Faze Magazine Article – Legacy

“What do you want to be remembered for?”

Joy was prepared for a lot of other questions from her leadership teacher, but not that one. She had to come to terms with everything, to look herself in the eye, and to be willing to give herself an honest answer, no matter how hard it was to do that. Could she do it?

Her Mandarin name is Yi-Ting Yu and it means, “Happy Family”. In English, her name is Joy, and if you have ever spent five minutes with her, you will know why. She is a mixture of crazy antics, laughter and energy, all wrapped up in an itty bitty living space.

She was 7 when her family moved from Taipei, Taiwan to Canada and settled into life in Richmond, B.C. Moving to a new culture is challenging, but for her, the move also held a lot of other difficulties. Her dad had a temper and it often resulted in violence in their home. When pressure mounted and he exploded in anger, Joy often got the brunt of it. Many years of long sleeves and keeping things hidden had given her the ‘ability’ to be a bit of a chameleon, blending in with whatever social group she was with.

On the outside she was outgoing, fearless, even sometimes almost cruel and careless. But on the inside, she was scared, lost and frustrated with her life. She wanted to change and she wanted to get free from all the pain, but didn’t know where to start. One night it all changed. Her best friend, her leadership teacher and her high school vice-principal showed up at her door, and pulled her out of a dangerous situation. Their kindness forced her to realize the worth of her own life and what she was capable of becoming. In the end, their kindness changed her entire life.

A few months later, with their help, Joy found herself in Dominican Republic with LiveDifferent’s Hero Holiday program. Day after day she experienced compassion and love in action, as she played a part in bringing hope to people who were desperate for the help. But while everyone else was inspired and empowered by the experience, she wrestled with the injustices of life and didn’t know how she was going to return home and continue to stay strong in her resolve to not go back to her old habits and ways of dealing with things through violence, anger and pain. One day, her leadership teacher sat her down, looked her in the eye and asked her the question that changed her perspective.

“What do you want to be remembered for?”

After thinking about it for a while reflecting on what she had learned through her experience, she came to some conclusions. She didn’t want to be defined by the pain anymore: “I want to be remembered for always making people laugh, for being amazing with kids, and for always being there for my friends.”

Joy is my friend, and she now works for us in LiveDifferent. She has shared her story with hundreds of thousands of students across Canada and she has been an integral part of our Hero Holiday trips all over the world. If given the opportunity to describe her, many of her friends would probably use words like outgoing, energetic, bubbly and determined. But that is just her personality. While it may paint a picture of what to expect when you meet her, it doesn’t clearly prepare you for the strength of character that makes up who she really is. I believe she will be remembered as someone who chose, every day, to reach out and make a difference in the world around her through compassion and kindness.

We often try so hard to fit in that we can forget that there is a memory of us that is left behind. It can happen as soon as we leave a conversation or a room, or it can be years, decades, centuries later. Like the image of a bright light left in the darkness, we leave behind a memory, whether we want to or not. So, the question for you and me is what do we want to be remembered for?

– Christal Earle – Co-Founder of LiveDifferent

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 28th, 2012

Generosity is a powerful force!

Generosity is a powerful force! People who practice being generous can help make a difference in our world and in their own lives.

Claire and a group of friends from Sault Ste. Marie recently showed us how easy and fun it is to be generous, to make a difference for someone else, and to LiveDifferent every day.

On June 8, I was invited to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, to speak at an event that Claire had dreamed up 9 months earlier. In the summer of 2011, Claire had been an intern in Dominican Republic with our Hero Holiday program. In her own words, her life was transformed by the experience and when she returned home she knew she wanted to continue to live that change out every day. So she made a plan, and that plan involved students, teachers and parents from two schools in her city. Together, they decided to host an evening gala event, with all the proceeds going to help to continue to build our LiveDifferent school in Cap Haitien, Haiti. 

The evening was a huge success, with over 200+ people in attendance, lots of laughter, and even a few tears, as hearts were touched by stories of courage and hope in the community where the school is being built. Together, they raised over $8000 that night, all of it with the vision of continuing to provide education in a community that previously had no immediate access to it.

I asked Claire why she did it. Her answer touched my heart and made me proud of her and the many incredible volunteers that join us on our LiveDifferent Hero Holidays every year.

“I wanted to go to Haiti this year with the Hero Holiday program, but I knew that it wasn’t realistic for me right now. I was finishing up high school and I knew I wouldn’t be able to take the time away or get the money together. Instead, I decided that I would still reach out to the people in Haiti and let them know that I cared about them, whether or not I am able to be there in person right now.”


Claire and the people who joined her reminded me of why we will continue to do what we do, and how many ways there are for each of us to make a a lasting difference through LiveDifferent. Their efforts were based out of 100% pure generosity and love, and their passion and commitment made the event possible. They are living proof of what we truly believe: a changed heart really can help to change the world.

So, this is our shout out to all the Claires out there, and all the ones who are yet to be inspired to LiveDifferent. Fundraisers such as this are what make our work possible. They are also what make a difference for the futures of those who need a voice. If you’d be interested in organizing your own fundraiser, we’re here to support you in any way we can, so please contact us!

Thanks Claire and friends, for all your hard work, your passion for hope, and your commitment to making a difference. You are why we do what we do.

Christal Earle – Co-Founder of LiveDifferent

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 27th, 2012

Staff Blog – Laura “LiveDifferent has always had a piece of my heart”


Where to start? It has been quite some time since I have collected my thoughts and experiences into one place! I guess I could say that my start with LiveDifferent was way back in 2008 when I went to Dominican Republic on one of the public summer trips. There were many moments on that trip that were life-changing. I think the most ‘directional’ moment was one night’s activity where we were split into groups to discuss different issues that the world was facing, and to either create an awareness campaign or a plan of action. I was thrown into the group discussing slavery, and until that night, I did not realize how naive I had been towards that subject. I’d had no idea that there were more people enslaved in the world today than there were in the entire history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade! My group’s idea was to create a sustainable manufacturing company that provided job opportunities to locals, and also allowed post-secondary students from Western countries to build an external knowledge of how their actions have an impact on more than just themselves. We called it “Triangle Fashion”. To this day I have not put this ‘plan of action’ to rest, although it has been altered and revised many times in the past couple of years. It is funny to think that a simple group activity that most people have forgotten has continued to spark ideas of change inside of me.

Now, let’s fast forward a year! My plans for university in September fell through, and I had no idea what I to do with my life! Naturally, I turned to my best friend, ice cream, to point me in the right direction. Unfortunately it did not offer any sort of support other than an upset stomach! A few days later, I was looking at some pictures from my Dominican trip, and I vaguely remembered someone telling me about a 9-month leadership program at LiveDifferent. I sprang into action, found out all of the information, and luckily, I was able to just barely squeeze onto their list for the following year. It turned out to be one incredible year, filled with tears of joy and laughter and many, many blog entries. My 4 months spent in Mexico were filled with teaching English to a kindergarten school up the street, going to help out at a seniors home, hosting a Hero Holiday, and having many stressful (but important!) debates with my fellow students regarding issues such as stereotypes, poverty, consumerism, and other global concerns. On the road it was a completely different atmosphere. I was given the chance to speak in the high schools, which I really enjoyed, I helped to lead workshops, and I even enjoyed learning about and running the power for the shows! Between living in Mexico and touring across Canada, I learned that real change does happen in communities we worked with, and that real change can begin simply by sharing your story in a high school. I finished the year off feeling very fulfilled, but a little unsure of where life would take me next.

After attending LiveDifferent Academy, I entered into a two-year college program in Community Development and completed it this past spring. This program gives you the ability to be versatile and allows you to work in many different sections of the non-profit world such as non-profit management, fundraising, non-profit marketing, counseling, etc. In many of these classes, the assignments we did were mock up’s of the real deal. For example, in ‘Program Planning,’ the entire course was based around creating a plan that we could eventually execute later on in our professional careers. I handed in a program plan that would create a needs assessment in Sukabumi, Indonesia, to see if building a sewing shop would be beneficial for the locals, (four years later and still heavily based around the roots of “Triangle Fashion”). I found that this program helped me develop many different skills, and now I know that when I continue to work in this field, I will be able to create sustainable change and not just a quick-fix.

This all finally leads me to this summer. I knew I would have a few job opportunities for the four months before I return to school in the fall, but I had a passing thought. If I were able to get a student work grant for LiveDifferent, would they let me come aboard and help out in their office? I got the confirmation that they’d love to have me around the office, so I started filling out the grant application. We soon got a phone call saying that we had received the grant, and I was full of excitement! Ever since volunteering on that first trip to Dominican Republic four years ago, LiveDifferent has always had a piece of my heart. The people who work in the office throughout the year have an unbelievable stamina because everything they do is fuelled by their passion to literally ‘LiveDifferent.’ I have seen many environments where people are unhappy with their careers because they are ‘just working a job.’ However, all the staff at LiveDifferent make it seem effortless, and even when times are stressful, they work through it, because for them this is so much more than ‘just a job.’ From an outsider’s point of view, it is hard to imagine all of the background work that goes into the bigger picture of what this organization does every day. After making the transition from volunteer to student to summer office intern, I have been given the opportunity to see all of the work that goes into every single volunteer, newsletter, donation, school booking, and everything else! It is incredibly commendable and yet often goes unrecognised by us (as volunteers), yet this staff team does a great job of all the work it takes to ensure a brighter tomorrow for the people we serve. I think that was one of the main attractions when joining the team, being a part of an environment that strives to empower those around them.

I will leave you with this last thought. Throughout all of my time at LiveDifferent, I have learned that we all have a purpose and even the smallest of details can have the largest impact. Someone randomly put me in a group to discuss slavery, and they had no idea that four years down the road I would still be working on templates based on the results from that group activity. When you walk out your front door you never truly know what is in store for you, the only thing certain is that you will have more opportunities than if you stayed at home!

Laura – LiveDifferent Summer Staff Intern

Author: LiveDifferent


It’s Not Enough Just to be Grateful…


Sunday, July 22, 2012. 11:30 pm.
Lying awake here in my hotel bed in Sosua, I eagerly await the challenges tomorrow holds as we visit the garbage dump for the “In their Shoes” work experience day. Rushing through me are feelings of anxiety, nervousness and excitement. The stories I hear from the staff, interns and returning volunteers
send chills through my spine. From what I understand, I will not be able to comprehend the immensity of the life changing experience until I have had the opportunity to do so tomorrow.
Monday, July 23, 2012. 5:30 pm.
Her name is Sonya. She arrived to the Dominican Republic from Haiti at the young age of three. Only ten years later at the age of thirteen, she began working in the garbage dump. Now another ten years later, a twenty-three year old Sonya, the small yet strong mother of four, has had no opportunity to escape the dumps. You may find Sonya, as well as many others, working long gruesome eight hour days, six days out of the week. You figure on average at twenty-three years old, one may have just graduated from University and began looking for full time jobs. As children in Canada and The United States we are taught from a young age that we can be anything we would like to be. We are taught to set goals, and are given support to one day reach them. The people of La Union on the other hand are taught which recyclables and useful and which are not. All day I have wondered what Sonya’s dreams are filled with, and what she wishes for herself and her children. I wonder what she saw herself doing in the future when she was only a small child. Did she ever dream of becoming a doctor or a nurse? Did she imagine herself in a large home with her family? Did she think after ten years, she would still remain working and providing for her growing family in the garbage dump?
Words cannot describe the feelings and emotions embedded forever in your mind after only one and a half hours of working in the garbage dump. No one can understand a day in their shoes until one has smelled the rotting garbage, felt the flies invade your skin, and most horrifyingly- seen the good natured human beings work alongside one another in such heart breaking conditions. My eyes were in absolute shock, and my ears in disbelief. You can expect to find a little boy, who is spending his tenth birthday today at work in the dump. You may find a single mother of ten children, working to support the five in Dominican Republic, as well as the other five still living in Haiti. You may find yourself uncomfortably close to a number of cows who are eating the garbage you were about to pick up. You can even find yourself next to Sonya, the tiny woman just above four foot wearing only one glove, who shoves and digs her way through the garbage, not even remotely intimidated by all of the men. But it is not until you begin sinking into the mountain of garbage, and your feet and shins are covered by unrecognizable filth, that you may actually have a couple of seconds to take in your surroundings and understand the daily struggle that a stateless individual living in a developing country may endure.
After a day spent in their shoes- or even flip-flops as I saw on many, I was able to identify the real heroes of this trip, as well as this world. It is not those who have bought the newest iphone or ipad, or even those who have the most money. Rather, it is those hero’s working hard to support themselves and their families today and everyday in the garbage dump. They were the ones smiling, and laughing, with grateful and positive attitudes that made my experience in the dump a truly amazing one. Their fight, courage and strength make them the heroes. They are special and valuable individuals who we have all been honored to meet on this trip. This community has not only inspired me, but has given me so much hope. They have ultimately changed me for the better, and I am forever grateful. I would like to thank LiveDifferent Hero Holiday, the community of La Union, as well as everyone who fights and believes in themselves, the people they love, and a better world. Most importantly, today has taught me that it is not enough just to be grateful, but instead, you must help make a difference and be a part of the change.
Grace – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Dominican Republic 2012

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 24th, 2012

A Lesson to Live By

As I write this, the date is Sunday, July 22. It feels like only a few hours ago that we landed in the DR and all of a sudden we have been here five days. Five days might not seem like a long time, but here, we’ve experienced so much that it feels impossible to have been such a short time.


Although we’ve already seen and done so much, one particular thing has repeatedly entered my mind and is already changing the way I think about things; the locals are here are unbelievably positive about every situation and scenario that crosses their path.  During our awareness tour on the first full day here, we stopped in a small community called La Union.  Instantly after getting off the bus, kids came running from everywhere, excited to meet and play with us. They all have so little in terms of a house, toys, clothing, or utilities, but that didn’t stop them one bit. Every single person we passed waved to us and greeted us with a cheerful “Hola!”. They were simply happy to see us and that struck me as incredible. They didn’t let their many worries, their harsh and unfair living conditions, or their daily struggles get in the way of simple happiness, and that is something I will continue to remind myself about.


Another example of their inspirational attitude hit me like a pound of bricks on the day we went and worked in the garbage dump. The young boy that I worked with, Ryan, was only 10 years old, and had been working there for quite a while to help support his family back in Haiti while he lives here in the DR with friends.  As we started to walk and search through what seemed to be never ending garbage, it became readily apparent how hard Ryan works. When we tried to get to know him by asking basic questions through the help of a translator, Ryan answered a few and then calmly said “no more,” as we were wasting valuable working time. In another instance, I was clearing away limbs of trees in hopes of finding recyclable materials underneath, when a branch caught Ryan’s pants, knocking him off balance and sending him sprawling into a pile of rotten food.  I quickly turned around worried that I’d find him hurt or upset, yet I was relieved to see him laughing away about what had happened, and I couldn’t help but to join in and laugh with him.


Ryan taught me something that day that I will keep with me for the rest of my life. He taught me that no matter how the large the obstacles to overcome are, you simply have to find a way be content and push through it. I find so much inspiration in that, because if a ten year old boy can do it on a daily basis, then we most certainly can too! No child should have to work as hard as Ryan does, or grow up in a childhood like his, however he truly inspired me and I can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am to have had that experience. We only have two more work days here in the DR, and I can’t wait to take in every moment of them, as unfortunately it will all be over in the blink of an eye. I wish everyone the best and I promise that we have lots to share when we all return home!

Kardy – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Dominican Republic 2012

Author: LiveDifferent


Eyes opened in a garbage dump…

On Saturday we went to the garbage dump where we got to work side-by-side with the people there. I did not know what I was expecting but it sure wasn’t what I saw felt or experienced. In North America, we have our safe homes, and if not that, at least we have homes that we can go home to. We have so many valuable yet unrecognizable treasures that we take for granted every day. I already know coming down on this trip is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me; it has opened my mind to poverty and i have finally seen the real life meaning of this word that we only know from books or TV. 


When my team headed down to the dump, I was extremely nervous. I was just expecting a disgusting smell and giant piles of garbage. I knew that there would be people there, but I was not sure who. When we arrived and got off the bus, yes it was smelly, and yes there was garbage everywhere, I was not surprised by any of that. What did surprised me was when this little 10 year old boy came up to me and Aidan, another LiveDifferent volunteer, and asked us to be his partners for the job. It surprised me by how happy and content he was, sifting through garbage, one hand bare, while the other was sporting one of Aidan’s work gloves. His name was Kravis, and he had on a pair of shoes that were three sizes too big for his feet as he walked through cow manure, mud, and of course garbage.


We were collecting plastic bottles so that he could earn money to help feed and shelter his two little siblings and his grandparents, as he did not have any parents. At the age of 10, Kravis works in a world of toxic waste, sweat, billions of flies, and skinny stray dogs. Needless to say it was a very emotional day for the whole team, having to see something so bizarre, and unfair. I am very glad that i did not have to experience this alone and I knew that there were more who were experiencing extreme emotions at the end of the day in our debriefing. I am very thankful to have such wonderful people to lean on, and so grateful for this opportunity to open my eyes to what poverty really is. 

Kristy – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Dominican Republic 2012

Author: LiveDifferent


The Real Heroes of Hero Holiday

We came on this trip wanting to see a different side of life. Wanting to make a difference, wanting to change lives. We came on this trip knowing we would see poverty and expecting to see things that would make us very sad. Although lots of what we expected is true, there is a whole other side that we did not anticipate.

Half of our day is spent on the worksite. Our arms and backs ache, but it doesn’t matter when you know what the results of hard work will be. The family will be able to have a safe house, one that will prevent them from living in the toxic black water that flows in whenever it rains. They will be able to go to sleep at night knowing they wont wakeup to a storm that will take away everything they own. They will have a house to be proud of. We have shared the things that we have so they can have the things that they need.
The other half of the day is spent with the locals. The kids have made games out of nothing. They use the outer netting of a fan to go fishing, and they know tons of games to play with just one rope. They have nothing, yet what they do with nothing is so much better than what we do with everything.
When you walk down a street in Aguas Negra everyone smiles and says hello. Most of them, we haven’t met, yet they are not strangers. They already feel love for us, even though we haven’t done anything for them. Back home we seem to have created this world of distance that has separated us all. It’s weird to love and care for a stranger, or to say hello to everyone while walking down the street. It’s not normal to put the well being of others in front of our own, and parents wouldn’t let their children hug strangers. Aguas Negra is a place where despite its misfortune, or maybe even because of it, is filled with love and happiness. This is the type of love that you can feel in the air. 
We came to Aguas Negra and share the things we have the most of: the ability to travel, money, strength, and hope. In turn, the people of Aguas Negra share the creativity, selflessness, and love that they have in abundance. As a result we all receive what we need. The question is, are we really the heroes if they are saving us just as much as we are saving them? Maybe we are both heroes. Something I know for sure is that after this trip, we will all live a lot differently.
Meredith – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Dominican Republic 2012

Author: LiveDifferent


Grace Baptist Mexico 2012 – Dedication Day!


Dedication day is always full of mixed emotions…pride over finishing a new home in only 5 days…pure joy over seeing the appreciation of the new family as we hand over the keys…and then sadness over the realization that we need to say goodbye to these families who are now in our hearts.
We took lots of photos, gave out lots of hugs and had so much fun watching the families check out their new home (especially the young children test-driving some new toys and jumping on their new beds!!) We also left a “touch of Calgary” with both families with some Calgary Flames jerseys that we encouraged them to wear with pride and memories of our team.
Today is fun day…we will spend the morning at a local market (not a tourist market, but one that “real Mexicans” shop at), and the afternoon at the beach where we will get to hike a volcano and enjoy the ocean (probably too cold to swim, but the ocean nonetheless!!) 
And we will continue to process all we have seen, felt, done, and experienced while here…our world has many needs and we have come face to face with so many different ones…we have bonded as a group through it all which is so very neat to see, and we know that lifelong relationships have been formed because of it all!
Allison – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Grace Baptist Church, Mexico 2012

Author: LiveDifferent


Zirk Team Updates – Hero Holiday Mexico

What does “LiveDifferent” mean?  To me it meant that I would help to build a home for a family, provide them with a shower and an outhouse and furniture, and complete an Extreme Home Makeover, Mexican style!  Once our week was completed we felt assured that a family would be able to “LiveDifferently.”


We boarded the bus to go to the neighbourhood to meet the families that we would build with.  We all knew that the people in this area lived in poverty and we had seen pictures of the families in front of their present home.  The current living conditions for these families literally took my breath away.  My vision of poverty did not even come close to what we were surrounded by.  It brought tears to my eyes to see four young children and their parents who called an eight foot rectangle made out of cardboard, tarp, and a blanket their “casa.”  The Mexican people are very proud and the family invited us in to see their home and show us how they had fixed it up.  Seeing is believing; yet I still could not imagine living in this structure with four young children.   The one room home held one bed for all the family to sleep in. All cooking, washing, and family time was spent outdoors in the oppressive heat.  I kept asking myself, how do these people live under these conditions?  Almost every waking moment must be focused on survival for this family. 


Each day dawned hot and humid and the week passed quickly.  As we arrived at the property we were greeted by six smiling faces who worked beside us sawing, hammering, painting, and playing, while we shared key Spanish and English phrases. Little did I know that this experience would change my heart and my view of the world. Over the course of the week I learned that a group of people with love in their hearts, a desire to bring about change, and a week of time can make an impact on the course of poverty.   But more importantly I learned that I had stretched myself in many ways and built connections with these hard working, happy people.  Their gratitude and willingness to share overwhelmed me. I know that I will not look at my standard of living the same way for a long time.


What does “LiveDifferent” mean?  For me it now means that I need to LiveDifferent on a day to day basis and know that I can impact change for a family in poverty. It also means that I will LiveDifferently because of the people and my experiences during this week.  It is my hope and prayer that the differences that I helped to initiate in Mexico will be felt for years to come for me as well as that family I grew to love in five short days.

Edna – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer – Zirk Team Mexico



Today was a good day for the family of group two. I believe our stick frame of a house is now complete with trim and roofing. The family seemed very happy today as they toured their nearly completed home in what our translator described as ‘awe.’ The walls and banos were painted and the window trim looked spectacular. The highlight of the day however had to have been the arrival of the ice cream man. Kids appeared as if from nowhere to collect their sweet treat, and we all enjoyed a moment of rest while soaking up the especially hot sun. The anticipation in the group is building as we just can’t wait to purchase things for our families and their homes. With each day our relationships with our family grow stronger and our arms get longer twirling our kids around:) Looking forward to a final couple of days in the sun!

Shelby – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Zirk Team Mexico



Author: LiveDifferent


Life in someone else’s shoes…

How would you feel if you did not exist? If you had no country to call home? If you had nothing but a mold infested shack to return to day after day. Praying for a better future, but recognized as nothing but an illegal immigrant, you could be removed from the land you have come to know as home at any moment. The very same land which was meant for four hundred, but is harboring nearly two thousand. Tell me, how would you feel if you were put in their shoes?

You are Haitian. You trek through fields and rough terrain, beneath the scorching sun and torrential downpours, for five days with little food, water, or rest. You cannot find work in Haiti, this place you call home. You are forced to leave to ensure your survival and the survival of your family. You do not want to leave by any means, but you pray for a better life and hope you will find something on the horizon to begin a new life. You take your daughter with you.
Across the border in the Dominican Republic, you now have nothing but the clothes on your back and the worn shoes on your feet. You have just committed a crime by illegally crossing the border and could be thrown back into Haiti at any time, but you trek on. Word spreads of factory work, perhaps some stable income, but when you find work, the factory closes down.
You live in a squatters’ village. You do not own this land, but you have no other place to live. The government has shut down the sugarcane factory, your only means of work, and you are forced to choose between prostitution and hard labour. You pick the latter. You spend six out of seven days a week picking through the garbage dump; piles of maggot infested garbage, rotting food, and all matter of ruined debris. The government does not like you, they do not want you in their country, but this is the only work you can find.
Your life has turned into a twisted treasure hunt, or so you believe, at least for your daughter’s sake. She is only eleven and she works beside you, searching for plastic bottles and bags. You can make between five and ten dollars a day, but the money does not make your situation easier. You pray for a better life for your daughter. For her to be educated and given a bed she can sleep soundlessly in without rats nibbling at her fingers and toes. You do this for her, yet 
she has been brought into this life with you and it weighs heavily on your shoulders.
You harden your persona because you have no other choice. You cannot survive easily with carefree notions when your survival is dependent on the trash others throw away. Bottle after bottle, bag after bag you collect but you wonder if it will ever be enough. The sunken garbage becomes old, and you wish your life was not so routine. You wish you had never gotten used to the life you have now.
You rise before the sun and trek through the heat and humidity for thirty-five minutes to the dump. You know you are close when the smell hits your nostrils and the gravel road inclines sharply. Discarded trash litters the roadside and surrounding foliage, but you do not stop, you know there is nothing useful there. The sun rises as you reach the top and see the rolling piles of garbage before your eyes. You keep your daughter close to your side because you never know what could happen to her if she disappears behind a pile that is too high for you to see behind. You remember she wears shoes when you wear sandals, yet you both pick garbage gloveless. You have long since questioned using your bare hands, perhaps you never even learnt the dangers and diseases you could endure; but, you have seen them on others and you pray your daughter will be spared. You have seen too many small cuts turn into infections, things you are not educated on how to treat. You do not know how to fix the unfortunate accidents others face so you pick on, hoping one more bottle will be enough to get your daughter and maybe even yourself out of there.
The sun rises higher and travels across the sky, you have taken little to no breaks and your back is throbbing with a pain you have come accustomed to over the years. Your daughter works tiredly beside you and you wish you could send her back to the shack you call home, but you know it is hardly better there. The tin roof is rusting, filled with countless holes, and only truly gives protection from the sun. The rain finds a way through despite your best efforts and floods the room, splashing water sometimes even up around your ankles. Mold has taken over the mattress you and your daughter share every night, and the wooden frame that makes up your home is rickety from bugs infesting the walls. In a couple more hours, you will return there and find a sanction even amongst all its defects. Some say home is where the heart is, but you know yours will always belong to Haiti.
Despite the endless sorrows weighing down your shoulders, you are strong. You have a strength in you unknown to most people because you are able to work seemingly effortlessly in the eyes of others. You do not work to a punch clock; no one counts the hard hours you work each day, instead you are paid by the bag of plastics you collect. You have no stability, but you work anyway when others may not. 
Even despite your hard exterior, you still have your morals intact. Your beauty, inside and out, rivals all things beautiful in the world, yet you know appearance is not everything. You know what you need and what you want, you know when to choose which is the best in any situation. You are courageous beyond measure for leaving everything you have known behind and traveling into uncertainty. Starting a new life out of hardly more than tin sheets and scrap wood is sheer bravery.
Above your courage and audacity, you are selfless even when others cannot see it. You work with your community, and put your daughter before yourself every chance you get. When your days get hard, it is her smile that lights up the sky as if she were a descendant of Apollo himself. Even amongst the piles of garbage and your worn home, she is the light that moves you forward. 
This is your life, as bleak as it may seem sometimes, you still have hopes and dreams to rise each day and work to the best of your ability. Regardless of what others believe, you do exist in this world and should be recognized as such. You are worthy, determined, and know what you hope to accomplish in this life. You are no different than others believe you to be, but merely born in a tough situation you work to overcome. So tell me, after all this time, how does it feel to be put in someone else’s shoes?
Haley – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Intern, Dominican Republic 2012


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 22nd, 2012