Help shape the future for a family in Mexico this July!
We have a trip opening from July 2-12 for a group of 10 – 60 people to organize their own Hero Holiday! You can bring together your family, friends, classmates, or colleagues and join us for your own customized LiveDifferent Hero Holiday experience. Together you will work alongside a family that needs your help and your energy to give them a more secure future. Your trip will involve building and completing a home for a deserving family, learning and interacting with the local culture, a day off for an adventure experience, and most of all, the opportunity to grow together and experience the power of making a difference in the world around us all!
For more information, please email us – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any average 17 year old living in Penticton, British Columbia, is going to school, hanging out with friends, and going to the beach. However, here in Mexico, we met two teenagers living lives very different than our own, with responsibilities we can’t even imagine. They are inspiring women and they make us appreciate the opportunities that we take for granted at home.
Katherine is married and raising a child at 17. When compared to someone in the same situation in Canada, it would be a negative thing, where as here it’s a common occurrence. Katherine is extremely mature for her age and has been through things that you couldn’t even imagine. When the LiveDifferent Academy students first met Katherine she was 6 months pregnant, but lost the baby shortly after. Her and her husband and 9-month old baby had no home of their own and were living with her mom and brother. When giving her the keys to her new home, she was overly thankful and made us a meal that their family struggled to afford. She beamed all week as we worked together on their house and as she said good-bye to us, she gave each of us a special hug.
Sara is a 14 year old girl in the other family we built for. Her dad had surgery a few months ago and hasn’t been able to return to work. So, Sara had to drop out of school to work in the fields in order to help earn money to support her family. While we were talking to Sara she said the thing she wanted most was to go back to school. This really made us all think about the way we take education for granted back home. Sara’s family was living in a home made out of cardboard. We are so happy that we had the opportunity to give this deserving family a new home when they were struggling the most.
These families thanked us for building them a home and said there is no way that they could ever repay us for what we have done. What they don’t realize is that we could never repay all that we have learned from them. They helped us realize how thankful we are for our homes, our families, the opportunity to go to school, and so much more.
I was in Mexico last year for a Hero Holiday and when we pulled up to the house this year it seemed like I had never left. After we arrived we quickly unpacked and climbed into the bus to go meet the families we would be building for the next couple of days. The parents of the family we met are just teenagers like myself. The father, Jesus is nineteen years old and his wife Katherine is only seventeen; their boy’s name is Abdiel and he is 10 months old. I was assigned to help build their house and it really struck me to see how mature they were. I have never met others teenagers like both of them in my life.
When we arrived at the worksite on the first day, Jesus told us that Katherine, himself, and their son Abdiel had been walking back and forth to the gas station trying to see our bus because they were so anxious to meet us. Their faces were glowing when we showed up and none of us could wait to get started. We said our hello’s and we got to work. Before lunch we were already building the walls. By the end of the day we had our walls up and we were ready to put the roof on.
Today was our second day working on the house and we have the roof on and almost everything is painted. We are officially one day ahead of schedule according to last year – apparently we are making record time! After we finished building for the day we took our families to the beach and it was amazing. This whole time building I had forgotten that Jesus and Katherine are around my age. Seeing Jesus’ face light up when he saw the ocean and dash for the water put the biggest smile on my face. It hit me and I remembered that he is only two years older than me. He was having the time of his life and it was amazing to see our two families finally able to relax.
Tonight we had taco’s for dinner and we got to go to the candy store. During dinner there was a guitar player performing and we started dancing. Everyone was laughing and smiling and having the time of their lives. However the dance party did not stop there. We were soon dancing and singing our hearts out on the bus to Adele. Tonight we have bonded considerably and I believe that tomorrow will be that much more spectacular because of it.
Today was the last day of the trip, and definitely was one to remember. This was our excursion day and after the emotional rollercoaster of the house dedications, it was a relief to be able to relax after a busy week. But this was a trip of truth and reality so before we could continue to the day of activities, we stopped at a graveyard.
Firstly, this did not look like the graveyards we have back in Vancouver, with the green grass groomed, and the tomb stones cut clean, with the graves spaced out and neatly arranged. This graveyard was packed with graves, some having stones others crosses made with sticks, and pieces of paper showing the dates of birth and death. The graves were tightly packed with barely any room between them, and the surrounding ground was just bumpy dirt and rocks. It was strange to see that in a place where people bury their loved ones, that it was barely kept or groomed unlike Vancouver, where all the graveyards are spotless and kept so nice. It seems fitting to keep a place of such tragedy and sadness looking spotless but I suppose in Mexico it is a privilege that they don’t have.
As we walked through the graveyard, I began to take notice of the dates of births and deaths. It was absolutely shocking to see the amount of years people lived for. People died so young. As we made our way through, I found graves where babies died the same day they were born, and some only living lives consisting of a couple weeks. It made me angry to think that these babies and young children were denied the rights of getting to live life. A child being stripped of a right to a life they deserve.
Santiago’s story proved just that. We all gathered around one grave, and there Santi stood and bravely told us that it was his daughter’s grave. His daughter had a premature birth and her lungs were too weak to breath on her own, and the medicine she needed was not available in this part of Mexico, so she tragically passed away after she was born. I admired Santi so much for telling us all his story, he was so brave and courageous to be able to share this sad event in his life. But he wanted us to know that all his daughter needed was a simple medicine, one that I am sure we could access easily in Vancouver. But because of where she was born and the health care in Mexico, she was unfortunately unlucky. It was an emotional morning for us, and I can not even begin to imagine what Santi has been through because of this.
I am so privileged to live in a place where health care is so amazing and that I have all the opportunities in the world, when these people living in Mexico are denied so many things. It breaks me to ask myself “why am I privileged?” “What is so different between me and a child living in a third world country?” It seems like a lottery, and some of us just aren’t as lucky as the rest. I realized how many children in the graveyard who may have lost their lives to something simple like needing a certain medication that the hospitals just don’t have, or getting sick and not being able to acquire the correct medicine. After we left, it was emotional for me, but again another eye opening experience.
This was our excursion day, so although there was a lot of emotions and tears, we headed to a volcano which was we hiked up to the see the glorious view at the top and on the way home stopped at the pool for lunch and tan which was all well and good!
The last night we were there, we spent around a bonfire singing, roasting marshmellows and the whole deal, and I found myself sitting back and taking a look at the amazing people that I grew so close with on this trip, the amazing memories that we all shared, and the changed people that we now are. It was going to be interesting to return home, to be exposed to the lives that we have so full of privilege and opportunity but no matter how hard it may be, I knew that I have 58 people who I could count on, who counted like my second family.
This experience is completely unexplainable to those who have not seen the lives of these people. We have not only touched the lives of the families and have given hope to them and the community, but these people have touched our hearts, and given us hope that we can make a CHANGE.
This experience has left me with many emotional feelings and I feel we need to stop and not be so judgmental of people from other cultures, and take the time to help them have better lives.
Every time I think back on today, to the looks on the families’ faces and the complete joy that Mario radiated when looking at their new home, I have to hold back tears of so many mixed feelings; happiness for what we have done for this family and sadness for having to say goodbye and an overall awe and amazement to how deeply we have changed these families’ lives forever.
I walked off this yellow bus with a white top, looking at a solid foundation; a solid foundation that wouldn’t just be a house, but a home. Today we celebrated that accomplishment! We finished the 20 x 22 foot house! So now we have a house and a family which makes a home. This family that I didn’t know….but I can truly say that I know them now, and they know me. They know they changed me, because that’s what this family did for me, they changed me.
We are more alike than we are different. I watched a small Mexican boy playing cars today and a wife stepping in and supported her husband who was too emotional to speak. Fundamentally we are the same the world over but some of us are SO privileged.
Our families were overjoyed today at receiving the gift of a house filled with furnishings, food, and donations from their new Canadian friends. They immediately expressed their gratitude by welcoming us into their new homes with their hospitality – scrumptious Mexican food that kept coming and coming! We built much more than two houses in our short time here. Despite what seemed like vast divides of language, culture, and lifestyle, we connected in ways that deeply touched our hearts. Life will never be the same for those of us who participated in this labour of love.
We are better together! Neighbours in communities at home, and in our global community, sharing, caring, and building together, ultimately meets all of our needs. To care for and support the fundamental needs of a family looks the same in this country as it does at home. Let’s LiveDifferent, ‘occupy’ our world, and allow each other the dignity to live and sustain ourselves, and our families.
Ten members of our group went shopping Friday morning – for furniture, bedding, groceries, house plants, water containers, and other necessities. They also pulled together and divvied up all of the various gifts we had brought from home. The other ten put the finishing touches on Mario and Catarina’s house, and tarred and shingled the roof on Simon and Ambrosia’s house. I worked with Theresa, an amazing roofer, to shingle the shower and the outhouse, including tarring, nailing, cutting, positioning, and trimming the shingles – things I wouldn’t have thought I could do a week ago. The six-year-old girl in ‘our’ family, Yuridianna, beamed a big smile when she saw her new bedroom with the polka-dotted quilt and all of the gifts on the bed, and then burst into tears that turned into deep sobs. I think she was completely overwhelmed. If any of the group had managed to have dry eyes up to that point, that did them in. We had two beautiful dedication ceremonies, one for each house, where each of us and each family member, said a few words, with the help of a translator. Then we handed over the keys to the parents and watched them enter their new house. It was a day none of us will ever forget. We have thousands of photographs to help but several moments will also be etched in my memory forever. I feel very grateful to the Madawaska Valley District High School students and friends and family who are with us; they have been truly amazing participants in this great experience. I also feel grateful to all of the community members and family members who supported us financially. We were able to buy the family everything on our list and a little more. Gracias a todos por siempre.
Madawaska Hero Holiday – An Amazing Process To Be Part Of
Madawaska Hero Holiday – An Amazing Process To Be Part Of
Today was another busy and full day. The sky was blue and the sun was bright right from the minute we got up this morning. Every day seems nicer than the last and the week seems to be going by too fast. The children in our families all took the day off school today to help. We loved being able to play with the kids, get them involved in building and get to know them as a family better.
Both houses got painted inside and out – deep dark red outside and lilac inside for one family, sky blue outside with sea blue inside for the other. And lots of all four colours on all of the builders! We also put the roofs on, built the interior walls, and cut out the door and windows.
A fabulous cook named Julia is cooking for our team of 20 as well as the 35 students from a Victoria high school who are staying across the road. Tonight we had tostadas and ceviche, described by our leader Rose as “summer in your mouth”! Then we hopped back on our big Hero Holiday bus and drove up a winding pot-holed road to a little town at the top of a hill where we watched the Smurf movie in Spanish (with English subtitles) with a bunch of local children. The children are SO adorable and so loving and cuddly; our teenagers are all falling in love with them. I think we will all be leaving a piece of our heart in Mexico.
Tomorrow we finish the houses. What an amazing process this is, and what an amazing thing to be part of. More to come …
As one of sixty students on the Carson Graham Hero Holiday, I feel as though I am part of a large family – the way we have bonded on this trip has been amazing! Enemies have become friends, and friends have become best-friends. My team worked diligently with the help of Saul, the best carpenter I have ever met, who is a very great person with an awesome sense of humor. As we worked, the kids from the community also came to help us put the finishing touches on their house.
The family I had the pleasure to work with is strong and courageous. When we finished, we asked the family to come out and see the completed house, (although they have probably seen it one hundred times by now as we were working on it). But this time was different, this time they were looking at a finished house, which was now their very own. We gathered in a semi-circle around them and told them how they were the heroes, not us, and how seeing how they live their lives will forever change how we live ours…needless to say, many of us were in tears! Our supervisor, Mr.Olson, gave them their key and as they walked towards their house and unlocked their door, it seemed as if they were going to be overcome with emotion. Our team had provided furnishings and supplies using the money we fundraised, and so they had new chairs, tables, groceries, mattresses, cooking stoves, and probably for the first time in their life, a door that locks. The kids were also very exited to see their new room, and their new toys! It was really hard leaving all of that excitement and happiness behind, but we knew we could not over-stay our welcome.
For me, this day was the most important day of the trip. Throughout the trip I have felt torn – at times I just wanted to leave because it has been so difficult being faced with all these emotions every day, and sometimes it really is back breaking work! But I also want to stay, and spend the rest of my life here, building homes and sharing with these wonderful people. People usually go to resorts in Mexico, but to all of us, THIS is the most beautiful part of Mexico.
Today was our last building day. Over the course of the day most of the groups either finished or almost finished their houses. It is amazing that we were able to build an entire house in only 4 days! At my house we needed to finish the roof and the inside walls. The other houses were in pretty much the same place. One group even stayed at the work site when we went back for lunch to get some more stuff done.
In our debriefing tonight we talked a lot about needs and wants. This dicussion really made us think about all the things we take for granted like running water, health care, soap, and other sanitation methods. As well as the way we talk about the things we “need.” For example – “I need my iPod, I need a hot shower, I need the internet.” But here we can clearly see that many people live without the things we “need.” These are just things we want and are lucky enough to have. We also talked about school, and how we complain about it, but all the kids here who are able to go to school feel so lucky. A few of the students along with Ms. Barter went to visit the school in the community. They got to talk and take pictures with the kids as well as see what sort of things they were learning.
Tomorrow is house dedication day and everyone is super excited! In the moring we will put any finishing touches on our houses, like shelves, tables or bunk beds, and go shopping for things for the family. Then we will be able to hand over the keys to not only a home but also safety, security, and a place to call their own!
– Sarah Duggan
Today was a day of finishing. When we got to the job site, we immediately got started painting, working on the roof, and building inside walls. This was our last official work day and all the groups were pushing to complete their houses. Between installing windows and doors, roofing, painting, and building shelves, everybody had something to do, but we also had time to do some shopping at the nearby stands, and play with the kids in the community. We have all built a lot of strong friendships with the kids and families around, despite the language barrier.
By the afternoon, when the houses were mostly finished, we loaded back into the buses, covered in tar and paint, and drove back to Don Diego’s, where we’ve been staying. We had just enough time to get into our outfits for the 80’s themed dance party before we ate dinner. We had another debriefing session with Nettie and the LDA’s, and we talked about some of our favourite parts of the day. People’s favourite memories ranged from funny moments with friends, to moments with their building families, and fun times with the kids. One group went to visit the school and were surprised by the differences they noticed. Kids our age were in grades two and three and many children did not even have a chance to go to school. I think this made us realize how lucky we are to live where we live. After the debriefing we did our usual student appreciations and then got the dining hall ready for our dance party! The two other Hero Holiday groups came down to join us and it was a lot of fun. We are all looking forward to completing our houses and handing the keys over to the families who will finally have a safe home of their own.