Dominican Medical Trip – Second Medical Clinic

Today was our 2nd medical clinic and as far as we were concerned it was a great day! We started our day off at the registration table which was perfect for use since we got to meet all of the patients. It was an eye opening experience all around, but especially when we meet our little friend, Johnny. He decided to hangout with us all morning at our station and showed us no emotion, and nothing we did could make him smile. We made him a little paper airplane and although he showed no signs of gratitude, he would not let it go.315667_10150280579430326_95760375325_7951758_1301756_n.jpgCloser to the end of the day Johnny finally spoke to us, and all he could say was, “I’m hungry”. It was disheartening to think that everyday we slide food off our plates into the garbage because we’re full, or throw out a banana because it is bruised. Especially when there are children like Johnny who are hungry and suffer from malnutrition because they are only able to eat once a day and the meal generally consists of rice & beans (and loaded with salt).Halfway through the clinic the time came for use to switch stations and our new position was taking vitals. Within minutes the language barrier became evident. We were trying so hard to explain, “no shoes on the scale” or “open wide and close your mouth for the thermometer”. Luckily for us, two young moms stepped up to the plate and helped us out. It was hard to even explain how beautifully people can work together even when they speak very different languages. In addition it was amazing that these two ladies had such mothering qualities at such a young age.312477_10150280582640326_95760375325_7951797_6764987_n.jpgAs the clinic was wrapping up we were able (via an interpreter) to talk to our helpers more and learn about their personal lives. One of the young moms was only 13 years old and pregnant with her first child. She aspired to be a nurse, but with their living and financial situation, it was evident that might not be possible. It opened our eyes to the idea that we often take advantage of our education opportunities, and that because of poverty, people that could possibly cure cancer or invent a new way to conserve our resources are being held back from accomplishing something great!All in all we had an amazing and life changing day. We leave with memories that will stick with us forever.~ Katie and Tanja

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 29th, 2011

Dominican Medical Trip – First Medical Clinic

We woke up this morning a tad anxious but full of excitement about our first clinic of the trip. Knowing that we only had a certain amount of time to be able to run our first clinic, we left the resort with determination so we could be back with ample time before the weather started turning bad. This clinic’s location was a new one to Hero Holiday and was somewhat more remote than what previous trips had experienced. The community members were predominately Haitian, which created an excitement in our team as some of them are bilingual in French and could converse with some of the patients. The day started off smoothly with a little rain and because of our organizational skills plus the respect, positive attitude, and patience of our staff and the patient’s, our first clinic was a success. 297456_10150277761185326_95760375325_7927118_7878434_n.jpgThe community was very gracious for the medcine that they received, while the children got to enjoy the company and fun that our team was only too happy to give! The children loved the stickers and suckers they got after seeing the doctor (some things are the same in all cultures!).314082_10150277759425326_95760375325_7927106_1997784_n.jpgWe would have loved to keep the clinic open all day but due to the weather we had to head back to the resort early. However, this didn’t stop the overwhelming help, hope, and appreciation that we exchanged with this Haitian community. ~ Megan, Emily, and Amanda

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 25th, 2011

A Day In The Fields

tomato-field.jpgWorking in the tomato fields was probably the most emotional and hardest thing that I’ve done in Mexico this year. It began with the 4:30am alarm going off in the guys room. From the moment we got off the bus I could tell that this was going to be quite the culture shock. I took my first few steps on the dusty, dirty road and looked up to witness a sea of green with the occasional red speckle. There were around 75 Mexican workers ready at 6:00 in the morning to make the money that they needed to support their family, but little did they know they would be joined by some excited and friendly gringos. We were directed towards the area where we were to get our buckets and we couldn’t help but notice all of the glances coming our way. By no means were they stares of anger or frustration that we were working alongside them, but looks of interest and curiosity. Once we got our buckets it was time to go to work. Our job was to carefully pick through the rows of plants (known as homeworks in Mexico) and collect tomatoes that were beginning to ripen. The work was not physically demanding at first, but it soon became a lot harder than one would expect bending over all the time. You could see the agony and suffering on everyone’s faces as they went up and down picking up tomatoes. All of the workers were suffering from the pain and it began to slow them down.I shared a moment with one Mexican worker that was relatively the same age as me. I was cracking my back and I simply looked at him and he sighed showing that he was feeling the same effects as I was. I wish that I could talk to him about what I was feeling and express how sorry I am that he works in the fields all day. It makes me think that just because I was born in Canada I automatically have a higher standard of living. Canadians tend to take what they have for granted and I cannot stress that enough. I am 17 years old and I DO NOT have to work to provide for my family. I DO NOT have to prepare dinners while my parents are out working in the field. I DO NOT live on a low daily budget, making sure that I have enough money for food. These people get paid 120 Pesos a day, which is roughly 10 American Dollars. The minimum wage in Canada per hour is right around what these people make in a day. There is no other way to describe this other than ‘crazy’. How do these people live comfortably at all…the answer is they don’t. They struggle everyday to get by, but they always have a smile on their face and they are always the friendliest people.tomato-field-2.jpgTowards the middle of our morning shift we began to struggle pretty hard, but our spirits were still up. As lunch was coming everyone was just about fried. We began to sit on the buckets while we were filling them, which took double the time per bucket. As lunch came along we piled onto the bus, finally thrilled that we had could rest. Santi came on the bus and asked us “How are you all feeling?” We heard the same response from everyone basically “Tired, sore, exhausted”. We had worked six hours, and even though we were not finishing the full nine hour shift, we were relieved to be going home.Later that day in debriefing we had a long discussion about what we had witnessed in the tomato fields. It was filled with lots of emotion. When you do something like that for 6 hours and realize that these people pick tomatoes for 9 hours a day everyday of the week, it is hard to put that into words. It was especially hard hearing that there were 13 and 14 year old girls in the fields picking tomatoes as well. Everything about this experience is just so difficult to transfer into words and it is easier to keep it just as thoughts, but when you do get it out, you feel much better. Working in the fields has forever changed my life, I have never had an experience like it before.By Liam McDonough

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 17th, 2011

Boston Pizza Final Day – Happiness and Bright, Cheerful Paint!

Today we were so excited to go back to the homes we worked on, as after we leave every day the contractors work on the houses for about 3 more hours and we never know what they will have accomplished in our absence. This was our final day to work on the houses and we knew that we would be painting … the families had picked the colours of the outside and inside of the houses the day before and once we got there it was like opening a present to see the colours that we would painting the walls. All the colours in the Dominican are so bright and cheerful so we couldn’t wait to see the beautiful colours that would put the finishing touch on their home.Starting the day we filled up our water bottles, loaded up our backpacks, and jumped on the truck for the ride to Augas Negras. When we arrived we checked out the progress that had been made on the homes – once again we were amazed at how much was accomplished … the houses were ready to be painted! We each went into our homes and discovered the paint cans waiting to be opened, the brushes, rollers and trays. Before we could get started we had to sand down the walls… we were given a quick demonstration – go out and find a rock or piece of cement that is flat and in a circular motion go over everything that is going to be painted – who knew you could use cement to sand cement? 292700_10150270159165326_95760375325_7852896_6711072_n.jpgNext – how to open the paint cans? We were handed a nail – and to our surprise it worked perfectly! With no stir sticks it was important to shake the can before we opened it. Since the floors were already finished and painted – we asked about drop cloths – this brought a smile to their face and we were told to look for cardboard, cement bags or plastic out and about the job site that we could use… and it is amazing at how creative you can be when needed, and it works out just fine. When we did get any paint on the floor it was important to wipe it up right away…from house two there was frequent cries for “Michelle” to come running with the sponge and water to clean up yet another paint drop on the floor!295029_10150271503440326_95760375325_7867670_8326078_n.jpgThroughout the day the crowds at the worksite increased…everyone was so excited to see the final product. The daughter that is going to live in one of the homes with her Mom and younger brother kept coming in the house and talking to her friends through the windows. She helped by holding the paint can and kept saying “Gracias” – she is so happy. Her family will live in this house – two rooms plus a bathroom – in total the house is about 20′ x 15′ – and they couldn’t be happier!185323_10150270154060326_95760375325_7852819_6312027_n.jpgThe day went by so fast, and before we knew it, it was time to pack up and leave. We were so close to being done – two coats on all the walls and the outside of the house. What a transformation! the bright colours made such a difference…these buildings were now homes and ready to be moved into. None of us wanted to leave until the job was done, yet off we went, trusting that the contractors would finish the job just like they had done all week.Tomorrow we will be furnishing the homes, dedicating them to the families and celebrating with the community – what an amazing day it will be!Jacquie & Kathie

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 15th, 2011

Boston Pizza Day 4 – Making Friends in the Garbage Dump

Last nights’ debriefing, unbeknownst to us, was an excellent preparation for today’s experience at the garbage dump. Talking about the sights, sounds and smells was one thing, but actually experiencing was something else. With anxious anticipation we loaded into the back of our open-aired truck, and bumped over the dirty and dusty road. No matter how bad we thought our ride was, it couldn’t compare to the daily walk for those who work at this dump site, as their only means of income.184051_10150268667210326_95760375325_7838374_1230014_n.jpgComing face to face with the task at hand for the morning, we were partnered with many Haitian workers, who tenaciously survive in the midst of this wasteland. I was given the privilege of being partnered with a Haitain woman who welcomed me to join her in search of plastic bags and bottles amongst the rubbish. I now understand the true meaning of “one mans trash is another man’s treasure”. While they are paid practically nothing to collect recyclables, finding a bag of beans, a ripped packsack, or matching shoes brought them just as much hope. As we worked our way through the mounds of garbage, ripping bags, choosing or discarding contents, we began to converse in broken, Creole/French/Spanish – simple words to connect our lives, “Como se Llama?”, “Des enfants? Combien?” While our lives are not comparable, we discovered similarities in our different worlds. We worked companionably together sifting through the trash, deep in stench and buzzing flies, whacking the rumps of the rummaging cattle to clear them off the better piles of offerings. Once we had our bags filled, we would head up the small hill on the outskirts of the dump, where each of the workers made their own personal piles for the day. At one point Roslyn took my hand and led me to a place where she and 3 other women had made a great find – a very large bag of white beans which they gladly shared with each other.267352_10150268674885326_95760375325_7838432_953861_n.jpgMany of us left the site barefoot and hatless, as our socks, shoes and hats were the only material things we felt we could offer under the immediate circumstances. Smiles and tears were shed on the silent bus ride home. After an emotionally draining morning we set off on any afternoon hike to a beautiful waterfall. The day finished up with an evening of kareoke making us mindful of how lucky we are.Cheryl

Author: LiveDifferent


Boston Pizza Day 3 – Cinderblocks, Gringos, and Kung Fu Panda!

Our days start at 9am with an open-aired, windblown truck ride to our work site where we’ve spent the last two days. What started as three skeleton buildings are transforming before our eyes into homes for our new friends. Each home is no bigger than 250 sq.ft., but surprisingly, the number of people working in the congested area work cooperatively and functionally to reach a common goal.228919_10150267975310326_95760375325_7832348_2381872_n.jpgI had no idea there was a tradesman inside me. I’ve learned to build walls with mortar and cinderblock; mix concrete, and haul it by bucket-loads; and sieve sand for wall mud. But, what surprised me even more was the participation of the community, who join us each morning with smiles, to work hard to build homes for their neighbours.Our labour intensive days are broken up by time to play with the children and interact with the community. While most of our Spanish vocabulary is limited to “Hola” and “Por Favor”, the children are most receptive to the universal language of “play”. Game boys, Ipods, and gaming systems are substituted by basic skipping ropes, colouring books, and frisbees, bringing joyful shouts of delight from the children and “gringos” alike. By the end of the day we climb back onto our trucks, tired, dirty and sweaty, but a happy crew.This evening we were treated to an open-air theatre in a small Haitian/Dominican community. Each one of us had at least one or more children in our laps to share the movie experience with. Half-way into the movie I recall looking around, and thinking that there was no other place I’d rather have been at that very moment. I was covered in sweat again, but this time not from the sun or the hard work we’d been enduring all day long, but from the body heat generated from the four little humans that surrounded me. A blue tarp was laid out on the ground in front of a big white screen featuring “Kung-Fu Panda”, where we sat still for the next two hours under the star and moon lit sky. I’m not sure who enjoyed this evening most…Julie

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 11th, 2011

Rain? Schmain…

jennifer-4.jpgSome people have great smiles because they have dazzling teeth, and some have teeth that make me cringe – yet I love to see them smile because of how it transforms their face. Some people possess smiles that are not won easily, and when you finally receive one from them it is like a personal victory. Others seem to have a perma-grin that almost makes you wonder what in the world they are thinking! Some people only smile with their mouths, and others smile with their eyes and it is like a window into their soul. Personally, my favourite smiles are the ones that make the corners of someone’s eyes crinkle up and remind you that there is a lot of history behind that smile – and the very thought is enough to spark my curiosity to want to find out more about them.

jennifer.jpgWhen we picked their family as one of the families we wanted to build for, it was hard to ignore Jennifer’s smile – it spoke volumes to all of us. Jennifer is only 20 years old, but she has the kind of smile that reminds you there is a lot of hard-won history behind it. In fact, her smile is more than a welcome invitation to friendship; it is an invitation into her world. And for many of us, her world is hard to imagine.

This summer we built a house for Jennifer, her husband, Juan de Jésus, and their two young children. Their previous living conditions were deplorable: flimsy walls built from crates and other expendable material, a roof with massive holes that were rusted through and the continual exposure to flooding and the elements. Every time it rained, their children, aged 2 years and 10 months got wet, and Jennifer and Juan would cover them with their own bodies to keep them from getting too chilled while they slept. But in the end, the bottom line for their family was that without outside help, this is about as good as life would get.

jennifer-2.jpgOne day, about half way through the project I was finally able to come and visit the Hero Holiday team and meet Jennifer’s family. Jennifer was up to her elbows alongside of our team as they worked at the concrete blocks that made up her walls. I had the privilege to sit for a moment and chat with Jennifer about what this house was going to mean for her. What she said surprised me a little. She told me that she was excited that her kids would be safe and dry and that they would have the security that the home would bring. But she also told me about what she was the most excited about: sharing her new home with her family and friends. She told me that she has always dreamed of hosting people in her home and she has never had a home that was fit enough to even sit inside, let alone have company in. This home was giving her a dignity that I hadn’t even considered before: the dignity of having the opportunity to offer something to someone else.

jennifer-3.jpgOn the last day of our time with her family, we had our house dedication celebration. It poured rain and the muddy streets outside of her home were slick from the runoff. But we were inside her house, waiting for the others to arrive. There were about 5 Canadians, 20 neighbours and Jennifer’s family, squished shoulder to shoulder in her kitchen. The rain made it hard to hear anything between the echo off the roof and the chatter of excitement of everyone inside those four walls. But I caught what Jennifer said in reply to my comment about how much rain there was.

Her smile spread across her face, infused with pure joy. “Yes, there is lots of rain. But we can smile now when it’s raining!”

Yes, actually, you are right. You can – and it is our honour to know that together, we somehow helped to make that happen. Rain, schmain, right?

To find out more about LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)’s Hero Holidays in Dominican Republic, Mexico, Thailand and Haiti, check out

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 2nd, 2011