known what it was to go without for a long time, was one of the team members to hand over the keys. As she looked in their eyes, she understood, perhaps better than anyone else there, the power of knowing that people around you believe in you and in your future as a family, because she had stood in their shoes.This semester, Jessica is touring with our road teams, and she is sharing her story with tens of thousands of high school students across the nation. Life is about choosing who you become, despite what becomes of your life. She gets it and she is living it out every day.To find out more about LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) and our high school presentations, our Hero Holiday programs, or our School of Leadership, check out

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 25th, 2011

Job Posting: Finance Manager

Looking for a career with a purpose? LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) has an administrative position opening at our office in Hamilton for a Finance Manager. Join our rewarding and enjoyable work environment and use your organizational, accounting and business skills to help strengthen LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)’s inspiring cause! If you are interested, please complete this application form: (formerly Absolute)org/form10/index.html

Job Description

Proper financial management is paramount to the success of a charitable organization and the Finance Manager / Book-Keeper, under the oversight of management, handles all accounting and financial related processes for LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), giving an increasing level of oversight to the finances of the organization.Note that the job description may be adjusted and branch into other areas based on the skills and experience of the applicant.

Key Result Area 

Major Responsibilities 

Book Keeping
  • Accurate and timely input of all accounting and related transactions
  • Monitor and oversee all accouting related data that is provided by other staff
Financial Processes and Controls 
  • Manage, develop and improve all processes connected with the finances of LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), and ensure and monitor staff adoption and practices
  • Ensure industry-standard financial controls are in place and adhered to
  • Review and assisting with ensuring that general legal and regulatory requirements are adhered to
Financial Tracking and Reporting 
  • Oversee fixed reporting schedules and processes (ex. monthly and quarterly closing of the books)
  • Maintain weekly or daily tracking on critical matters (ex. cashflow)
  • Prepare for and assist with yearly audits.
Business Improvement and Efficiency 
  • Act with an attitude of ownership and oversight to all financial, fundraising and adminstrative operations, and assume increasing responsibilities in managing finances.
  • Refine and improve existing processes
  • Identitfy, recommend and/or implement measures to improve organizational success and efficiency
Stakeholder Relations 
  • Provide high quality customer service
  • Ensure progressive donor management is continually and proactively practiced and assist with donor management processes or campaigns
  • Maintain positive relationships with vendors

Skills Required

  1. Philanthropic and Leadership Mindset
    • Takes ownership of organizational vision
    • Ability to think strategically and see the bigger picture
    • Highly self-starting, always looking for and initiating opportunities for positive change.
    • Consistently goes beyond the call of duty
  2. Accounting Skills
    • General accounting and book-keeping knowledge is an important asset
    • Experience with and knowledge of Quickbooks is an important asset.
  3. IT skills
    • Above average general computer skills and experience an asset
    • Basic knowledge of Salesforce administration an asset
  4. Interpersonal and Administrative Skills
    • Must have a consistent and focused work ethic and meet deadlines.
    • Highly organized and efficient, able to keep a project on task towards timely completion.
    • Ability to lead and direct in a team environment and work well with others
    • Ability to create a positive work environment through own attitude.
  5. Other Skills
    • Experience with fundraising an asset
    • Experience with administration of a charitable organization is an asset.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 11th, 2011

A Love Note From Maria

rose-and-maria.jpgShe likes to play with her friends, take care of her younger siblings, meet new people, and is always eager to learn new English words. Maria goes to the school in the community that LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) helps to teach English at, and everywhere Rose turned this past year, little Maria seemed to be there, hauling her younger brother around behind her, eager to play and connect with any Hero Holiday team members that she could. She had found something she wanted, and she wasn’t going to give up that easily.Just before our staff and students left Mexico to come back to Canada for the end of the past semester, Maria’s mom showed up at the school on their last day teaching there. She came all that way to say thanks for being role models for their children in that community. It was so simple, so authentic and so encouraging that since the day I found out about it, I find myself smiling at the mere thought of it because she got it – she really got it.intern-and-maria.jpgOur Hero Holiday staff work hard to find inroads into the community there. Life is quiet and people keep to themselves a lot, trying to focus on making sure they make it through the month, the week, or even the day. Maria seems to be oblivious to all of the hardships that she faces on a daily basis. Her family is just as poor as the next one, and yet that never seems to stop her from imagining far away places or from reaching out to learn about new people.Our goal in their community, and everywhere we work, is not to tell them what to do. We don’t see them as a project in need of rescue and we don’t want them to feel like they are the object of our charity. We want to work as partners for their success, just like we do in Canadian high schools. We can do this by recognizing the fact that the only thing that separates us is opportunity.The world doesn’t need any more untouchable ‘heroes’. We have too many people already who are idolized for their fame and never seem to have the character to match up. maria-and-cesar.jpgThe world doesn’t need someone to come in and rescue them, either; nothing is ever gained in the long term by a short term rescue operation. The world around us needs role models: people who recognize that their lives can bring hope and spark purpose in others’ lives. A role model helps you to believe that anything is possible, and they leave behind an indelible footprint on your life that can help to become a path to follow.Before our group left to come to Canada last month, Maria dropped off a note for them. It was a long note of thanks from a little girl with a heart full of dreams. It was a love note between friends.Four hours south of Tijuana, Baja California, lies a string of towns that make up the San Quentin valley. Technically, it is a desert, and rain is a luxury they seldom see. Like many places all over the earth, life is difficult and survival is not a given. The wind seems to be the one constant thing in that place, always blowing up the sand and dust. But behind each doorway into a home lies families and individuals who long for more than just survival: like Maria, they want to live out their own dreams, too.You can join us this year in Mexico! We would love to have you come and experience the power of making a difference through one of our many Hero Holiday trips. Check out

Author: LiveDifferent


Megan and Mike Ierullo


Megan and Mike have been married for four years. They live in Calgary, Alberta, where Megan claims they have a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains. Megan is originally from Saskatchewan, and in 2004, she moved to Ontario to be a part of our School of Leadership program in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute).


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 10th, 2011

What a Great Christmas

The Christmas season in my house is usually filled with food, gifts, and family. This year really was no different, but instead I got to give food, give gifts and become part of a community that accepted our team as members of their own personal family. For those who have not visited Agua Negra, it is named for the black water that plagues the streets and its residents. When the rain comes, homes are filled with this water along with any other creature seeking refuge. Our team had the privilege to meet the Garcia family, who by the end of the week received a beautiful new home. No longer will Agapito, Noelia, Jalyssa, or Anfernie have to deal with the black water or pests that used to plague their home, and Agapito can finally rest with the knowledge that his family will be safe and dry.  During the house warming ceremony I was really struck by just how important a name truly is, and was overwhelmed with the name Agua Negra has sought to change to: Neuvo Rena Said . New Re-Birth.  What a powerful statement for this village; to take a stand and take a name that shows what it is becoming, not constantly constrained by its past. We were able to be a part of this change, and words can’t describe what a honour that really is.

Throughout this trip the sense of community kept embracing me over and over again. Whatever village we visited, we were greeted with smiles and love.  Each of the team members spent time before the trip collecting gifts and supplies to deliver to these villages. I chose to collect school supplies as education is something close to my heart. When visiting Arroyo Seco, we toured the school that was built by Hero Holiday and learned how it brought together a community that had many divisions within it. Education unifies across cultures, traditions, and frames of mind. Needless to say I was grateful to contribute with these supplies and am thankful to my community for being so generous and helping support education outside of Canada.

I felt love, I witnessed hope and I was part of the change.

 ~ Rikki-Lee

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 6th, 2011

I Can’t Talk Right Now

christmas-build-2.jpgI should have been more specific and I should have considered the question from their point of view. In hindsight, it’s really funny how quirky life is sometimes.We have just completed a really cool building project in Aguas Negra, Dominican Republic. It was with a Christmas Hero Holiday group, and together with the help of some amazing local workers, a new house and property wall was built for a family that was desperate for some help. Their house was falling apart, they were continually flooded with sewage and mud, and they were always getting sick. A few weeks before the project, when we stood there chatting with the kids at the house trying to determine the details of what the build was going to look like, I thought I was asking the right questions.”How many people live here?” “Are your parents alive?” “Do they live here?” Each question seemed so straightforward that I didn’t think much of it. Their dad was a construction worker (meaning he makes about $10 a day when there is work) and they said their mom didn’t live there.”So he is a single dad?””Yes,” they answered.”How many children live here?””Three,” they answered.”So there are four family members in this house?””Yes.”It seemed so were a really great family to work with. Each day the team showed up at their house they eagerly welcomed them and their gratitude shone through in everything they did. It only took five workdays to get the house and wall done. The team from Canada was amazing and they loved every minute of it.But the big surprise and laugh was on me the day of the house dedication ceremony.I had told everyone that there were four people living in the house and that he was a single dad, because according to my information, that was accurate. I hadn’t been there throughout the week and was only able to join them on the day of the house dedication. So when we called the family forward, I was a little surprised to see the father and a woman, two daughters, two sons and a granddaughter in the mix. I guess I asked the wrong questions.When I asked how many family members lived there, the daughter that answered me only told me about her family members – not the ones that were not biological relatives. When I asked if the mother lived with them, I failed to ask if their father had a new wife/girlfriend and they naturally didn’t offer the information. When I asked if he was a single dad, I think they thought I was asking if he was their only dad.But the best part of the whole chaotic jumble was during the ceremony. The tiny house was crammed with about 50 people, all of them excited for the family’s new home and for the cake that was waiting to be eaten. As the mayor of the community gave a heartfelt thanks to the Hero Holiday group, kids and adults jostled and chattered and seemed to be hoping we would get to the good stuff soon. As he was talking, he turned to the family at the table and congratulated them on their new home. At that exact moment, the step-mom’s cell phone rang and she did what anyone would do in the middle of a house dedication where people are addressing you publicly – she answered it! However, it was what she said that made me burst out laughing. In rapid Spanish, she told the person on the other end of the phone, “I can’t talk right now because we are getting our new house!” and then she snapped the phone shut and nodded her head at the mayor, giving him the signal to continue his speech!As we were about to cut the cake and start the real party, the father of the family, a quiet, serious looking man who was clearly used to many years of physical labour, raised his hand. In an emotional voice, he said something that made everything worth it all over again. “Thank you to our new friends from Canada for our new home. I never dreamed we could ever live like this.”His name is Gapito, and no matter what the details of his family life are that I managed to misconstrue, I hope that 2011 is a year of amazing things for all of them. They deserve it. Happy New Year, Gapito.LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)’s Hero Holiday program happens throughout the year in Dominican Republic, Mexico, Thailand and Haiti. You can join us! Check out This is how hope begins!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 5th, 2011

This is Love

3r.jpgLove is a word we use so often in the English language that we sometimes forget the power and force behind what it means to truly love. I love chocolate, but I also love my husband. I love sunshine but I also love my family. In our current culture, people fall in and out of love with their crushes, their favourite foods, their favourite bands, and their spouses. Love is used to describe everything from nail polish colours to sex. What does it really look like?I remember hearing someone say that ‘love is a commitment and choice’. That’s true – it is both of those. It’s a choice because no one can make us love someone or something; it has to come from within us. Love is also a commitment because, in its truest sense, it is ultimately about relationships – and we all know what kind of commitment relationships require. But I am beginning to think that sometimes, when we choose to love, we are doing it for something greater than even commitment or choice. I think sometimes we love for the sheer beauty of what that love is capable of accomplishing.4r.jpgWe haven’t yet been able to figure out her name, but because it is Christmas, I would like to call her “Mary” in honour of a Jewish woman who lived long ago and who loved so much that it changed the course of history. “Mary” first met Cole last week when he was delivering Christmas gifts to an orphanage we had recently discovered in Port-au-Prince. There are 110 children there, living in a very large house. They are the poorest of the poor: they sleep on mats on the floor, their clothing is threadbare and their situation is deplorable. In the short amount of time they had, Cole and Frantzo brought them gift bags and supplies. As they were preparing to leave, they took a quick tour around the cramped property, assessing what the needs were. When they got to the back of the house, they found a cinderblock shack with a tin roof. It was five feet by five feet. Beside the shack was “Mary” and a small boy taking a shower. As they smiled shyly at Frantzo and Cole from behind the wall, there was something evidently different with the little boy, but they couldn’t discern what it was.5r.jpgThe head of the orphanage, David, came out and stood beside them and introduced them to Mary and the boy with her. Mary is probably 70 years old. She has tired, kind eyes, weary and weathered hands, and as they talked she held a protective arm around the young boy. The boy is not her biological grandson. He was a total stranger when she first found him. But when she found him she knew she loved him, and from that moment forward, that love became something beautiful and pure. In fact, it became what helped that little boy to survive – because Mary found him in the garbage dump. He had been abandoned there as a newborn baby, and he had most likely sustained injuries and deprivations that have led to him being mentally challenged for the rest of his life. He would have died there were it not for Mary’s kindness, but now he has a future. To you and me it may not look like much, but when you are loved and you are safe, your future is beautiful and bright.Mary, her ‘grandson’, the 110 children in the home, and the other 50 children in Kay Papa Nou are all enjoying the gifts that we brought them this past weekend in Port-au-Prince. They were gifts that were made possible because of the generosity of our friends and philanthropists in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute). Thank you. Your love helped us spread the love this Christmas, and that love is a beautiful thing.LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) is returning to Haiti in May for another Hero Holiday and we will be working to help many people like Mary. You can join us! Check out Christmas!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: January 1st, 2011