Hampers of Hope 2011

On our Hero Holidays, LiveDifferent volunteers partner with families and communities to start a momentum that drives them towards a better life – one full of purpose and hope. We build homes, schools, and offer free medical care to communities. As each year passes, we enjoy visiting the families we have worked with, and are always told with a warm welcome that “Mi casa es tu casa” (my home is your home). For the past two years, we have given all of our LiveDifferent volunteers the chance to give a Christmas gift of groceries and supplies to each family who received a home that year. Last year we enjoyed the surprise of each family when we arrived with a hamper overflowing with food and gifts, but this year we went for something a little different…a shopping spree! We thought, why not take all of the women from each house shopping and let them pick out all the groceries they really needed for their families? It would be a fun day, and besides, what woman doesn’t love a shopping spree?

Angela and daugther checking their listSo, we met the Moms, along with some dads or older children, at Supermercado Jose Luis and sent them off shopping. They were so excited! Armed with lists and calculators they took off down the isles. As they shopped I chatted with some of the women. Many if not all told me that they had never been able to spend this amount on groceries. They would often spend around 200 Pesos ($4.50 CND) a day, and buy small things like rice and beans to feed their families. As I was speaking to Angel Domingues (Father to the family of a home built by the Ontario Home Builder’s Association) he told me that this was his first time even being in a supermarket. He was close to 60yrs old! He said that he and his family only visited the little corner stores in their community of Nuevo Renacer (formally Augas Negras). He and his son, Chicquito, pushed their cart around, amazed at the amount of food on the shelves. When it came time to check out they didn’t know how to load up their groceries on the conveyor belt and giggled like little school girls when the cashier turned the belt on to bring their groceries forward. I get hit withSandra with Angel and Chicquito shopping.  many reality checks as we work in the communities in Dominican Republic and Haiti and this was one of them. I grew up going to the grocery store. I have vague memories of sitting in the child seat getting pushed around the store and reaching as far as I could to try and sneak a bag of Oreos into the cart before my Mom would notice. It is a luxury that I just had figured was a part of everyone’s life. I was wrong. Next time you walk through a grocery store, stop and try to imagine being there for the first time in your life. Look at all of that food, and try to picture the thoughts that must have been racing through Angel’s head. Let your heart be full of gratitude and be thankful for the privilege of being able to do a weekly ‘chore’ like grocery shopping.

As we spent time with our Hero Holiday families, we also took some time to see how each family was doing – to ask them what changes their new house has brought to their lives, any memories of the teams that built their homes, and if they had any future plans. Here is what they shared with us:

Christmas 2010 Family: Agagpito, Noelia, Jalyssa, Anfernie.
Noelia says, “When we see the clouds coming in we used to be afraid but we are no longer afraid of them because we know our home will stay dry. We have a much better roof and a higher house. Sometimes when it use to rain we could not tell if we were inside or out but not any more. Our family is more at peace. I remember that just before we found out that we were getting a new house I had to have heart surgery. I was concerned that going back to my old house would be unhealthy for my healing process. But instead I got to recovery in a new house and it was much more comfortable. Currently Jalyssa is in the Nuevo Renacer school. Anfernie will be attending again in the fall. I plan to go back to school to be a nurse and learn other languages”.

February 2011 St Louis Travel Club. Family: Garcia and Lucia Verinoez and their daughters Marcel and Meilini
Lucia says, “Life is good now that we live in our new house. Our girls do not get as sick as often. We love having a bathroom in the house and that we do not have to bother our neighbours to use theirs. My house use to flood with the small creek behind my house but now that our home is raised and has proper walls I no longer worry about this. I remember the team working so hard on our new house. I remember the kindness that they showed to me and my family. Plus all their hugs! Please tell the team that the tears I cried at the House Dedication ceremony were tears of joy. My husband and I still speak of how grateful we are for the new house. My hope is that my daughters are now able to finish school”.

February 2011 St Louis Travel Club. Family: Janny, Ambioly, and their son Kendry (2)
Janny says, “My family is happy in their new home. We feel much more content and I am expecting our second child. I am 7 months pregnant and am happy that my new baby will not have a house with a dirt floor or water in it from the rain. I remember the team’s friendly faces. I want my children to live in peace and happiness. I want them to be educated and able to take care of me when I am old and not able to provide for myself”.

Ana and Mailine outside their new home built for them last July 2011July #1 2011 – Arroyo Seco. Family: Ana & Martin Martinez. Their Children: Josue (22), Raoul (20), Elisaou (20), Golda (19), Jose Luis (18), Victor (16), Anaily (12), Mailine (7)
Ana says, “My family is much more happy in our new home. We love having a bathroom. When it use to rain we had to cover our roof with tarps and plastic bags. Now the house stays dry and we don’t have the extra work. I remember the group being so happy to be there working. My family loved to watch them and visit with them. They worked so hard. It is good that Canadians come to the DR to help, I thank God for them. I hope that my children continue their education and find good jobs. Raoul drives a moto taxi and the 3 youngest are attending the Arroyo Seco School”.

Yohany and family with their groceries. House built for them last July 2011July #1 2011 – Arroyo Seco. Family: Ramone & Yohany. Children: Janilly (19) & Alexandra (14)
Yohany says, “Our family use to worry when it use to rain or storm. Our stuff would get wet and ruined all the time because of water damage. Now we feel safe and dry and do not worry about any rain or storms. I loved having the group here”. Alexandra said, “I always remember the Hero Holiday groups building the school. The teams that came made me feel special. I now get to go to school there”. Yohany would like to get a job as a cleaning lady so she can help support her family. Currently Ramone is the only source of income as he works at the city hall as a janitor.

July #1 2011 – Nuevo Renacer. Dila Family: Christino, Antonia and their son, Robert
Robert did not have as many words for these question as he did tears. He did say, “the thought of having to bail out my house again makes me cry because I no longer need to worry about this. My parents and I have been through many tough times and I am glad that they do not have to worry for the rain any longer. I remember the house dedication ceremony and all the people that were there. We was happy for the cake and all the gifts for my family. I thank God for sending the group to build for my family. Because I have no birth certificate or money it is tough for me to go to school. I do plans to learn more English and continue to educate myself”.

July #1 2011 – Nuevo Renacer. Family: Angela and Alfredo. Their children: Oscari (21), Caroline (18), Jamie (18), Darli (18), Jaroline (1)
Carolines says, “I am so happy that water does not flood our house anymore. Our old home was too small. Now we have more space. The walls of our old house had holes in them and so we could not keep the rats out but now we do not worry about this any longer. It was excellent to see how hard and well the team worked together. They had a lot of fun too! A lot of people in this community cannot afford to build their houses and having teams like yours come really is making a difference. My parents hope to build a second floor onto their house as us children start families of our own”.

July #2 2011 – Nuevo Renacer. Family: Juan & Jennifer. Their children: Jaden & Jaden Lee
Jennifer says, “Our home use to get wet every time it rained. My old house was falling down and I use to fear that it would collapse on us as we slept or when it stormed. We now have our own washroom and I do not have to bother my in-laws to use theirs all time. Both Juan and I are more relaxed and proud of our new house. I remember the team being very good to my children. I laugh when I remember them painting the walls and each other. I am so happy that the team came all the way to the Dominican Republic to help my family. I would someday like to finish university. I want my children to go to school and be educated. I hope Jaden plays baseball and that Jaden Lee can learn many languages”.

July #2 2011 – Nuevo Renacer. Castillo Family: Carlito & Erika. Their children: Jeremy (13), Alexander (17), Angelina (11), Carlo Alberto (7)
Erika says, “This new house has changed my family’s life 100%. We use to get sick very often from the dirty water and now we are much more healthy. Our house is dry and safe. When strong storms used to come we would have to leave our home for a stronger place. I use to worry and wonder what I would come back to. Now we can stay safe and dry in our own home and have others come and stay with us. I remember the team working together on my new house. I still cherish the gifts they gave is. It was a blessing to have the team travel all that way to give her family a new house. All of my children are in school but I hope that they all go to university and have bright futures”.

Angelina shopping. Her new home was built by the Boston Pizza FoundationBoston Pizza Foundation August 2011. Family: Angelo & Angelina. Their children: Derelli (4), Angeli (1).
Angelina says, “Since moving into our new home everything has changed. We are now dry when it rains. Derelli is doing much better and is healthier too. The family does not get sick anymore and is much more healthy. I am now 4 months pregnant and am happy to bring my new child into a safe nice home. I remember the team working very hard. I am very thankful that they would come all this way to help my family. I hope that they are blessed as much as they have blessed us. I hope that each of my children have a better life and get a good education”.

Maria and Nettie. Maria's new house was built by the Boston Pizza FoundationBoston Pizza Foundation August 2011. Family: Ramone & Maria. Their children: Rachell (4), Marisol (2)
Maria says, “My family is happy and the change in our lives is BIG. We and all our belongings use to get wet every time it rained. The dampness of the house us to make us all sick all the time. I am proud of her new home and love taking care of it. I remember the team working together and that they didn’t care about anything, they just wanted to help. I respect that they left their home to give my family a new one. It is a blessing to have teams like them come to the Dominican Republic. Their help has truly changed my family’s life. I hope to some day move to a middle class community. I would like to get a job and go back to university. I want to bring an income into my family and see my children be educated professionals”.

Boston Pizza Foundation August 2011. Family: Girserda. Her children: Daisy (17), Miquelito (6)
Girserda says, “I have continued to receive treatments towards my medical issues and I am seeing some improvements but dealing with inflammation still. My family is happy in our new home. I am proud of my home and I think it is beautiful. I am so happy that when it rains I do not have to worry. I loved having the team in the community and seeing my house built. The processes made me hopeful. I was so happy to meet all the Canadians. Both my children are in school and Daisy would like to go to university. My husband died in 2005 but I would like to find a good husband again someday who can help me support my family.”

Angel out side of his house built for him by Simcoe County team on the OHBA tripOHBA Simcoe County Team October 2011. Domingues Family: Angel & Angela. Their children: Chicquito (19), Manuel (30)
Manuel says, “Our old home was bad. The wood was rotten and the rains would fall in through the holes in the roof and leak up through the street. Now we do not worry about the rain and are much happier and healthier. (Laughs) I remember one man on the team painting or smooth coating and calling himself “Picasso”. We had lots of fun with the team and I remember them working hard but laughing a lot. I hope the team is blessed for all they have done for my family. This new home has changed our lives. I have a jewelry making shop in my room. I make them for a store. I hope to one day have my own store. I hope that both Chicquito and I can make enough money to support my parents as they grow old”.

Luisa and family outside their new home with their groceriesOHBA Heathwood / Mikey Team October 2011. Family: Luisa & Diogene. Their children: Raoul (27), Brenda (19), Jenny (14), and Kimberely (7)
Brenda says, “My family is much happier in our new house. We feel more organized and have moved in all our belongings. This new house is much larger then our last house so we do not feel as crowded. When it use to rain, our house and things use to get wet but now we are safe and dry. I am not embarrassed to have friends over too. I was really impressed by how hard the team worked, especially the women. They did not care about getting dirty. I hope that the team continues to help others. Jenny wants to be a teacher someday and have 3 children. I would like to work as an administrator and have 3 kids as well. Raoul wants to have a family & wife and to support them well. Kimberely is currently attending the school in Nuevo Renacer”.

OHBA South Western Swingers October 2011: Maria, Fior, and their mom Laura
Maria says, “Us girls are very happy in our new home and feel very comfortable. We are glad to be in a house that we own and do not have to pay rent any longer. The house has more space and I feel free to be able to paint more pictures again. I loved seeing the team work hard but well together. They did such a good job and set a good example for the Dominicans working or helping on the project. Thank you so much to the team for traveling so far from their homes to help my family. I am currently a teacher at the Nuevo Renacer school. I speak a bit of English and hope to make it better. I am excited to get married in September. Fior is finishing school and is studying to be a teacher too.”

OHBA Marz Team October 2011. Family: Masamina (grandmother), Fabio Huma & Jose Lynn. Fabio’s children: Christopher (7), Miguel (6), Angel Luis (5 months)
Fabio says, “Everything has changed for my family. We have more happiness. Our old house had so many problems and I spent a lot of time and money trying to fix them. Now everything is good and I am free to do other things. I would have loved to have been able to give my family a new house but could not afford it. For this reason, I am grateful for all the things the team gave my family and we will take really good care of them. I remember speaking Spanish with one for the team members. My family and I had a lot of fun and laughed a lot with the team. I feel that Canadians have good hearts and I am thankful that they came to help our community. Our happiness was encouraged by seeing them care for the people of the Dominican Republic. It is incredible tto see how God has taken care of my family. I have designed and installed metal canopies for houses. It helps to keep the rain off the house. I have even put a small one on my new house (shows me and it looks pretty good!). I hope to one day make more and sell them in a shop. I want my children to complete school and become professionals.”

Enelda outside her new home with her groceries. Built by Brantford team OHBAOHBA Brantford Team October 2011. Family: Enelda & Miguel. Their children: Andre (11), Grisneri (5)
Enelda says, “My family is happy in their new house. We take pride in it and have even added paint and a design to the outside of the house to make it more beautiful. There is a lot more space in our new house. My old house was lower to the ground and had very little air flow. This use to make it fell too hot and hard to breath. But in our new home, we have a nice breeze and it feels more open. I remember the Canadian children on the team who helped work on the house with their parents. My family still has all the souvenires that were given as gifts. I remember Miguel and I crying tears of joy at the house dedication ceremony. I was also worried that day because it was raining and all the mud that was tracked into her new house. I was scared it was not going to all come off. I pray that my family stays healthy so we can enjoy our future together. I want my children to finish school and become professionals”.

OHBA ON-Tarions October 2011. Family: Luz Maria. Her Children: Amboli (24) & Maria (23). Their children: Deangeli (10), Lou de Carmen (7), Andreanna (2)
Luz Maria says, “ I have set up my new home and love to keep it very clean. I am so proud of my new fridge and stove. I have a nice breeze that goes through my house and keeps the temperature cool. We all feel much more safe and happy in our new house. We no longer need to deal with the rain, rats, and mold. I was very emotional seeing the Canadian team working so hard on my house. It is a very good thing that they would come to help my family. They have changed our lives for the better. Someday I would like to have a business selling clothes to help contribute to the family. Right now I will continue to help to take care of the children while their parents work. Amboli drives a moto concho and the two oldest boys are in school”.

18 families in the Dominican Republic have brand new houses thanks to all our volunteers and their hard work! Thank you to all the supporters who made our 2011 year such a success. I hope you can all some someday share in the experience of giving a family this kind of happiness. Join us in 2012 or even 2013 on a Hero Holiday.

Luisa and Jenny shopping. House built for them by the Heathwood Mikiey team OHBA

Loading up the truck wth all the groceries

Driving back to Nuevo Renacer with all the groceries. Grocery List

Loading up the truck wth all the groceries


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: February 16th, 2012

Paloma Michelle

Reality sinks as I sit in the land office going through applications of families who are all worthy of a Hero Holiday house and I begin to understand that not all families will be getting good news from us. We are only so many hands and we cannot build for all of them this year. As we sat in the office looking through applications a 17-year-old girl walks in with her 8-month-old boy. She starts filling out an application for a house and chatting with Santiago (our translator) and the landlady. Her name is Katheryne and she’s always smiling; despite the fact that two weeks ago her stepfather drowned trying to save his son, and despite the fact that she is living in poverty and struggles to pay for food and diapers because her 19-year-old husband Jesus was recently laid off from work. Half way through the application she says something and everyone laughs – she asks, “How many children do I say I have? One and a half?” That’s when we learned she’s six month pregnant with her second child.

That night this family was all I could think about. I wanted them to get a house from Hero Holiday so badly. The landlady has donated land to them but they are currently living with Katheryne’s mother and older brother in a small concrete house using a trailer as their kitchen.

The next morning my heart sank when I found out she had lost her baby. She went into labor at only 6 months and the baby didn’t make it. Her baby girl, Paloma Michelle, was too beautiful, too perfect for this world and was taken back before she even spent a day on earth.

When we got to the church for the funeral we were there before Katheryne and Jesus, and before the casket had been delivered. We walked in and laid flowers on the floor, and then took our seats taking up the whole fourth row in the church. I then watched as people took our flowers and placed them in 2 liter pop bottles for vases. I watched people slowly fill the front of the church, and then I watch a man carry in a tiny white casket and place it on a table surrounded by flowers. I didn’t understand much during the service as it was all in Spanish but I understood enough. I understood that the people in the room felt a deep loss; I understood the pain felt when tears swelled in Katheryne’s eyes and she looked up to the ceiling and I understood that when her baby boy began babbling and crawling around the church floor it was a reminder of the beauty of life.

The next day we told Katheryne and Jesus that they would be getting a house built for them in March, and that “it has nothing to do with the fact that you lost your baby, we knew when we first met you that you deserved a house.” They smiled from ear to ear, and I can’t even imagine all the thoughts that were running through their heads. A house won’t take away the hurt from the incredible loss they’ve experienced, but it will bring hope for the future. This is what LiveDifferent is all about; it’s about “Shining in the dark places, and lending the world your light.”

Written by LiveDifferent Academy student – Brittany Apolzer-Danis

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: February 12th, 2012