Christmas in Dominican!

Right now I’m sitting on the bed in my hotel room at Sosua by the Sea, faintly hearing Nicolas (one of the servers) singing beautifully as he cleans the dining hall. Hearing him sing makes me love the Dominican culture and love this country even more. It makes me relax and want to sleep after a hard day of work. 

Now that our 26 volunteers arrived safely in Dominican Republic, we’ve been having a wonderful time getting to know each other. Our team is made up of 24 Canadians, 6 Americans, and 4 Dominicans (our wonderful translators). We had a great awareness tour yesterday, visiting a couple villages that LiveDifferent has partnered with in the morning, and in the afternoon we had the privilege of meeting the families that we get to help build houses for in Aguas Negras! This community, although amidst mounds of garbage, have the most beautiful people with the most beautiful hearts. The children’s faces light up when they see us driving up their streets, and we quickly hear them chanting “gringos”!
Today was our first work day and I have to say I’m very proud of this team! We worked tirelessly all day long to get as much done as possible. Most of our work consisted of lifting/passing bricks, sifting sand, making cement, and shovelling/passing buckets of dirt/rocks, and by 9pm we were all ready for a good night’s sleep. There’s still so much work to be done, and it will be hard, but the smiles on these families faces, knowing how excited they are, and knowing how important they feel that we have come all this way to help them, is our motivation.
It’s hard for me to express how honoured I am and happy I feel to be a part of this, and hope that one day soon you (whoever is reading this blog) will make the decision to expand your boundaries, get out of your comfort zone, and come on a Hero Holiday to experience the life change that so many other people have come to love!
Diane Ciarallo – LiveDifferent Staff, Dominican Republic, Christmas 2012


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: December 30th, 2012

Changing The World One Heart at a Time

It all started when I got an email at work saying that Westjet had partnered with an organization called LiveDifferent, and that they were sending 50 lucky Westjetters on an amazing journey called Hero Holiday. I have never heard of them before, but it sounded great! I wanted so badly to apply, but with two small kids, and with the first trip being held during Easter Vacation, it was just not the right time for me. Fast forward about four months, there was another email “We are going again!!“ I decided that I would apply this time, thinking that out of about 200 Westjetters that applied, I would never get picked, but at least I would know that I had tried. So, when I got the call from my manager saying that I got picked I was in shock – I was so incredibly happy, and yet terrified at the same time! What had I gotten myself into?  

Before I left, I had an idea of the hard work I was in for, and knew that I would make some good  friends while we got to spend 10 days in a beautiful country. I thought I would come back feeling refreshed and have a great story to tell. Wow, I could not have been more wrong about how I would feel. I came home with so many different emotions that I was not expecting when I left. I was so happy to be home, but also so sad at the same time. I was angry and frustrated at the many, many things that we take for granted here in Canada. I was homesick for my family and friends that I had just developed such an amazing bond with. I was exhausted, not just physically, but so completely emotionally and mentally exhausted. I remember having a conversation with my husband about a week after I got back where he said ‘I feel like not all of you came home.’ Up until that point, I couldn’t really put my finger on how I was feeling. I realized that so much of me didn’t come home, that a huge piece of my heart had stayed in Dominican, but it is also spread itself 50 different ways all across Canada, from Yellowknife to Newfoundland, with all the amazing new friends that I had made. I did not expect to make the incredible connections and wonderful friendships that I did. I have to say, I was a bit nervous heading into this trip with not even one person that I had met before. It was a gigantic step out of my comfort zone, but I soon came to realize that it didn’t matter. We were all there for the same reason, and we automatically had a connection with each other.

I was given so many amazing gifts on this trip, but one important one was the gift of sight. I am not talking about eyesight, but about opening up my eyes and seeing what is really happening in this world, and I can tell you that the conditions I saw so many amazing people living in was not okay. I saw run down shacks where rain comes through the roof, mothers cooking for a family of five on a little tin can with coals in it for a stove, kids walking around with no shoes on their precious little feet, walking through piles of garbage and streams of black water. These beautiful, strong, and happy people are living like this every single day, and doing it with grace and dignity, a great attitude, and a smile on their face.
In one of the debrief sessions for our team, we were asked if our definition of poverty had changed. I felt so bad for all the times I had whined about being so broke, saying I had no money, I couldn’t afford those awesome new boots, and feeling totally mad and jealous of everyone that could. I cannot tell you how much this question has changed my life. I keep those words with me always and I am so grateful  for every single day that I have enough money to buy my family a jug of milk or a loaf of bread. I think on a much smaller scale now, and I thank God for all the small things that he provides us with. I may not have those new $300.00 boots from the super trendy store downtown, but my family does have a roof over their heads that keeps us dry. I have a front door that locks, I have a furnace that keeps us warm, I have food to put on the table, and I have a school to send my son to. I work for an amazing company that gives us the opportunity to experience something like this, and I have a new family in Aquas Negras that I have helped give a new start in life. That is all I need to help me sleep at night. 
LiveDifferent has a saying that was repeated during the trip, “a changed heart can change the world.” I have been very surprised since I got home about how my changed heart is helping to change others. Friends that I never expected have asked how they can become a part of a Hero Holiday, others are asking how they can donate. I even had one friend ask me after I had given her a Christmas card telling her that a donation had been made in her honour to my family in Aquas Negras, how she could donate to them in honour of one of her friends! I can see it happening, I can see so many hearts changing and it is so awesome! My niece has been accepted to the LiveDifferent Academy for next year, and I am so excited for her. I now have the opportunity to give back to the people who helped me on my journey by helping her, and  I know that  by her having this opportunity, she will also get to help change the hearts of her friends, and it will never stop. I truly believe in the saying because I have seen it first hand.
I am honoured that I was able to be a small part in this life change for the five families we worked with for those 10 days, and I know that I will be back many, many times to help build more homes for deserving families. I look forward to bringing my husband and friends and family with me to share the experience with them. I am thankful to Westjet for giving us this opportunity, and I am also so very grateful to LiveDifferent for having a huge part in helping change so many people hearts.
Amanda – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday WestJet Trip, 2012

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: December 21st, 2012

Road Team Assistant Position Available Immediately (January 8th – June 7th, 2013)


LiveDifferent is looking for a mature and motivated individual to assist one of our Road Team Managers to lead a team of 10 people all across Canada, facilitating Motivational Productions in High Schools.


  • Ability to lead and direct in a team environment and work well with others.
  • Ability to think strategically and see the bigger picture.
  • Public speaking (an asset but not required).
  • General computer skills (Experience with SalesForce and Excel/Numbers are especially beneficial).
  • Highly self-starting. Always looking for and initiating opportunities for positive change.
  • First Aid Certificate.
  • Any previous traveling experience is an asset.
  • Excellent interpersonal and managerial skills.
  • Education and/or successful experience working with different cultures.
  • Commitment to the vision and values of LiveDifferent. 

Main Responsibilities:

  • Represent LiveDifferent in a positive, respectful, and professional manner at all times.
  • Team Administration
    • Organizing meals and accommodations for team while on tour.
    • Liaison between High Schools and LiveDifferent team.
    • Logging reports, communications, and logistics so information is always available for entire LiveDifferent team.
  • Team Leading
    • In partnership with Road Team Manager, effectively lead and oversee all team dynamics and logistics for tour.
    • Encourage, mentor, and promote healthy lifestyle on the team, and positive decision-making skills in all situations.


  • In addition to a small bi-weekly stipend, LiveDifferent provides free housing while local in Hamilton (you provide your own food),  and LiveDifferent covers food and lodging costs while touring.

If interested, please forward cover letter and resume to Charles Roberts ( before 3pm, Friday December 21, 2012.

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: December 19th, 2012

A Haitian Vacation – Frantzo’s first visit to Canada

This November 15th Frantzo Begin left the island of Hispaniola for the first time to see the vast country of Canada. There were many firsts on this trip for Frantzo…his first time:

  • seeing snow

  • flying for longer then 45minutes (Did you know that Vancouver is further from Toronto then Puerto Plata?!)

  • eating sushi

  • being up as high as the CN Tower

  • having a surprise party!

  • seeing an Imax movie: James Bond – Skyfall

  • going to a hockey game (no not NHL but a great game! Thank you Jon and Christy!)

  • attending the WestJet Christmas Party

  • visiting the Stanley Park Aquarium with our friends from Boston Pizza

  • seeing the rocky mountains in Banff and riding up in the gondola

  • doing the flight simulator at WestJet and landing the plane (Cole and I make a good team)

  • viewing a LiveDifferent presentation


We asked Frantzo a few questions about his visit here, and wanted to share his answers with you.


What did you learn about Canada on your visit?

I learned just how friendly and welcoming Canadians are. The road systems are so much more organized than back home. I loved the food and think I gained some weight! I also learned that it can get very, very, cold (Calgary brrrr!) Canada is so big and every city I visited was very different from the other. 



What was your favourite experience?

I had so many experiences on this trip and don’t know how to pick a favourite, but if I have to pick just one I would say going to the WestJet Christmas party. There were so many people there and the circus performers that were the entertainment for the night were amazing. But more than that, I loved seeing everyone I had met on past Hero Holidays. It was so nice for me to visit them in their own country, and I felt so loved!



What did you think of SNOW? How will you describe it to your family back home?

Snow seems to be a normal thing to accompany the cold. It kinda makes the cold seem ok. I will tell my family to open the fridge and look at that ice that collects in the back when it gets cold. Maybe I will break some off and throw a snow ball at my son Gracely!



What have you learned on this trip that will help you as you continue to work with LiveDifferent in the Dominican Republic and Haiti?

It was amazing to come to Canada and I felt very blessed. Seeing the LiveDifferent office and getting to see one of their presentations at a high school really helped me understand more of what we do as an organization. I am so happy to belong to such an amazing organization like LiveDifferent who loves and takes care of their employees and it makes me want to work hard to represent them in the best way possible. I am proud of my job and love doing the work we do!


Anything else you want to say?

Honestly, many papers and pens would be needed to describe my happiness and my thanks to everyone who make my trip possible. There are no words that can express my gratitude to you all. You made me feel so welcome and cared for. It was an honour and a pleasure for me to be around each one of you these past three weeks. I hope to return the hospitality if you come to visit Haiti or the DR. If I didn’t get to see you, don’t worry, I will be back in January (8 – 17) for the LiveDifferent staff retreat and to visit some more. I’m excited to see Niagara Falls and do some skiing for the first time too!


– Frantzo, Nettie, and Cole – Hero Holiday Dominican Republic and Haiti Staff


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: December 13th, 2012