The Flexico Life!

Tuesday, May 24thToday we lived the Flexico life…(Translation – Flexible Mexicans). The day started off with our bus breaking down on the way to build. But most of us used the time to get to know each other better and some even played in the streets with their football…don’t worry, the elders reminded them of what mom would say. Despite arriving at the house late, we accomplished a lot…painting the interior, the shower room & the bano, putting windows in and building beds. We decided to take off early and head to the beach (despite the fact that it was cool and really windy). It was a nice break from the hard work we have been doing the past 3 days. After that we headed back to have the most delicious fajitas made by Dawn & Julia. Then we headed back out to San Quintin (where we are building)to watch “How to Train a Dragon” with all the children. However, the day wouldn’t have been complete without one last adventure…where Andrew found the one wet piece of land in San Quintin to drive the bus over & get stuck. We have so many young men on the trip that they were almost able to push it out…but we ended up getting towed despite their efforts. Today was definitely a day of unknowns and ADVENTURE!Dallas Johnson

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 25th, 2011

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 24th, 2011

Day to Day of the Ft. McMurray Hero Holiday

ft-mac.jpgFriday, May 20thBetween the times of 6:00 and 6:30 a.m., the 13 of us met up in Fort McMurray, and drove down to the airport. We soon got onto the plane, and that’s when reality set in, we’re going to Mexico! Many thoughts passed our minds, what these people would be like, how they would react to us building a house in four days for total strangers. Some of the team thought that the locals may be unfriendly and aggressive, others thought that they would be scared or fear us, some thought that they’d be kind and friendly, and many just didn’t know what to expect. We played lots of games while traveling and arrived at LA safe and sound, where we took a bus to San Diego. Upon arriving we ate like kings at a large buffet. We went to bed after eating, hardly able to sleep knowing that we’re going to Mexico tomorrow.Saturday, May 21stWe awoke and ate breakfast, then it was a speedy departure…off to Mexico. It was about a five hour bus ride. Along the way we stopped and I ate one of the most fantastic tacos I’ve ever eaten. When we arrived at the Hero Holiday house we went to our rooms and got settled. Next we finally got to meet with the family we were building for. You should have seen the house they lived in and their standard of living, it all seemed so bad compared to what we have, yet they were still really happy and joyful. The locals were kind, proving many of our thoughts wrong. The bus driver and our trip leader, Andrew, gave us a surprise on the way home…we were going to meet the School of Leadership students who were living in Mexico and then going to a masked wrestling match! The wrestling match was awesome! The loochadores were wild and crazy, it was something we’d never forget.ft-mac-2.jpgSunday, May 22ndToday was the day we starting to build on the house, we discussed the rules and safety measures and then we were off. Throughout this 6 hour work time we built all the walls and roof panels. It was shocking, yet encouraging how much we accomplished as a team. It seemed as we worked, the family grew closer and friendlier towards us. After we finished working we went back to the house and ate some the largest pizzas I’ve ever seen. Then we were off to church, they spoke in Spanish, but there were headsets to translate what was being said in English for us gringos. The preacher was up lifting, and the music gave a different feeling being in an alternative language. When we got home we had a campfire and sang more songs.Monday, May 23rdWe were off work to again! Today we got the 4 walls and roof up (lots of hard work!). Some of us climbed up and built the roof, others helped set up the walls, cut out a square for the windows, and painted the outside of the house. At the end of the work day we were off to eat some authentic Mexican tacos. Many of us went right to bed when we got back to the house…this kind of work tires you out!  ft-mac-3.jpg

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 20th, 2011

When the Timer Buzzed

Many of us in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) have had the chance to box and train together at a local gym in Hamilton. The first time I went into the boxing ring, I had the opportunity to watch a couple of spars ahead of me. I remember as I was putting on my gloves and trying to calm myself down, out of the corner of my eye I would watch the two opponents in the ring about 12 feet away from me. As the one guy was getting backed into the corner, he began to turtle and from where I stood, it was so clear to see the problem. He was giving up and was allowing his opponent to overwhelm him and bully him into submission. I kept thinking in my mind, “just do this” or “just take one more jab” but he didn’t. And then the timer buzzed and now it was my turn.I stepped through the ropes and tried to plan out what I was going to do. It was so set in my mind. But when the timer buzzed, my opponent went postal. She came at me like an animal and just started wildly throwing punches and hooks. My mind went numb and all I could think of was survival. All my grandiose and well-thought plans went out the window and I just focused on keeping my kidneys intact. So much for being who I thought I would be when the timer buzzed!It was so easy to assume that I would know what to do when it was my turn, but theory and practice can be worlds apart.his.jpgRyan has been on tour with LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) this past semester. He plays in the band, Hearts in Stereo and he also shares his story on many days, with many students across Canada. His story is about Kevin.Kevin was the type of guy that is inevitably in every school we go into. Never quite fitting in, never quite in sync with what is going on, and in need of a friend and some understanding. Ryan wanted to be that for Kevin. Although they didn’t really talk at school, they would chat on MSN and Ryan began to gain an appreciation for who Kevin really was. But then something happened. Kevin began to withdraw and stopped returning Ryan’s messages. Soon Kevin was doing a dive bomb into drugs and messing with the law. Ryan was at a loss. Discouraged and convinced he had nothing to offer Kevin, Ryan pulled back and focused on finishing up high school.Soon Ryan graduated and moved on to Ottawa to go to university. Shortly after getting to Ottawa, Ryan heard some news from back home and it was not what he had ever wanted to hear. Kevin had taken his own life. No one knew why and there were more questions than answers. Ryan took the news really hard, continually questioning what he could have done differently, angered with himself for giving up on Kevin. That’s when the timer buzzed for Ryan.ryan.jpgHe couldn’t always stand outside of everything and not take a risk in getting to know someone. He couldn’t change what happened with Kevin, but he could begin to try to understand how to help others who may find themselves in similar trouble. He might never know exactly what to say or do, but he wasn’t going to take the easy way out anymore. He was going to stick it out and reach out and continue to believe in someone – even when they couldn’t believe in themselves.Each day when Ryan has stood on the stage and shared about his friendship with Kevin, he speaks to two different types of guys in the crowd: the ‘Kevins’ and the ‘Ryans’. The ‘Kevins’ need to know that they are never alone and that there are people around them who are genuinely looking for an opportunity to get to know them and reach out to them. And the ‘Ryans’ need to be reminded that there is a lot of power in their lives to make a difference for others. In the end, they both need each other.To find out more about LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) and our high school assemblies and programs, check out

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 18th, 2011

Reasons Why I love Mexico

With another full week under my belt, I’m getting fuller & fuller of reasons why I love Mexico. Some tidbits? Sure, I can share a few=)The UCM Hero Holiday team =  amazing. Great people, great conversations, great hugs, great love. It felt good to feel such love. I loved that every day we had to re-plan meals to match their evolving plans. One day I made berry-protein smoothies with Antonio, and tried to teach him how important it is to clean up after himself. (And the next day, I smiled to myself when I was over at his house & saw that he’d not only made another one by himself, but cleaned up like a champ!) I spent the afternoon with Julia & Nohemy on Cinqo De Mayo, and got a hair cut (it was seriously necessary!)Planning to watch “Toy Story 3” with the group – and then forgetting all of the equipment at the house. Going back, getting the equipment, and watching the movie en espanol at the build site with the community members. Matt & Sandra, Tyson & Amber – the group leaders and their constant encouragement. That the group was grateful for all the work we did – and told us.Friday morning pancakes for the group, and Tuesday morning French Toast for my family! Cooking as per order; chocolatemaking breakie for group chip or regular. Making special pancakes – Mickey Mouse for Sarah, and Smiley face for Jo. Writing LOVE in chocolate when the smiley face all melted together! The pineapple juice at Smokey’s Taco Stand ROCKING my world. Pedro asking ‘you happy?‘ Working on my resume & getting places on it! An amazing Friday afternoon at El Eden pool, complete with a manicure and a veggie burger. Reading happy messages from friends & asking lots of questions.girls night out Zumba class with Gabby and the girls. (I KID YOU NOT – EARLIER THIS WEEK I LEGIT RIPPED A PAIR OF PANTS I WAS DANCING SO HARDCORE. THIS CLASS IS NOT A JOKE.) We had a girls night at Old Mill; complete with…UFC? How were we to know a big fight would replace our live music and dancing? Watching “In Her Shoes” at Nohemy’s house and talking about boys on Sunday afternoon. Talking to my mom on Skype. Walking with my roommates in whatever direction we felt like. Stopping at Maggie & David’s house. Eating cake at Maggie & David’s for Dia de Las Madres. Learning to play Uno. Looking at prospective families for groups tojosh rock climbing build for this summer. I was leader of the day yesterday! It was fun but stressful. My favorite expenditure was the giant box of strawberries for $5. Last night I slept in a hammock under the stars!!!..until I woke up and had to pee. Today I pushed kids on swings & made Chai Tea Concentrate. Now, I’m going to go sit and relax & then fall asleep early so that manana (tomorrow)...I can do more things that I love.I love Mexico, I love learning who I am, and I love not having any idea who that is. And as per Maggie’s instructions…I’m enjoying life along the way.All peace and love and positive & a side of SUNSHINE, Leah

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 17th, 2011

Mme Paul

Piling onto the bus you could tell how close we had all become through the laughter and jokes being thrown around. Today would be our final (full day) adventure in Haiti. Gathering some last minute donations we made our way to the local grocery store. Here we bought detergent, toilet paper and other household essentials for the orphanage we would be visiting today. They were also in need of your basic cooking supplies, so after the grocery store we pulled the bus over and made our way through the crowded streets of Haiti to purchase rice, beans, pasta, oil, etc. Having our bus packed full of donations we continued on our pulled up to a cement wall with a battered red gate separating us from all the children on the other side. Before we could get off Cole told us that today we were parents, that we should love, hold, play with as many children as possible. Then we met Mme Paul, to explain her look would be to say she is everyone’s grandmother. She greeted us with open arms, smiles and kisses. Frantzo was able to translate the story of the orphanage to us.  Mme. Paul started her orphanage 20 years ago with 15 children and today she has over 120 (121 to be exact). It was amazing how this women just bursted with love!Off to the side we could see the make shift classrooms lined up along the outside wall of the yard. Even with a bus full of blanc’s pulling in, they kept their cool and continued with their studies. At least until the bell rang. Then with stampedes of laughter the children quickly found someone to hang on to. As we played it was hot to say the least, but these children, our new friends, didn’t mind and neither did we. Imagine having only a few people to say goodnight to 121 kids…some of my most cherished moments as a child were night time stories spent with my father. How would they be able to share so much time with such little resources? However they managed, these children had a family, Mme Paul made sure of it.There was laughter, crying and confusions throughout the yard as we passed out toys, circle.jpgwater and bags of chips. Looking at these kids is unlike anything I could explain. What is their story? There are kids looking after babies and babies learning how to look after themselves. It was a pleasure to see them playing jump rope and have their little faces light up when you play the simplest of games. All good things must come to an end though, and with hugs we said our goodbyes.Before the night could be over we had our final debrief, followed by a slide show of our days spent together in Haiti.Time to pack!By Liz

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 11th, 2011

First day in Port-au-Prince

plane.jpgWe awoke early in Cap Haitien to catch our flight to Port-au-Prince. As we took our final drive through the Cap Haitien streets we realized that we were about to say our goodbyes to some people that our trip would not be complete without. Arriving at Cap Haitien airport was a bittersweet moment, saying goodbye to Jose (one of our translators) was very sad but knowing we were such a short flight away from Port-au-Prince was very exciting for all of us. Taking a small passenger plan over to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince brought many memories of just a few days prior when we started our trip, but little did we know what we were about to see.When we got to Port-au-Prince we quickly got on our bus that took us to our new home for the last few days of our trip. After we were all settled in Cole took us on a tour of Port-au-Prince. The first thing we saw was the Palace which is where the Haitian President is supposed to reside, but because of structural damage caused by the earthquake this is impossible. When we first saw this building it literally looked like it had fallen yesterday because of the small changes that have been done. In front of the Palace there were a bunch of posters, these posters showed plans that the Haitian Government has for the rebuilding of their nation.From there we went to the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, which had been completely cathedral.jpgdestroyed during the earthquake. As we walked through the devastation we noticed all the broken windows that were once stained glass, and the massive amounts of rubble that were once the walls and roof of this building. While we were walking around we witnessed the Haitian community worshiping the one part of the church left untouched, this demonstrates the level of faith they have even when it seems like they have nothing.We left downtown Port-au-Prince and headed to Cite Soleil (city of the sun), which is the poorest slum in the western hemisphere. One of the first things that hit us was a smell that was so bad it’s truly indescribable. There was tent after tent that house hundreds of thousands of people even almost a year and a half after the earthquake. At first glance we were comforted by the simple thought of shelter; but when we really thought about the details we realized how hard it would be to live in that situation. A lack of hygiene, privacy, security, and comfort…not to mention the stifling heat and the amount of people confined to one tent would be unheard of in North America.At the end of the day during our debriefing session, what seemed to be the most common thought was how different Cap Haitien and Port-au-Prince are. We never imagined to be in two different worlds that are so close together. As a group we are looking forward to getting to work in such a vulnerable city.By Chad

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 10th, 2011

Goodbye Cap Haitian!

Today was a busy day. We started the day off nice and early by going to the Citadel, the largest fortress in the western hemisphere. It was not your typical adventure, we had to take an hour and a half honkey ride up a mountain, yes honkey, not a horse and not quite a donkey, but a honkey. As we broke through the forest we looked up and saw this massive structure at the peek of the mountain top. The tour guides, through broken English, were able to give us a lot of interesting information about the site, but also let us explore on our own. Half way through our tour we stopped for lunch; standing on the very highest point of the fort was decided this would be a good spot to bust out the pizza! At the end of our tour we were pretty excited about all the cool things we got to see. Then we remembered about the hour and a half honkey ride to the bottom. With sore bottoms and strained knees we continued our tour to the bottom of the mountain through the rest of the ruins.In the evening we took the bittersweet last walk up the mountain to the school to distribute some of our donations. Said a goodbye to the community we have grown to love and eat some cake. After they thanked us for coming and doing the work that we did we showed off our high class talents by preforming the hokey pokey. When the laughter of confused looks were over with we handed out donations. With never doing this in Cap Haitien we did not really know what to expect. It is truly hard to explain the sheer desperation you witness during these events. People pushing and shoving, dirty looks thrown to one another just at the off chance of receiving something as insignificant to us as a hat. It’s hard to believe these are the same loving people we only met the other day. Once the chaos was settled we had to say our final goodbyes. But we left happy knowing that every family in the community got at least one thing. But most of all we left with them having a school!!!By Chad and Liz

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 8th, 2011

Friday, May 6th – A Busy Day!

It feels like months have gone by since we arrived here at Baja Mexico when actually its just been a few days. In just these few days we’ve built two little but amazing homes that will impact lives of two families for a lifetime. UCM 1 roofing Yesterday was day four of construction, the last day of work. All that was left in the houses to do was putting in inner walls, bed frames, a bit of roofing and painting. We split into two crews, the shopping crew and building crew. While the building crew finished up working on last touches and fixes, the shopping crew shopped for furniture, groceries and household items. Shopping was an experience. We first stopped at the furniture place. We needed basic furniture like a table, mattresses, chairs and shelves or dressers. It was an incredible feeling having to pick a dinner table knowing that this family would sit around it for every dinner. Although picking a table that could fit a family of 9  (or more!) was kind of tricky but we managed to find something suitable. After all the mattress “testing” (which was basically us jumping up and down on them to make sure they were good enough) and dresser picking was done we did some bargaining to get them as low as possible. And then we were off to the grocery store. There we picked about a months supply of groceries and necessities for them. It was nice to see and pick what things were going into the house, and more and more the house became a reality. The shopping crew joined the building crew in the afternoon to help put in those final touches. And voila! The houses were all done and they were beautiful. Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent with the family and children. Playing with the kids proved to be as tiring as hammering in nails all day. They wanted to be taken on never ending piggyback rides. And even though we were panting, trying to catch our breaths they wanted go again and again (they seemed to run on an impossible amount of energy). And who could say no to those eager adorable faces? For supper, we were invited by the lady who mortgaged the pieces of land we were building on, to her place. Traditional fish and chicken taco, dinner couldn’t have been better. After the traditional and fun dinner we headed to a house where we would be playing a movie on a big screen projector for the local community. We watched ‘Toy Story 3’ in Spanish. It was sweet to see the kids so excited about the movie. Overall it was a packed day and we were exhausted by the end of it. But all of us had a sense of accomplishment and that was calming. Today we are dedicating the houses to the families and we’re so excited! I have a feeling we won’t ever forget this day, and neither will the families.-From Baja Mexico

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 7th, 2011

Day 6 – Project Day #3 Empathy

We awoke in higher spirits from the previous days excitement. We met for our usual group breakfast promptly at 8:00 am. Unfortunately a few of the team members were not feeling 100% and instead remained behind to recover – but attempts were courageously made to come in spite of their health.

We arrived to admire the work that had been conducted in our absence. The support beams had been applied along with steel sheet roofs. The majority of the stucco had been applied and the school was truly becoming realized to what it would become. We said our greetings to the Haitian builders and set to work. We began with our usual production line to bring sand down the mountain. From our experience we learned to make it far more efficient – although with a lot less resting! After we had retrieved an impressive amount of sand we took a water break.

Following this water break we ironically set off to get more water! We went on a hike down to the local water well with a few local companions where we were greeted by a large group showering, doing laundry, and collecting drinking water. They kindly greeted us and allowed us to retrieve our water in turn and leave on our way. At this point we had collected an entourage of children who were greeting us like family and accompanying us back up to the school. I am always impressed at the skill of the Haitian people to walk up what seems like cliffs to us with buckets on their heads – they are truly a strong people. Some children were kind enough to “guide” those of us lacking sure footing and would push us up if we ever slipped or needed help.

The ability to be welcomed into a community without even speaking the same language is truly an indescribably touching experience. We arrived back from our water run with our new posse in tow and were soon surprised by a new arrival. A large group of women – which we assumed to be from a church- arrived to our work site and began filing into the school and trapping a few of our group inside. They then spontaneously burst into song and brought smiles to many of ours faces. They said ‘thank you to our group before departing on their trek. We quickly formed another production line and finished off a pile of sand before departing for our lunch break.

After a delicious meal of sandwiches, pasta, chicken, and potatoes we said our goodbyes to our under-the-weather companions and set off back to work. We were happy to find that the recently constructed windows and doors for the school were being delivered and began getting attached. We broke our group into specific work groups – mixing cement, applying stucco, adding cinder block walls, and even just moving water buckets and cement bags. It was great to see that we were all becoming friends with the locals and learning each others names. We sweat, laughed and talked with each other; both learning new languages and new ways to work more efficiently. After a short period we split our group into two teams to play with the large groups of children that were migrating towards us.

Both groups quickly began breaking out the balls, crayons and paper. The joy in a child’s eyes from such simple games and connection is an extremely heartfelt experience. The second group even brought out kites to fly – which the Haitians were far superior at flying then any of our attempts. It was full of laughs, hugs, “monkey-in-the-middle”, colouring out of the lines, and various fun activities. The way these children laugh, smile, and embrace us so openly and instantly is one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The feeling it gives and the connection it creates cannot be described in this blog – you have to be here to experience it yourself. Holding their hands, sharing their laughs, and seeing a glimpse of their daily life. They are a people who have very little in the sense of material possessions or wealth, but they are rich in their appreciation for each other and the value they place on what they do have. They live life to it’s fullest and cherish each moment in spite of the challenges they face. Because it is all they know. I showed my new Haitian friends pictures of a birds eye view photo of their city I took from our plane and saw their eyes light up. It was touching… but also sad because it is unlikely that they will ever see that view with their own eyes.

We left that day knowing we had worked hard and headed back to our hotel. I left smiling with children in tow and proud of the school to be. Prouder still knowing that these children shared that feeling. “This is my school, This is our school” the children had said – and the school was not yet completed!

After dinner the group met upstairs for our usual debriefing. Our focus today was on empathy. On never jumping to conclusions but instead seeing things from another’s perspective and share their feelings. We discussed how we can sometimes place higher value on those we relate to. We used American rescue worker’s as an example – they were sent to Haiti to recover the American dead bodies trapped in the rubble. While at the same time there was still hundreds of Haitians trapped alive in the rubble; 60 in one collapsed supermarket. We all place our priorities differently and we talked more about how we have to put faces to statistics so we can better relate and understand them.

An example of statistics that was mentioned was the 9-11 attack and how 2,973 people died. This got massive media coverage and attention. Where as the fact that each day over twice that; 6,000 Africans die from AIDS. Each day, an additional 11,000 are infected. On top of that once every six seconds someone dies of starvation; this can be in the upwards of 50,000 every day. Thess statistics do not even phase most “well off” people. Because they don’t relate or understand those numbers; they’re just too big to truly understand.

But now I have faces, names and memories to put beside those statistics and I understand that it our responsibility to recognize the wrongs in this world and the luxuries I live with. It is our generation that must live and make these changes. Because we are all people… we’re just born in different places and indifferent situations. Besides that, there’s not much different. We all eat, we all sleep, we all struggle, we all love, and we all care.


Author: LiveDifferent