It’s hard to believe you can pack so much into 48 hours – but we have! We have done it all: worked in the rain wearing garbage bags, sweat in the sun as we flung cement at the walls of the house we are smooth coating, sang as we worked and played baseball in a field dodging cow pies as we ran around the bases, and bobbed in the waves of the ocean. This is the life! Our Hero Holiday D.R. team has been packing each day full of adventure. But more than that, we have been a part of something that is bringing hope and change to a family and community that is inspiring us to return home changed. The Martinez family in Arroyo Seco will never be the same because of the new home that they are about to move in to at the end of our time with them. But the people who have joined us here to make it all possible will never be the same either. Each of us, whether we are the ones giving or the ones receiving, recognize the incredible power of working together to see a dream come to pass. So to all of you in Canada that are preparing to ring in the New Year, here is our wish to you: make 2012 the year that each of us chooses to ‘LiveDifferent”!
Today was an intense day. So, this is our last week in Mexico, and although I am very happy to see my friends and family back home in Canada, I am also so sad. I woke up feeling pretty good about everything. We had class just like usual, then we headed off to teach English at the Pasao San Quintin school one last time. I was completely fine. We taught our lesson and then Rosa started talking to the class… she started telling the kids how much we loved coming to see teach them and getting to know them. My tears then started flowing. I didn’t even mean to, I just started crying so much. Yolanda, a 12 year old who is extremely smart and a great kid, came up to me and gave me a huge hug. Whoa! That just made me cry even more! I love those kids so much and am going to miss them a lot. Today we taught them how to say “Goodbye” and “See you later”. I could barely help teach the lesson because I was so shaken up about having to say goodbye and not knowing when I will get to see these kids again. We also asked the kids a few questions about school. We asked them what they liked about school. Most of them said things like reading, studying and learning. They told us that they had great ambitions for their futures. Some wanted to be vets, teachers, lawyers, fire fighters, soldiers, police officers, and even the President. I hope the best for these kids. I will pray for them all the time in hopes that these kids can accomplish their dreams. We all got together after class and said our goodbyes, even though we are going to see them tomorrow for a movie night. Then when we said goodbye to Pedro, the teacher, I cried some more! I had a bit of an emotional break down, but I am so happy and so proud of these kids. They are great kids and I am thankful that I got to know them.
After that we went to a different Pedro’s house. The Pedro that we built a house for in September. We had previously ordered special bracelets and poncho’s from him because he is a vendor. He made us all some very beautiful bracelets and we are all now equipped with all of our Christmas gifts! 🙂 Getting to see what he has done to his house since we built for him was neat. It was great to see the family and try out my Trikee words. They have added a concrete pad in front of their house and they have secured their bano very well. I am so happy for this family as well!
Well sleepy time for me. I have had a long emotional day and am trying to pack my first suitcase. Hmm.. I wonder how I am going to fit all of this stuff into these two little bags. Well that’s a challenge for a different day!
Thanks for reading! xoxo ~ Lisa G! A LiveDifferent Academy student in Mexico
During our last weeks in Mexico, we decided to take a trip down south of the Baja coast. Our first night was spent in a cute little cabin in Catavina, where we shared the house with a lovely little kangaroo rat and a friendly bat. The bat and I didn’t personally hit it off, and while Shane reassured me he was “just like a mouse but with wings”, I somehow still did not feel inclined to befriend him. The cabin was really awesome however, completely solar powered and even had hot showers and a balcony for stargazing complete with telescopes! We went on a hike through the desert and discovered literally every plant in the desert is prickly. We saw some 200 year old cave paintings and even learned that what the desert now used to be the bottom of the ocean, as our guide showed us remnants of shells and coral reefs!Our next stop was in a little village off the highway where we soon discovered they had horses – and we could ride them! I think this may have been more exciting for me than anyone else…but they waited patiently for me as I galloped alongside the Mexican highway over and over again. And then just one more time. Zoe and Allie also took a turn on the horses, and then we set off on our way to La Mision.La Mision is an enormous old church that has been looked after by the same family for 7 generations. While the original building has obviously disintegrated considerably, a replica of the building has been restored and it is gorgeous – all white stone with incredibly high ceilings. Our tour guide took us around the property and showed us the many fruit trees as well as the hot springs nearby!When we drove into El Baril the next afternoon, we all could not believe our eyes. We all thought with amazement: “No. One. Lives. Here.” It literally looked like a ghost town, and we could not imagine what on earth we would be doing here for two days. We pulled up to a little church where the teachers of the elementary and secondary schools lived together, and they let us stay in a spare room for the night. We didn’t know it yet, but this stop would turn out to be our highlight of the trip.We learned it looked like there was no one in the town because the sea had been too rough to go fishing for five days, and many people had left town to make a bit of money elsewhere. We hung out with the teachers for the evening, who took us on a little tour of the schools they taught in. Who would have thought that in the middle of nowhere Mexico, in a little fishing village on the Sea of Cortez, we would find a little school room stocked with hundreds of books and a Smartboard?! We were enthralled and spent the whole evening playing with our new toy under the guise of “looking through the English program we were going to teach”.The next day we all rose early to head off to school to teach the kids some English. Three of us headed to the secondary school, while the other three went to the elementary (where the Smartboard was). This would prove to be our favourite part of the trip. I personally went and taught the secondary school kids, all ranging from age 12-13. I might also note that when I refer to all, I mean all six of them. Their schoolroom was also very stocked, with shelves and shelves of books and even three computers! We went through the English textbooks that they already had and went over the pronunciations and taught them some basic conversational English. It was the first time we had taught without a translator and it proved to be easier than expected! We had a lot of fun and tons of laughs even with the language barrier. Even after just an hour with these kids, we really bonded and I was sad to leave them! Our time in El Baril was perfectly completed after a meal of lobster and scallops, prepared for us by the kindergarten teacher! Once again we were overwhelmed by the hospitality and generosity of people we had just met, but who welcomed us like long-lost friends.After El Baril, our last stop on our trip was in Guerrero Negro. We got there in time to grab a hotel for the night and sleep, and in the morning we headed off to see the world’s largest salt mine! It was really cool to see all the different steps that go into salt production, especially the fields full of pure salt – perfect for salt men and salt ball wars!After Guerrero Negro, we started our long drive back to Zapata. Overall, the trip was full of lots of sing-alongs (who knew Shane could belt out “I’m Every Woman” with the best of us?) good food, good company and laughter, and was definitely an awesome way to spend one of our last weeks in Mexico.Next came the task of saying goodbye to the places and people that we had fallen in love with. We could no longer say ‘Hasta luego – see you later’ but some chose to anyways because it was somehow easier than saying “Adios – Goodbye”. As we said farewell to Maria at the nursing home and Cesar at the school, we promised that our friends would come to visit them in the new year. School of Leadership students are taking a break over the Christmas holidays now to see friends and family at home in Canada but will soon be reconvening to start the next part of their experience. The group that was in Mexico is anxious to see what tour life on the road is like and the groups that toured Canada in the fall will be journeying to Mexico to meet Maria and Cesar. This new year is an amazing opportunity for these School of Leadership students as they give hope to teenagers in Canada, share love with families in Mexico and bring change in their lives and those around them. To find out how you could be part of LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)’s School of Leadership, check out www.LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute).org.Alex, a School of Leadership student living in Mexico
Jennifer is one of our newest friends. She is a young mother, barely 22 years old. She is married to Juan and together they have two small children. Jennifer and Juan live in Aguas Negras, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Before this past July, they didn’t have much in this world to call their own – at least not in the way of shelter and protection. But that all changed this past summer.
Every day that our Hero Holiday team came to the worksite, Jennifer was already there, sometimes with her baby on her hip while she was working hard to help build her home. On the second day that we were working with Jennifer’s family to build them a new home, I pulled her aside for a few moments to interview her. I asked her what she was looking forward to the most about her new home. Without hesitation, she responded with a big smile, “I’m excited to be able to use our new home to help out other people. I’ve always dreamed of being able to do that.”
In August, Jennifer’s dream came true – but not how any of us expected it to happen. Hurricane “Irene” ravaged across the Caribbean, leaving a wake of destruction in her path. Due to their low lying areas along the water, Aguas Negra was hit hard. Jennifer and Juan were dry and safe with their family in their new home, but they still didn’t waste any time going into action. Within minutes of being warned about the impending storm, Jennifer opened their home and took in other families whose houses were unsafe for them to stay in. Through their kindness, Jennifer and Juan reminded many of us of why we do what we do: because we are all in this together.
This Christmas, Jennifer’s home will be receiving a Christmas hamper from us. We are bringing it to them to remind them of how much we believe in them – and of how proud we are of the volunteers who help us out on each and every Hero Holiday project.
The volunteers who helped to build Jennifer’s home and many others just like it, hear about us through many channels – but none moreso than in the hundreds of high school presentations that we do across Canada each year. Many students joined us this past year because we were in their school, they were inspired by the possibilities of hope, and they worked hard to be able to join us. We believe that the story of Jennifer and the volunteers who worked together to build a dream is a story of hope. It’s proof that a changed heart truly can change the world.
Give a different gift this Christmas to Jennifer’s family or another family in need!
Yep, it’s true. This is probably the last time you will hear from LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute). But it’s not because we are falling off the map – it’s because we have an exciting announcement about what we have been up to!