Dedication = a ceremony in which something (as in this case, a house) is dedicated to some goal or purpose. That’s what we did, we built a home for a family for a purpose. A family filled with heart and faith. Seeing the mom’s face when the keys were handed over was a life changing experience that I will never forget. However, the moment that touched my heart the most was when little Ayaceli (age 6) ran into my arms and whispered the words, “thank you”. Her and her sister, Yolanda, were so overwhelmed with joy at even the thought of having a bed to sleep on, something we take for granted everyday. The saying is true that even if you are just one person you can make all the difference in someones life. Whether it is deciding to go on a trip like Hero Holiday or standing up for something that you feel is right when everyone else turns away. When everyone looks back on that day I hope that they will remember to “keep their dreams alive”. Understand to achieve anything requires faith andbelief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe! And you truly can make all the difference .
As a first timer, I didn’t know what to expect. I was told all these times, dates, and activities, anticipating what will happen when I get to Mexico. The first day on the bus was already not what I was expecting. When we finally arrived at the Hero Holiday house, it was twelve o’clock with our tummies already filled with fine Mexican cuisine. (Side note: I don’t really like tacos or Mexican food, but these tacos are delicioso!). Even though it was midnight and most of us were half asleep, we still found the will to talk. We wanted to get to know some of the School of Leadership students staying in Mexico. After a good seven hour sleep, we woke up and started the day all over again with a plate filled with fresh pancakes and fruit. The energy in the house was good, with no one complaining about the three day long bus ride, but rather chatting it up with the “experienced” and talking about what to expect and who they are mucho excited to see. When we arrived at the building site, we were all greeted by many children. Most were already covered in dirt. At first, I was shy to play with the children but my walls came tumbling down once I started to share smiles with children who I have so little in common with. My mind was blown when I saw how all these children live. With close to nothing, these children were the happiest people I have ever seen.After a nice afternoon filled with smiles and laughter, we left with the promise of coming back again tomorrow. Once we left, we were off to a grave yard. Once we arrived we were told about the realities of the high rate of infant mortality here in Mexico. We were also told about a personal experience that one had with this reality. The story was very upsetting and opened my eyes to the problems of an average citizen in Baja California. DAY DOS (2). We finally started to build the house and school. As much as I would like to say I worked hard, I will admit that the eager little Mexican boys worked harder at hammering down nails in an hour than I did the whole day! It’s not that I didn’t want to work, it’s that there was simply not enough hammers and tool belts for everyone. Not only did I learn how to properly use a hammer on this day, I also learned how to use a chop saw thanks to Cody. Even though my day will filled with lots of smiles from the children, my favorite part of the day was at the very beginning. While I was listening to Les teach is how to use a hammer and telling us which part of the nail goes down, I was greeted by Yolanda. Yolanda is eleven years old, and one of the daughters in the family receiving the home this year. While I was standing, I felt a little hand creep into mine. I have only spent a couple of hours with this girl the previous day and she ready feels comfortable enough to hold my hand. In Canada we are taught not to associate ourselves with people we don’t know. In Mexico, you know everyone! DAY NUMERO TRES (3). I worked on the family’s house instead of the school. I helped assemble a roof and improved the number of hits it takes to hammer a nail in. I went from about fifty hits to around ten. After a full day of building and playing, we headed back to the house to eat dinner and then got ready for the movie night Hero Holiday hosts for a small village of kids. With a kid or two in everyone’s lap, together we watched Toy Story 3 en Espanol under the stars. Even though I miss my mom and dad very much I wouldn’t give this experience up for anything. I have learned so much on this trip and will probably keep learning. Sure, two weeks of skiing and partying would have been nice, but this is so much better.~ MarissaP.s. Mom, don’t be surprised if I don’t come back.
I know Christmas is technically December 25th, but when you have never experienced Christmas, you don’t even care what day it is. You only care that someone took the time to think of you. That’s why when Christmas came to northern Thailand at the end of this past February; no one was too uptight, because they were just excited to have a gift.Vicky is in Grade 12. She is well spoken, focused, and she is full of big plans for what she wants to accomplish with her life. Her laugh is very infectious and her smile is very unassuming. She had joined us before in Dominican Republic, so when I found out she would be in Thailand with me last summer; I was really looking forward to sharing the experience with her.Everyone that joins us in Thailand is always amazed at how much hope they experience in the midst of such heartbreaking stories: hope flourishes in the most unlikely of places all over the earth, and this is one of those places. Last summer while we were working on some projects in an amazing children’s home in northern Thailand, Vicky and the other participants saw what life can look like when you are willing to try to believe again. Together with the staff at the home, we built a recycling centre, did some basic renovations on their outdoor kitchen and helped to work to make life a little easier. We were all changed in the process, but it was Vicky who really took the next step towards making the connection. When she returned to her hometown in Northern Ontario, she couldn’t stop thinking about those kids, their lives and the world in which they lived. She knew that many of them had experienced more in their short lives than many of us could ever imagine, and she longed to be able to do something to remind them that they were not forgotten. Finally, she had an idea: she would send each of them individualized Christmas gifts from Canada – all 150 of them!The more she talked about her experience, the more her school and community worked to support the idea. Each person in her school brought $2 to help pay for the shipping of the gifts, and many community members pitched in to help to buy, sort and send their packages of love. The shipping company promised a holiday delivery. It arrived at the end of February. For many of us that would have been enough cause to throw our hands up in the air and freak out, but not this crew. They were just excited that someone remembered them and took the time to show them in such a tangible way. When they opened the gifts only a few short weeks ago, they were excited and thrilled at what they found insideThese kids hardly own anything to speak of. Their flip flops, their clothes, and their entire lives are communal. While that may be economical, it isn’t always possible to feel like you are special within that context. The staff work with them to make them feel individual, but in the end, some of them, like us, need to know that they are special to someone. And that is what this Christmas delivery was about. Each child in the home received a package that was individualized to them within certain limits. They had their own gift to open and to cherish. Vicky and her friends were very intentional about finding gifts that would be something they would be able to use, but also to enjoy. One of those gifts that a few of the children received were their own Etch-A-Sketches. The staff at the home reported back that the kids were enjoying their toys and gifts for hours and were all so excited to share with each other.The Etch-A-Sketch has been around the world since the 1950’s. It has survived many generations of creativity, and most of us probably still have one somewhere in our basement. But few of us would say that it changed our lives and made us feel loved. Except if it was one of the few gifts that we had ever received in our lives. Then, it becomes an Etch-A-Sketch of love.Vicky is the kind of person that we love to have join us on a Hero Holiday: she is someone like you. She just wanted to be a part of making a difference and wanted to reach out and remind them that they are not forgotten. You can join us this August in Thailand and be a part of something life changing! Check out www.heroholiday.com.”Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Change: to become different or undergo alteration. The road never turns around the same corner twice; we are constantly moving, constantly on a different path, constantly changing. There’s been some changes on our team, but when are things not always changing? It is how we adapt and how we deal with changes that make us all who we are. Every day when I get on that bus, I know only one thing won’t change: the Bondless boys will always get in a tickle war and someone will always sing Shania Twain.We have been welcomed with such hospitality and kindness on the west coast, but it is the willingness of some students to open up about their dark pasts after the shows that has been the most touching. Bondless performed at a memorial for a girl who was murdered in Duncan, BC last month. Seeing how a tragedy brought a community together made me ask why we need a tragedy to connect? I believe, based on the students we’ve met thus far, it is because pain is the emotion each one of us can relate to the most and when we have the opportunity to heal others it also allows us to heal our own pain. Simply sharing a story that breaks a heart allows so many others to mend, including our own. With every show it’s like a piece of my heart seems to be glued back in place and I wouldn’t change sleeping on a different floor every night for anything.I am inspired by the strength of each and every student that stands up to us after the show and says “me too” and those who may not have the courage to say something but somewhere in them something has changed. We are all changing, whether we like to believe it or not. I mean, how else would we grow? A seed starts somewhere in us that inspires us to change, so why not try to plant that seed as many places as we can?Love, trust and hope.xo Em, a School of Leadership student on the road
Never in a million years would I have thought that today, I would be going into high schools all across Canada, set up this massive sound board that controls all the sound for our show and learn how to live this glamorous life on the road. This is all so new to me, but it’s very easy to take myself out of my life in Victoria and travel on a bus, live out of different homes, churches and schools because I am a “hippie-at-heart” as my team would say.We do not know where our next meal will come from and that’s okay because every day is an adventure. One thing that troubles me is that I have limited options during mealtime because I am a vegetarian. If there is one dish for a meal and there is meat in it, I will take out my protein bar and use that as a meal replacement because I am Zoe Bigauskas. I have something to say about everything and I can pull a fact out of my brain at any given time, so the team just laughs and giggles because I often just “pull a Zoe”. It’s important to joke around and have fun on this four month long tour, the ten of us are together every single day and when the going gets tough, we have to work through every thing like a family. Talk about things that have been working and things that we have to improve on. To go into schools every day and show students what it’s like to be a responsible person, the importance of giving, and the power of hope, it needs to start with us.I never thought I would have such a huge impact on people’s lives in a positive way. The students we speak to are just people and I was one of them just last year, a student in high school trying to make a purpose out of my life. It’s interesting how a lot of the times I don’t share my story but people still come up to talk to me, open up their lives to me and I know that I am able to be a listening ear to those who seek help.I approach students every day and they often let me know that our presentation has truly impacted their lives. I realize that these students do want to do something different about the way they have been living, they want to make a change, and that’s what makes me get up every morning.Sometimes it is easy to lose focus of our goal, but just keeping in mind our purpose and our message, it makes me want to take out all the gear from the bus, set up my sound board, and get ready for another engaging show. I know that each presentation there is always a chance for us to reach at least one student in the crowd and that alone is what keeps me going everyday.Zoe, a School of Leadership student on the road
Penticton Students Head to Mexico For The 7th Consecutive Year!
Penticton Students Head to Mexico For The 7th Consecutive Year!
It is a pleasure for us to host students from Penticton again this year in Mexico. For the last 7 years they have been faithfully coming and have made an incredible contribution, building over 20 homes and a couple of primary schools in the Vicente Guerrero Area.One of the unique things about this group is that every year they insist of traveling to and from Mexico on our Hero Holiday bus! They can share countless stories with you about the good times on the road together! They left Penticton yesterday morning and were slowed up for a few hours with traffic at the border in the Seattle area. After getting out of that they spent a few hours of the side of the road this morning in Northern California because one of the mountain passes were experiencing some poor weather. They just texted me from the road a few minutes ago to let everyone know that conditions have improved and they are on the go again. The delays were insignificant and they should still arrive in San Diego this evening as planned. Stay tuned for more updates of their trip, both here and on our Facebook page (FB-livedifferent.com).Not only are we anticipating another successful year of building and fun, but this group has many local friends in Mexico who are eagerly waiting their arrival!
Like the rest of the people in that tiny, obscure village, he is dirt poor. But he has something that few others in his situation have: transportation. It comes in the form of a horse.His horse is a far cry from a ‘trusty steed’. In fact, I would probably say it is more like a tired, anorexic mare. However you want to classify it, it is a horse, and that alone is a valuable commodity where he finds himself.He is the jefe (pronounced hay-fay) and it means he is the boss. The title is in reference to the years he oversaw the workers in the cane fields, and he still carries himself like a man who is used to being accountable for people. He rides his horse in places that are too far to walk and the animal is both transportation and freight delivery at times.He looks you in the eye when you ask him a question and he is watchful to anticipate your needs and concerns. The community respects him and his children miraculously seem to listen to him. His name is Jose-Michele and he is a good man. He is kind and truly cares about the people of Chichigua, a small Haitian community clinging to the side of a sprawling overgrown sugar cane field.Everyone in the community seems to remember all being there together. Some of them have papers to be in Dominican Republic that were clearly issued many moons ago, long before the tension of statelessness that frustrates the country today. All those years, living and working together and all those years sharing one thing in common morning, noon and night: they used the surrounding field as a bathroom.It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? But what else are you going to do with no work, no money and barely enough food to survive? The last item on your to-do list is a proper bathroom, and even then you would probably write it off as a non-necessity. But proper sanitation means more than you or I can appreciate, because sometimes it can mean the difference between life and death.It’s pretty exciting to be a part of something so simple, yet something so profoundly impacting on a community like this. Women and children can feel a little safer, not having to trek out into the fields in the dark. Communal showers mean less transmission of diseases and the basic human right to be nice and clean. Life in general takes on a new quality, as you realize that you are worth the effort, simply because you have intrinsic value and someone cared enough to acknowledge that value.Jose-Michele has 12 kids between himself and his wife. They have grown children with kids of their own, and they have toddlers running around, playing at their feet. They have a daughter who is mentally and physically disabled, whom the community loves very much, and they have the daily challenge of survival. I asked him what they do for work and for food, and he pointed to the banana trees along the side of the field, indicating that they can always eat and sell them somewhere.With a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders, he said, “We always find a way to eat”.I asked him what he thought about the new toilet and shower facility being built right in front of him by 27 high school students from North Vancouver, B.C.He just smiled, nodded his head, and looked me in the eye. “I think it’s very good – for all of us.”He’s right. It is good for all of us. They needed the help and we needed to help. Life is good according to Jose-Michele and I think those of us that are a part of what happened in that tiny community have to say agree.Thank you, Chichigua, for letting us into your world; and thank you, world, for helping us get into Chichigua.This summer you can join us in Dominican Republic as we have the incredible opportunity to change the world and be changed in the process! Check out www.heroholiday.com. You belong here!
On our second day at our work project, I was asked to carry water to the work site from this big brass or iron tank that looked like a submarine. This town does not have any waterlines to it so they have to get water shipped in and stored in large containers like this. It’s hard to imagine life like this…we had to dip the bucket in it and sink it to fill it up. After we took our filled bucket back to the work site it was dumped into a metal barrel. From here the workers could use it to mix cement. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed this water transporting job! On our fifth trip back to the water container, Cole told us to place the water buckets on our heads and support it with our hands. All the women who were outside washing their clothes started laughing. I don’t blame them, it was funny! You see Haitian women everywhere here carrying things on their heads.In the afternoon we were split into groups of 3 and asked to prepare an English lesson for the local school. My group decided to teach numbers and fruits. Other people taught the colors, animals, and members of the family. It was fun and the students were fast learners. We drew posters and stuff to make our class more interesting. It was cool because some of the students could speak French so were able to speak a bit with them. Over all we had a great day and it is awesome to see the progress our team is making on the washrooms and showers facility.~ Sophie
The Beginnings of Carson Graham in the Dominican Republic
The Beginnings of Carson Graham in the Dominican Republic
First Work Day – Summary by student participant Ella: This morning we went back to La Union for a sports camp. It was fantastic, we brought lots of toys with us such as soccer balls, tennis balls and skipping ropes. It touched my heart to see how much all the kids appreciated these little toys. When we arrived we ventured down the hill to the field and all the kids came out of nowhere and claimed their “gringo” for the day. It made me feel so special how much they loved us all. Our time there was incredibly eye opening. It is amazing to see how happy these kids are when they hardly have anything and they constantly face tragedy in their lives. This really made my problems seem microscopic. We played all morning and when it was time to leave, all the kids were given some small gifts, pencils, candy and tennis balls. Then we said our goodbyes. Which was very hard….After lunch we went to Chichigua to start our work project – building a shower and washroom facility for the community. I have to say it was back breaking work! We shoveled dirt away from the hole that had been dug to house the refuse. I thought about how people have to do this for 10 hours a day. For $7-10 per day…one hour was more than enough for me. After our work, we rotated and were able to sit with the kids and color in the books we brought or play ball. It was really nice. I have started to see things through a new lens. I am really looking forward to discovering more new things about the culture here and gain a better understanding of the struggles the local people face. Plus to see how much this Hero Holiday is going to change me! At the end of the day we all were very tired. So much to think about so far…Additional Comments submitted by student participant Lucas:I just got back from the village where we are building the washroom units. It was a tedious task to shovel a pile of rocks and dirt away from around the foundation of the building. We had to use shovels and picks to move large and small rocks.In the morning, we went to the very first village that we went to yesterday and played numerous different sports. There was a boy that loved me and I got lots of pictures of him and I. We played soccer, basketball, frisbee, and I let him use my camera. I have about 25 pics taken by him.The morning was amazing because I was surprised of how high the kids spirits are despite living in pretty much a dump. The houses are made of metal sheets that rust and disintegrate, leaving holes in roofs and wall panels. Half the houses have no bathroom and some rarely have a kitchen. Sleeping on the floor isn’t uncommon and a lot of the time people suffer from malnutrition. All of that is 15-30 minutes away from our all inclusive resort…it is a shocking difference.I have really enjoyed trying to communicate with the kids, adults, and the jefe (head) of the villages. My petite French skills are coming in handy at times and I feel like I’m learning tons of Spanish and Creole.Today was really tough because I wasn’t feeling well at all. My stomach wasn’t where it should have been and I had an upset you know what. Linda, the nurse, gave me Imodium or something along those terms. Feeling better now but still not great. Apparently it’s from the heat and lack of sleep. I had a tough sleep because Vancouver is 4 hours behind and it is hard to fall asleep at 8:00pm Vancouver time.Last night was karaoke night…it was…interesting. I was able to get my teachers to sing Stop by the Spice Girls. That was hilarious. I sung Imagine by John Lennon with all the other guys. I thought the song suited why we are here. It is 5:10pm ish here and it is still a very nice temperature. I have been getting some color but mainly on my burnt neck.Loving all aspects of my trip so far! Hugs!
March 12, 2011Nothing could prepare me for what I was about to see today. The entire day was a constant wave of emotions sweeping me of to new adventures. The first place the trucks took us to was a poor community that was bursting with friendliness, and surprisingly high spirits. Who would have ever guessed that people could be so happy with so little?As we stepped off the truck, we were greeted by an array of shining faces that belonged to children. The children were thrilled to hold our hands and join us “gringos” on a tour of their village. A little boy who held my hand for some of the walk was quite a camera star. He was totally over joyed to pose for pictures, and gave a BIG grin when I showed him the picture I had taken of him. I also found it hilarious when he laughed menacingly and pointed at a boy on our teams braces. I don’t think I will ever forget the girl who came and gave me a hug before it was time for our team to leave.Back tracking a little, this is village is home to most of the people we will be working with in the garbage dump. The community is quite a site, definitely opposite of what you would find in a Canadian town. The houses are tiny, spacing is uneven, clothe lines hang from most homes (which by the way are extremely bare looking inside). You will also see pigs, dogs, chickens, and other animals roaming freely in the lane ways. The people who lived there have cut wire from the main power line and connected it to their home. It is an easy way to get free power but very dangerous. In fact, we were told that electrocution is often the 2nd leading cause of accidental death in the Dominican Republic.We hopped back on the trucks again waving randomly at citizens as we drove across the scenic landscape. Then it occurred to me how strange it was that nearly everyone we waved to waved back or smiled. If we were to wave like that through a community in Canada people would be all weirded out and just stare. We pulled to a halt at our next stop around 11am. It was a community centre, school, and church in one building that other Hero Holidayers have helped build on past trips like ours. Behind this facility there was a small basketball court were some teen-aged guys were playing basketball. Our group challenged them to a game after taking a peek at the school. It was fun! Also, when playing a sport, you don’t need language to communicate. Lucky for me, since I do not speak any Spanish. Later when I sat down next to a new little friend I attempted to ask what her name was in Spanish, “Como se Llama?”. Or at least that’s what I thought I said but my pronunciation must have been disastrous since she stared back clueless. After that it was time to return back to the resort for lunch. I dragged my feet to the bus because I really did not want to leave my new friends just yet.After a buffet lunch, we drove off to our final stop of the Awareness Tour. We stopped at a tiny community of primarily Haitians that have are extremely poor and many without work since the sugar cane industry took a bad hit. The house were in rough shape with patch work tin roofs that apparently leak during rain falls. We meet the “heffa (boss in Spanish), a kind hearted man who never goes anywhere without his horse. We also got to meet his daughter, a pretty young girl with mental and physical disabilities that have put her in a wheel chair. Her smile and joy could light up a room! She enjoyed our company and watched us from her wheel chair as we played a game of soccer with a group of teen-aged boys. We got to see our building project for our trip. We will be constructing a bathroom and shower facility for the community since at this time they do not have any in the entire village. Up until we complete this project they have been using the field behind the community.We drove back to our hotel after that. Our minds lost in thought. I finally feel like I am beginning to see through my heart, not just my eyes.~ Cholena