Nicki’s Blog – Dedication Day (MX Intern 2012)

Dedication day’, two words that no one knows the meaning of until they get the amazing opportunity to experience it for themselves.

To put it shortly, Its a day where you’re able to give a deserving family their brand new home that — in just four days– was built for them. There is much more too it though, it is a day full of pleasure and emotions.

The day begins with everyone wondering what they’re going to say to the family, as you will want to have a small speech prepared that will express your time with them in those short four days. So many emotions running through everyone’s minds as they picture what will happen on that part of the journey; both good and bad. Good because you have done an amazing thing by providing these wonderful people with a new home to grow and love their family. A place where they’re safe. More emotions come from the feeling of accomplishment when you see the joy on their faces after handing over the keys to their new home. As everyone lines up in a semicircle surrounding the family and home, the dedication begins. One by one everyone that built the house speaks about how they interpreted the experience and how they hope that the family will enjoy their new place they call home. I personally get emotional because of how bittersweet it is to see their faces light up because of what we have just done for them. Bitter because I hate to see us go knowing it won’t be at least a year until we meet again.

Doing this for the third time in a span of two years is the most fantastic and heartwarming feeling I have ever felt. Even though I’ve been through it more than once, I still don’t know what to expect until I actually do experience it again. You cannot put the feelings down in writing, you cannot tell someone what you and everyone else has felt on that day no matter how hard you try. It’s unexplainable, you’re speechless. I highly recommend that everyone gets to go through this at least once in their lives, it changes you, forever.


Nicki – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Intern, Mexico, Summer 2012

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 20th, 2012

Chelsea’s Blog – I’ve Learned My Purpose (MX Intern 2012)

If I were to look back five years ago, and said I’d be spending my last summer before university in Mexico interning for a humanitarian organization, I would’ve thought it was a dream and an aspiration that was never going to happen. Ever since I was little I knew I wanted to do something with my life that was directly involved with other people. At first I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, then politics, and for a while maybe a diplomat for Canada. In September I’m going to Dalhousie University in Halifax to study International Development. Everyone has a purpose in life; over the last year I’ve learned my purpose is to give other people a purpose to their life, to give them hope, to give them dreams.

Last summer I spent 10 days in the Dominican Republic on a Hero Holiday, I am currently halfway through my internship on a Hero Holiday but this time I’m in Mexico. I’m sitting in the muggy San Diego weather thinking about the past two weeks of my life. First time on the West Coast, first time seeing, and peeing in the Pacific Ocean, and going to a new country. The night before I left for my trip one of the past interns on my Dominican trip told me not to have any expectations for Mexico, that way I could go into it with a clear head and not compare it to my past trip. I’m very happy I listened to him. I came down here completely open to the new idea of new friends and a new experience. It’s funny how fast you forget the impact these trips have on you. I’ve yet to shut up about Dominican as my close friends know, but going back into impoverished areas never gets easier.


I helped build a house for a family of four. The children were aged 15 and 5. The family spoke a Mexican dialect which made translating difficult as it’s different than Spanish. The fifteen year old son however has been going to school and speaks Spanish. Most 15 year olds are roughly in grade 10. Raoul is only in grade 6. The family was very shy, and very short. Even me standing at 5’’2 I was taller then the father. I thought translating was going to be very difficult because they for one didn’t speak English and two, were so shy I didn’t think they would open up and let us into their life. On our last day however, even just after a couple days we had this amazing bond with our family. They opened up, let us into their life, and let us give them hope. On the second day of working, I didn’t get much working done. The kids just flocked to me, so many years of babysitting really paid off I guess! I had one special friend, Yolanda. She lived next door to the family I was building. As I was playing with her and Rosalia, the little girl I was building the house for, I was listening to them talk and realized Yolanda spoke Spanish and the Mexican dialect my family spoke. She stuck to my side all week. We had a special bond with secret handshakes and jokes despite the fact we don’t even speak the same language. On the day of house dedication after we gave our family the keys I took Yolanda off to the side and gave her a sleeping bag. I have never seen such a genuine smile of love and appreciation as the look she gave me that day.


After we said our sad goodbyes to the first week participants, intern week began. We affectionately have called it, Blood, Sweat, and Tears. We spent a day cleaning up the community we built for earlier that week. After we cleaned we went back to visit our families. I hadn’t even made it halfway down the hill when Yolanda ran up to me, and as we approached the house, Paulina, the mother was holding back tears as she was so happy to see us. She mentioned earlier in the week how sad she was to see us go because she wasn’t going to have as many friends anymore. They were so proud to show us their new home. They adjusted very well after spending their days before LiveDifferent helped them in less then desirable living conditions. I’d love to go back in five years to see how they’re doing and to see how improved their life will become. Even just after a few days Paulina looked so much healthier and happier then she did the previous week when we first met here. 


The other night we walked up the hill in the community and watched the sunset from on top of a water tower. One thing I’ve always loved is watching the sunset no matter where I am, and watching the lights of the city come on. On my left all of the lights came on, and sadly just a couple of miles further away on my right there were no lights at all, and then I realized it was the community we built in just days before. No electricity at all. And I thought it was a bummer when the wifi was down. It’s amazing how guilty I feel for how wonderful my life is compared to theirs. However, even though I may have more material things then they do. Material things only go so far. On these trips is where I’ve met the people who are happiest in life, with literally nothing. Yet back home people are mad at the world because they don’t have the newest video game. It’s just interesting and frustrating at times the barriers and differences between Mexico and Canada.


Tomorrow starts a new week of participants as we make the airport runs, I’m looking forward to meeting more amazing people and changing the lives of a family completely around. I’m building a house for a family of three, the son is just 20 months old and they live in a very small house. I’m going home in 11 days. I have mixed emotions about going home. I’ve made a big new family and love the life of the Mexicans, except the food. I’m too picky and like my Canadian, Westernized food. Our main translator lives across the road from us and his wife, Julia is our cook. They have a two year old son named Edwin who will for sure be a heartbreaker. There are two dogs living with us that are just like my dogs, so it’s like I’m at home. The only difference is the fact that I can wake up here every morning knowing I’m going to make a positive impact on someone’s life. That someone will be happier at the end of the day because of something I did. This is my passion and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life changing the lives of those who deserve it the most. I may be helping to give these people homes, but they don’t realize how much they are giving me in return. Words cannot describe the feeling I get from seeing the smiles on their faces. 


Chelsea – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Intern, Mexico, Summer 2012


Author: LiveDifferent


Reggie’s Blog – Changing and Improving (DR Intern 2012)

Going into a new experience you always wonder what to expect. That is how I felt going into a Hero Holiday this year, 2012, as an intern. Yes, I knew the outline of responsibilities, I read all of the emails, and I heard stories from previous interns, but I have never experienced it myself to bring it all to reality. Now that the experience has come to an end, I now know what it means to be an intern and it is amazing!!!

When I think about what it means to be an intern, there are many aspects, but a few stick out to me. Being an intern to me means self discovery. As an intern, you are away from many of the pressures you may experience at home and are now surrounded by people who are very similar to you. Just like you, these people want to make a difference. These people are understanding and exceptional listeners. During our time with LiveDifferent, the interns shared their life story with as much or little detail as they wanted. It felt great to see that each and every intern gave full attention to the person telling their story and each time someone finished there were no shortage of hugs to be given. Most importantly, despite the differences among stories, everyone has had their struggles and there is no reason to feel alone. Sharing my story allowed me to move on and further my own self discovery.
Being an intern also means being a leader and a responsible role model. As an intern, other volunteers look up to you for advice and information and use you as an example. It is always important to know what is going on and to follow rules. It feels great to be looked up to and to know the answer to a question when someone asks. Being a leader, a role model, and holding responsibilities gives you a great boost of confidence. This is important in improving your leadership abilities. When you are in a leadership role, you cannot avoid strengthening your leadership abilities. The Hero Holiday internship program with LiveDifferent ensures you have responsibilities that involve various leadership skills. You will face challenges in these responsibilities, but you will learn to quickly problem solve and hope you make the right decision, (or at least learn from your mistakes in handling it!) 
Lastly, and most importantly for me, being an intern means building countless relationships. This is what made the experience the most fun and appealing to me. I have made close, personal friendships with staff, volunteers, and the people in the communities we built in. I cannot explain in words how amazing these relationships are. Each individual has touched me in some way, whether with their story, an action, or just their personality.
Here is a little story that expresses some of the friendships I have made. This was my second Hero Holiday, my first was last summer, and both were in Dominican Republic. Last year I was on the trip that was just 10 days long, and I didn’t know anyone at all! I was a part of a team of about 18 volunteers, and before the first day had ended I felt like I had known most of them all my life. By the end of the trip we had created our own family. We had many experiences together and countless inside jokes. But, unfortunately at the end of the 10 days we had to leave each other. We all kept in touch over Facebook, texting etc., and the relationships remained strong. I know this because this year 13 of the 18 volunteers returned to the DR for a Hero Holiday this year. It was almost as if we never left each other. The bond we have feels amazing and never fails to bring a smile to my face.
On top of these friendships are the relationships you form with the community and families you work with. Working on the same home the whole trip allows you to get to know the family, have some fun, and talk to people. The feeling you get when the family hugs you and thanks you over and over for their new home is unbelievable. When you make a connection with that one child who remembers your name because you remembered his or hers, and comes running to you every time he or she sees you – it is beyond amazing!
Being an intern has meant so much to me, and it has been a big part of my growth as an individual. If you are interested in the LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Internship Program, or have any questions about anything I wrote about, or even just want to chat by all means hit me up on Facebook or shoot me an email at (LiveDifferent will forward the email on to Reggie to reply). You can also find a lot of info on the LiveDifferent website or contact one of the awesome LiveDifferent staff!
Reggie – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Intern, Dominican Republic 2012

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 15th, 2012

Boston Pizza’s LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Round #2

Well I am blessed to be on Boston Pizza’s LiveDifferent Hero Holiday round 2. On top of that, given the opportunity to write a blog on my first day returning to the communities I was able to bring a difference to a year ago was amazing. So this is my attempt at giving my feelings and emotions the justice they deserve.

I started my day earlier than needed with breakfast and a walk down the beach with a good friend, anticipating the journey I was about to embark on. I knew I was about to see some things I had seen before, but what I hadn’t prepared myself for was how differently I would see them. The reason I say this is because I didn’t realize how comfortable I had become with the people of LiveDifferent, other volunteers, the communities, and my overall surroundings; I guess you could say this feels like a second home to me.
So we met in the lobby at 10:00am, and I felt like, “wow I can’t believe it has been a whole year since the last time I climbed up onto one of these trucks; no windows or doors, just some benches with a roof, and plastic sides. Feeling the wind and any possible bump on the road, sitting side by side with other people just like me.” But surprisingly it was the same feeling again, so I climb into the back of the bus and wait for the day to begin.
Our first stop is La Union, the town where last year we had children climbing all over us and the men having races with boys high on their shoulders – this year was no different. The only part that was different was the amount of time it took those children to get on our shoulders. I can’t explain how much it felt like I had been here only yesterday. Today though, for whatever reason it may have been, it was harder for me to let go and get back on the trucks.
Arroyo Seco was our next stop, and the first man we saw had the biggest smile on his face, Pastor Garcia. We were able to sit down in the school that was built for his community and listen to him as he told us his story. His story hit me so hard this year, the fact that all the man had was faith and a dream, and he was able to not only see a two-story school built, but he made a food plan and was able to give the children in the community an education. I teared up while he was speaking because I too have a dream and so much more opportunity. It finally hit me that I have nothing holding me back or stopping me!
Our last stop of the day was Aguas Negra. Cole, LiveDifferent’s Program Manager, had told me how different it looked and how different the community was as a whole. The roads have been paved, and as we drove through Aguas Negra, we were able to drive deeper into the community than we did last year. Cole was exactly right and I was so excited and proud for them. We got to see the new houses we were going to build and all of the emotions came flooding back from last year. Again it felt like we were here only yesterday.
I must say the first day was very surreal for me, I know it has been a year, but I really can’t get over the fact that it felt like we never left. I can’t wait to continue my second journey with LiveDifferent, as well as the Boston Pizza Foundation.
-Devon, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Boston Pizza Foundation 2012

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 12th, 2012

The Doorway to a Different Life

“Do not go around at night by yourself,” my Mom kept telling me before I boarded the plane. “There are always drug wars in Mexico, I don’t think it’s a good idea to go,” my friends would say. Hearing things here and there from Mexico had instilled fear in my mind. I have always associated Mexico with shootings and drug wars. I was really scared at the idea that in less than 24 hours, I would be in a developing country where families struggle everyday to survive and face another day in their challenging lives. Having never been to Mexico before, all the things I heard from my friends and family led me to believe that I had made a wrong choice in going to Mexico. This perspective had me shivering and thinking that Mexico was a country filled with crime.


As I boarded the plane to Mexico all I had in my mind were the haunting words I had been told. However it was too late; I couldn’t turn back and not go anymore. After all, going with an organization should be safe, right?


On my first day in Mexico, all the fear and doubt I’d come with dissipated from my mind. The people in Mexico are amazing! Despite the hardship they have to face every second of their lives, they still keep a smile; a smile bigger and brighter than I ever had!


On the second day in Mexico, the weather was pretty hot and the sun was unforgiving. We were building the family’s home, and even though we were exhausted already from the work and the heat, the family kept working hard. While we were taking breaks and trying to gain back our energy to start working again, the family still kept on hammering the nails in the wood and carrying the supplies around the worksite. Their hard work and dedication was something we all admired and were astonished by. Despite the amount of work there was to be done and the amount of effort it required, they were still laughing and smiling with each other – it was a sight that caused my heart to squeeze tight. Regardless of how unfortunate their circumstances were, the family had not given up hope and was still working very hard towards their goals.


What I thought would be my first impression of Mexico was the complete opposite of what I experienced first hand. The mere sight of them made me realize how much I’d taken everything I had for granted. The amazing people we are surrounded by here do not seem to believe in giving up. It is as if as long as they have each other, every obstacle they face will be conquered! Playing around with the kids in the community had also proven to me that we do not require money in order to be happy. I knew that this trip would be a learning trip – a trip where more than just one life would change, including mine.

Kevin – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Mexico 2012


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 7th, 2012