Laura Rocoski has been one of our summer staff members this year. Laura rocks! Partly because she makes great eggplant soup (totally serious on that one!), partly because she has this awesome “I totally sound confident” phone voice, and definitely because she dreamed up an idea and made it happen.
Earlier this year Laura came to us with a proposal for a government grant to work for us for the summer. Laura had been a part of our LiveDifferent Academy and Hero Holidays in the past, and she knew she wanted to stay connected. Through her experience with LiveDifferent, she is now studying community development and focusing on international opportunities in school, and she wanted to take some of that goodness and invest it into LiveDifferent for the summer.
Not every one is able to do what Laura did, but we want the world to know how much we have appreciated her passion, enthusiasm and her stellar ideas and skills that she put to work during her time with us.
Laura, on behalf of everyone in LiveDifferent and all the lives you have been a part of changing, we want to say THANKS! You are a rock star of compassion and a voice for change. All the best in the year ahead!
Today our medical team brought 22 children from La Union on an excursion to the reptile zoo, which also included a boat ride and dinner on the beach. We met the children at the reptile zoo and as soon as we got off the bus, they were gleaming at us with such excitement. For many of these children, it would be their first time seeing an ocean, despite living only twenty minutes away. The children got an opportunity to touch a bird and to see iguanas, tarantulas, and an alligator.
After the zoo, we all hopped onto a boat and headed up the river to a beach. Before dinner, all of the children raced to the ocean dragging us behind them. The children were so eager to play in the ocean! A few of them got into their swimming clothes and quickly began jumping in the waves and running along the beach. Some of the girls were a little hesitant at first because they did not want to get their pretty outfits dirty. But, once they realize how much fun it was they joined the others. Some of the boys gathered in teams to play soccer and a few of the LiveDifferent team members joined in. The children gathered in excitement as crabs would wash ashore and they soon discovered how to make a sand castle. After dinner and cake, all of the children participated in a coloring contest before they headed back to La Union.
It was great to see the children simply be children. Just four days ago, some of these children spent their day collecting plastic bottles at a local garbage dump in order to help their family survive another day. Today, they were how we always imagine children. They were playing carelessly in the waves without having to worry. They were giggling and screaming with excitement. It felt amazing to give those children that opportunity.
Today was a positive way to end our trip as many of the volunteers will begin flying out tomorrow. I am so proud of the work that we have all accomplished. My eyes have been opened and I have made memories that I will hold close to my heart for a lifetime. I am forever changed and will LiveDifferent.
Catherine – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Medical Team Volunteer, 2012
It was a wet and sticky morning as we loaded up the truck and left for our third medical clinic in the small Haitian village of Baraguana today. Once we arrived, we were hardly set up for twenty minutes when it started to pour from the heavens. Luckily, the community church (no electricity included, of course) was close-by so we were able to pack up and take shelter in there. Today, I was working in the pharmacy, along with 4 other team members. It was a truly enjoyable experience as we all worked together so well! The people were so excited to receive their prescriptions, even if it was only a little baggie containing a half dozen Tylenol, you could have swore they were walking away with gold by the look of happiness on their faces.
Besides the prescriptions, we were also giving each person a toothbrush and toothpaste. It shocked me that there were a few people who came through who had absolutely no idea what a toothbrush was or what to do with it! This was a huge eye opener for me – brushing my teeth has been part of my daily routine for my entire life but yet I take it for granted everyday, little did I know that there are people in our world who think of brushing their teeth as a luxury. The kids were absolutely ecstatic to receive their toothbrushes, they were running around showing them to anyone who would spare a second. It felt unbelievably rewarding to know that we played a part of brightening their day!
The highlight of my day came from a short conversation I had with one young girl. I asked her in Creole (their language which is a mix of French and African dialect) how she was doing. She very cheerfully replied “very good!” with a huge toothy smile. I was at a loss for words, I don’t understand how these people, especially this child who was dressed in a torn up dress and wearing little boys sandals at least 2 sizes too small, are able to look beyond their environment, hardships and struggles and find happiness and hope. I thought to myself, ” if that were me, could I do the same?”. Honestly, I am unsure.
These people live in such difficult and different circumstances than us, yet they are able to feel and express all the same emotions as we do. We are all the same people, only we are born into different situations, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. I will never forget what I learned today. Just goes to show that experience truly is the best teacher.
Cheryl – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Medical Trip Volunteer 2012
Today was the second day of our medical clinic. We traveled over the bumpy roads to the small Dominican village of Mosovi. There, we were greeted by hundreds of locals looking forward to their visit with the dentist or doctor. Setting up our tents we assumed our roles. The two of us, Laura (nursing student) and Scott (Kinesiology student), were both stationed with a doctor. The experience of working alongside as a partner to these experienced health care professionals was amazing to say the least. The opportunity to practice the skills we have learned in school, in a real life situation, was incredible. Being able to assist in diagnosing with the doctors and having our opinions of certain things, including pharmaceuticals and physical therapy taken seriously was so incredible. Having the opportunity to practice general medical skills such as using the stethoscope, otoscope, and stabilizing joints allowed us to view an array of ailments and disorders.
A major highlight of the day was the genuine gratitude the people of Mosovi expressed for our health care services. It is so surreal to know that back home in Canada, most of us shudder or delay a visit to the doctor or dentist, while here those who willingly line up for hours and finally receive their little white slip of paper detailing the treatment or medication they need, are so amazingly thankful and appreciative. Knowing that they are finally receiving the care for an ailment that may have been bothering them for years is such a heartwarming experience. We all feel so lucky and so blessed to be part of something so eye-opening. Overall, the clinic in Mosovi was amazing and given the chance to return we all agree that there would be no hesitation. We wish the best of luck to our new friends in Mosovi and hope someday we may meet again.
– Laura & Scott, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Medical Trip Volunteers, 2012
It’s funny how a place you go only once a year can become your home – more so than where you are actually from. I have spent the last month interning in Mexico and it has been beyond amazing. The people I have met for the first time or once again all have a special place in my heart.
Coming home to Mexico every year is what keeps me going when I’m back in Canada. It is my motivation to do well in school and save money for next summer to come back and do it all again. However each time is different – new people, new families, and new experiences. The diversity amongst those three things alone is something I yearn for.
Not only do I learn from the families I build for, which is a given, but I learn from the people I meet on each trip. Each of us has a purpose in life, and when we can all join together for the same purpose, we accomplish so much.
Each night we have debriefing where we talk about our day or discuss global awareness. You never do know what people will say when talking about poverty, statelessness or the like. Things you never expect from some people just blow you away at what they think. And when someone else says exactly what you are thinking, you know that you’re in the right place.
Something that keeps me coming back every year is getting to visit families I’ve built for in previous years. Going to see how they are doing, what has changed and how they have made their house a home is so rewarding. You get to see how you made a significant difference in their lives through them telling you how school is going for the kids, how work is going for the parents and many other things.
However the best out of all of this is their smiles. When they recognize you and realize that you’ve come back, there is nothing to compare that to. These families may hope that one day they will see you again, but they can never know for sure. But when you do go back to visit, they are beyond happy. You can become so much closer with them even within a short time, because the bond you share becomes stronger and they truly realize that you haven’t forgotten about them.
Being an intern means I’m here for a month and last year that was a perfect amount of time. But being here this year there’s something different – I want to be here longer. I want to meet more local people, create bonds with new families and be happy for longer. It’s often hard to bring the happiness I experience here back to Canada because there aren’t many people to talk about my experiences with. Sure I can talk about my tan or how my month was so amazing, but details don’t get shared often. But if I could be here for longer, maybe just move here, I can retain this happiness for much longer.
The other night while I was leading debriefing I got to listen to everyone talk. I mean I do that all the time, but it’s different here. Here I get to listen to people talk about what they love, what they are passionate about. There is nothing better than the look in someone’s eyes when they tell a story from their day that I know they will remember for a long time. Their eyes light up and their smile is contagious. If I could even just do that for the rest of my life, my time would be well spent.
Sarah – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Mexico Intern 2012
My Hero Holiday experience in Mexico has been absolutely surreal and amazing. I came on the trip with an open mind and I can honestly say my perspective has been completely changed.
Firstly, the people who I have met on my trip have become my second family. Everyone is so friendly and supportive, and we have become close knit teams. The staff and interns have also made the entire experience great by always being there to answer our questions and keep us going. Secondly, it was crazy how a group of 16 people could become so close over such a short period of time and work together to build a house in 4 days. But by far the most amazing part of my trip was building a connection with our family. Our family consisted of the mother Eva, the father Domingo, their son, their daughter Anna, and their oldest daughter Susana. I am so honored I was able to become a part of their life and share this experience with them. Hearing about their hopes and dreams has truly inspired me to always have hope and fight for my dreams and work hard to achieve them. I think the moment I really connected with them was when the oldest daughter was when she told me her dream was to be a biologist and pursue scientific research. It hit me that although we were from such different worlds and places, we shared the same dream. This was very eye opening for me, and I felt like I could relate to the family and really connect with them.
I could not think of a more deserving family to get this home, they are so kind, loving and deserving. The moment we gave the family the keys to their new house on dedication day is unparalleled to any other feeling I have ever experienced. This family has changed my life, and the way I view the world. I have learned to appreciate what I have, and to live every day with purpose and to not talk life for granted. I am so glad I got to experience this trip and that I was able to meet all the wonderful people I have met!
A Smile is the Shortest Distance Between Two People
A Smile is the Shortest Distance Between Two People
Trying out a circular saw for the first time, laughing at every bent nail while hammering through the frames, putting up the walls, the roof, and after plenty of painting…at last, we’ve reached the final building day at the worksite! It’s amazing to see how far things have come since Day 1 and how fast time flies by on this trip. The newly built house is ready for dedication tomorrow to a very deserving and a loving family and I can’t wait to see their reactions upon receiving their new house keys. Ely the father, is a dedicated family man who devotes strenuous hours to work in the field and his wife Ilda is one of the sweetest women I’ve ever known. Despite the little they had, Ilda and Margarita (Ely’s mother) wanted to cook for everyone at the worksite and it was so heartwarming to see how loving and generous they can be. Ilda and Ely’s 20-month-old son Michel too, has been getting his share of the attention (especially from the girls!) as he has one of the cutest smiles that can surely brighten up anyone’s day – I’m definitely going to miss his penguin walks and random outbursts of infectious giggles.
When we were given the opportunity to interview the family, Ilda was asked about what she was looking forward to the most upon receiving their new home. Both Ilda and Ely had hoped the new house will help mitigate Michel’s breathing problems (as he coughs fairly often during the day) and the risks of burglary around the neighbourhood. She also shared her values in education, her goals in wanting to start a business in the fashion industry after graduation, and how she wants to continue to set a good example for Michel. Ilda would also not mind having another girl in the family while Ely wants another boy! 🙂 I really wish the best for this family and I pray that they will be blessed with everything good as they begin a new chapter in their lives. I hope they are stoked as I am with the house dedication just around the corner!! I’m too excited to sleep haha 🙂
Thinking back to my Day 1 at the worksite, I remember being filled with excitement mixed with a touch of confusion (since house-building let alone hammering in a nail properly wasn’t my forte) but working alongside Saul (our translator/construction leader), “Papa Kent”, the family and the ever so hard-working teammates, I was able to learn so much from everyone within the week. The family has been a huge encouragement in many ways and they reminded me of all the things I can really appreciate having back at home. I am truly grateful for all the relationships I’ve been able to build and most of all, grateful to have made an impact on Ely, Ilda and Michel’s lives. Being on this journey with great staff, interns, participants and a welcoming community have definitely made this trip worthwhile and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience in the past few days.
“A smile is the shortest distance between two people” – and it really is. Even though we come from two different places with two different languages, this community has never ceased to remind us that a smile is the same in every language.
I will remember their welcoming “holas” and bittersweet “adios” and a part of my heart will always stay here in Mexico. Thank you for the unforgettable experience Hero Holiday!
Do wisdom teeth roots grow like tree roots? Apparently so!
Do wisdom teeth roots grow like tree roots? Apparently so!
Today was the first day of our medical clinics- and it was a total success! We left our resort in Sosua at 8:30am with our truck fully loaded. We arrived at La Grua around 9:30am; and lucky for us, the strapping young men had our gazebo tents already set up. There were six stations total- registration first, then the patients were moved on to vital signs. Next they were seen by the doctor and nursing students, then they picked up their prescriptions as they were leaving the clinics. We also had a station where patients could see the dentists- where they did everything from checkups, to cleanings, to fillings and wisdom tooth extractions… You should have seen the roots on that thing!
We were steady going for four hours and were able to provide care for 173 patients. Imagine if Canadian emergency rooms could run as fast as we did! We spent the remainder of the day debriefing (what we experienced today and how it made us feel), and preparing medications and supplies for the clinic tomorrow. To speak on a more personal note, during debriefing Nettie asked us to talk about a special moment we each had today at the clinic. Here are ours:
Vanessa- for me there is not just one particular special moment of my day. The entire day was a special experience. I was in the pharmacy which was lot of fun and very busy, but when I had a moment to myself I stopped and looked around at what was actually happening. Such a variety of cultures and backgrounds- Haitians, Dominicans, those from Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, and Newfoundland and Labrador all coming together for a common goal- to help those in need. I never thought it would have felt so amazing.
Amanda- I spent half of the day with the dentist, and half alongside a doctor. Firstly, it was a major learning experience. I learned how to better my own nursing skills, but I also got to learn new ones. I learned so much about the people here. Common health problems, what a major role the amount of money you have plays in your health, that there are little things I take for granted every day in Canada- I dislike going to the doctor and especially to the dentist, but I have the accessibility to do so whenever I need to. It was a profound moment for me when an elderly gentleman needed four teeth extracted, sat there and hardly flinched while we did our jobs, and had the biggest smile on his face when we were done. The gratitude they’ve expressed is heartwarming, and is something I’ll never forget.
Tomorrow we go to the next village we will set up a clinic in. We are eager to meet more smiling faces who are so grateful for what we are providing. Goodnight!
Amanda & Vanessa – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Medical Trip 2012
I have worked at Boston Pizza in Sydney, NS for the last 7 years. My franchisee, Cheryl, told me about the amazing experience she had in the Dominican last summer with LiveDifferent. I was completely overwhelmed by everything that this group of people did for the families and I knew that I immediately wanted to experience it for myself. So, with help from Cheryl, I put on a small seminar for anyone who was interested in joining me on this adventure, and was able to have four others to join me in this once in a lifetime experience! Through a lot of fundraising, support from our families and friends, and our amazing Franchisees Cheryl & Gordon, we were able to go down and experience this for ourselves.
When we arrived we were all given a schedule, and discussed what we would be doing each day. I was very excited to meet the families that we would be helping. Knowing that we were helping to build a house where these families would be safe was very rewarding for each and every one of us. However, I was just as excited to experience “A Day In Their Shoes” at the Garbage Site in La Union. I never could have imagined how hard it was until I actually experienced it for myself that day.
I woke up this morning feeling anxious, nervous and excited. As we all gathered in the dining hall for breakfast, I wondered how my day would go. Knowing that I was heading to the garbage site in La Union, to help people rummage through items that are considered treasures to them, made me curious to see what it would be like. We all piled into the truck with thoughts filling our heads. The truck pulled out of our ‘home’ in Sosua and drove along the highway for a while. We turned onto a dirt road and a local man jumped on the back to hitch a ride to “work”. We drove to the top of this long and winding road and my mind raced as I watched not only men, but women and children rummage through garbage trying to earn a few dollars for their families.
I got off the truck and my eyes were wide. The things I saw, heard and smelled overcame me and my emotions ran wild. I couldn’t fathom the thought of people rummaging through garbage for a living, and the people of La Union do this for 5-6 days a week. I was immediately paired up with a 12 year old boy that had been working in the dump for a few years. It had just stopped raining and he was covered in mud from going through the wet items on the site. He gave me a half smile when we met and I asked him his name. We got to work right away collecting bottles, cans and anything plastic that could be returned for cash. He had a pile of items already collected but it was not enough. A garbage truck drives up the road and the people swarmed it even before the garbage is dumped off the truck. It is like treasures to them because they are the first to rummage through the bags. The children stand back and watch the adults rummage through first because they have priority. The young boy looked at me and told me to stand back to keep me out of danger. He then took his opportunity to go and rummage as well. He climbed on the pile and started throwing items to me to put in our bag. We worked for a while and then broke to get a cold drink of water. Before I knew it, our time was up and we had to say goodbye. He gave me a hug and thanked me for my help.
As I got on the truck and we drove away waving goodbye to our new friends, my eyes filled with tears. Knowing that this 12 year old boy has to work in these conditions to help his family saddens me. My eyes are much wider today after experiencing “A Day In Their Shoes”. I’ve realized that you never really know how lucky you are until you experience something like this for yourself.
Christa – LiveDifferent Builds Volunteer, Boston Pizza Trip 2012
First off, our apologies to all of those concerned moms and dads back in Canada – we’re all here and safe! Today was our first day visiting the communities in which we will be helping. Meeting with the people of these communities reminded me of why we chose to come here- To help others who aren’t as fortunate to have access to the necessities for health and health care as we do. We are nursing students and are here in Sosua with 16 other students and professionals of a similar field or interest.
Today we went to La Union and Arroyo Seco, the two Haitian villages near Sosua that we will be providing care to. Riding through the communities on the bus, it was the first visual of the places that these people call home. It was evident that these people do not have much, but their affection towards their families, community members and us strangers was heartwarming. This alone was a life changing experience. The children were anxious to make new friends and to hold our hands, and accompany us on our visit. Everyone waved “see you later” as they expect our return.
We spent much time today preparing for the first day of the clinic tomorrow. We sorted and packaged thousands of medications and supplies that will be used over the coming week. It was clearly apparent that donations made it possible for us to give the proper care to the people we will see this week (thank you to everyone who helped out!). It is hard to know what to expect tomorrow – we are prepared and organized logistically and are hoping that things run smoothly. Personally though, I think we are all trying to mentally prepare ourselves more than anything. If what we saw today is indicative of what we will experience tomorrow, I know that our hearts will be full – “My pockets were not full, but my heart was” (Dr. Reginald Kerolle, Haitian Doctor).