Did you know that it’s possible to go four months without having one bad day? Yeah I didn’t either, but due to a series of random events that resulted in my joining the LiveDifferent Academy, i now know that it is in fact very possible!
Something you should know about me is that I have a mother who is very into “finding your purpose in life” and I have spent many hours listening to her talk about “manifestation” and “the law of attraction”. But you know how your parents can tell you something a hundred times but yet it takes someone else telling you the same thing just once to make you take it seriously? Yeah that was one of those times! So in my grade 12 Leadership class I found myself making a vision board. For those of you who don’t know, a vision board is a collage of pictures and images depicting the things you want to have, be, or do in your life. “A vision board is a simple yet powerful visualization tool that activates the universal law of attraction to begin, manifesting your dreams into reality.” I included pictures of the places I wanted to travel to, the University I aspired to attend, and images of people doing the things I wanted to experience in my own life. The last image I added was a close up of a microphone with an audience in the background, representing my desire to be a motivational speaker. In my mind it was so far out there and I didn’t give it much thought.
This was the picture.
Fast-forwarding a few months to the summer after my high school graduation where I found myself adventuring through Europe. I experienced and saw some amazing things and met so many cool people. This kept reminding me of the previous summer where I had spent a month in Trujillo, Peru, volunteering in the slums of the city. I reminisced a fair bit and remembered how passionate and alive I had felt during that time. I wanted to feel that again! Not five years from now when I was finished University. I wanted it now! And so through a random series of events, which I have come to believe to have been not so random after all, I joined up with LiveDifferent as an Academy student.
Coming back to the present, I can say that I just spent the most amazing four months of my life touring across eastern Canada with an incredible team of people, doing motivational presentations in high schools throughout the country. WOW! What a life changing experience. I don’t even have words to describe the feeling of waking up every single day with such a strong sense of purpose, knowing there is nowhere in the world i would rather be and that I am doing exactly what I should be doing.
It was in a moment after one of our first shows in Kitchener, Ontario, that I realized something significant. I realized that the picture on my vision board of the close up microphone and the blurry crowd of people behind it was exactly what I had seen that day standing on stage. I was overwhelmed by the fact that not long ago it had seemed bizarre to think that I could ever be standing on a stage motivating others to believe that their lives have purpose and value.
Being on tour with LiveDifferent has been truly incredible to say the least. I have never felt so happy and whole (as corny as that might sound). Getting to meet students from across the country and having them tell their stories was something I will never forget. Being on the front lines of a movement that is challenging people from all walks of life to live out acts of love, hope, and change is an indescribable feeling.
So even though the past four months of my life posed times that were both challenging and rewarding, I can honestly say that nothing about it was bad. By looking at the challenging times as a learning curve, they simply turned themselves into opportunities for growth. Waking up every morning knowing that my life has purpose has enabled me to now tell you that, yes it is possible to go four whole months without having one bad day. 🙂
– Carina, LiveDifferent Academy Student, 2012/2013
For most, I would guess, the week has gone by too fast. For the people of the hills, given the cold weather, this winter week may have gone by too slowly. It’s all relative . Poverty exists where reality falls below expectations. A person may not be poor if they believe that life is providing them with all that they truly need. One person’s necessity may represent another’s unnecessary luxury. It’s all relative.
Today, three (more) Mexican families gained a gift that, for them, probably represents something closer to a necessity than a luxury — a new house. They all had a structure which they had previously called a house, but which usually lacked a decent door and/or roof. It’s all relative.
These three families expressed their respective gratitude in very similar ways. First, the father spoke, and then the mother brought tears to the eyes of the builders, and usually her older children, by shedding her own. Other neighborhood children ran around the group, some speaking their limited English vocabulary. Some people were realizing a dream and others were still chasing one. It’s all relative.
Three families in those hills now have one less worry. They still live in a neighborhood that has no constructed roads, no sewage system, and very limited access to electricity in the year 2013 in a country with the world’s thirteenth largest economy. Perhaps, richer countries care for their underprivileged citizens less well, but other poorer countries have created much better social safety nets. It’s all relative.
Whatsup! My name is Josh. This is my first hero holiday and below is a little about my trip to Mexico.
The first thing that really struck me on the trip was the similarity between us, those who have come to build from Canada, and the local people. I’m building for Paula, Silverio, Estefania, Karina, and Israela but there are always a lot of locals around the site helping us out and watching us work. I expected a rough divide between us, however I’ve come to realize that every similarity, no matter its positive or negative implications, serves as an indication of the importance of the humanitarian efforts to bring human dignity and equality.
On Sunday we assembled the house with the help of local grandmas, men, children, and mothers. We raised the four walls under the careful direction of our fore-woman Kelly. As we began to paint the house we noticed a thick, dark rain cloud advancing towards us. Soon the rain started, showering everyone in these big cold droplets, and we scrambled to put our tools in the back of the bus. It wasn’t until we were pulling away on the bus that we noticed our fresh paint streaming off the house and a group of locals caught out in the cold. We could leave the site in the comfort of our bus, but they were still on the muddy hill where we were building our house, lacking strong roofs or warmth. Still they smiled, showing resilience familiar to those who struggle to meet their basic needs. On the bus trip back, there was mostly silence and the low murmurs of those voicing their discomfort with leaving the site and abandoning those who we had come to help. It was just too easy for us to drive away. What would happen when we left Mexico altogether? How can we live in comfort when others around us have so little? It’s always easy to oversimplify these situations and live detached in an illusion of helplessness.
On Monday, I was fortunate enough to have a long talk with one of our translators. He outlined the workings of the Mexican drug cartels and their relationship with America. The cartels, he explained, smuggle the drugs into the States, fulfilling the demand in the North. Doing runs for the cartels pays unfathomably better than working in the fields picking fruit or vegetables; when it comes to the point where a family is struggling to feed their small children, there is often no other option. Our translator explained that the media has severely distorted the violence that occurs in the country. Legal efforts against the cartels have often led to a power vacuum that brings violence. However in general, the cartels’ presence is minimal. The money that the drug cartels bring in can often be used positively in the community. However as a whole, the Mexican drug trade is part of Mexico’s role as a satellite economy that is dependent upon the consumerist culture of Canada and the States. It’s doubtful that drug cartels in Mexico will dissipate before the Northern demand ceases. In short, we should be critical of our escapist culture, which is fixated on luxuries and mind-altering substances, instead of turning our anger towards Mexico.
It’s hard to put the sentiments associated with this experience into words. It’s frustrating to try to put something so big into words. I hope what I’ve written gives some sense of this trip and what the volunteers are doing.
Yesterday’s visit to the garbage dump was quite different than what we had experienced before. Maybe it has been one of the most intense for me. The mixture of emotions that I felt there is difficult to explain, but I’ll try my best…Before leaving, we had a meeting with Nettie, where she explained how we needed to prepared for the day. The people who work in the dump are mostly of Haitian origin and are adults and some children who live in a nearby neighborhood. Because of their illegal status, gathering recyclables in the dump one of the few jobs that they can do, but they make very little money out of it. On that morning it was going to be our job to help these people collect as many recyclable plastics as possible, adding even a little to their daily wage.
As we were getting close to the dump, the smell of the garbage made me nauseous. I told to myself : “Eliana you need to control yourself. You are here to help this people and give your 100%!” As we got out of the truck, one of the first people that approached us was a kid who everybody calls “Chichi,” who Nettie had told us earlier was the youngest person working at the garbage dump. He choose me to work with, and I was really happy to help him. We started to walk, and we were able to talk back and forth a little bit in Spanish. I felt so much respect for that kid. Just to see him there, so young, only 7 years old, very focused on what he was doing, showing me which bottles were good for recycling. While we were searching for plastic bottles, Chichi found a small plastic yellow ball, and close to that, a wood stick. He was very excited about it, we played some baseball there. It was so strange how in the middle of this chaos, he still was a kid, eager to play, eager to have a good time!
In one of the garbage bags, Chichi found a zip-lock bag containing two bread rolls and one croissant. He gave it to me to put it in the bag with all of the other recyclables. I really didn’t understand why but I followed what he ordered. Minutes later the big bag was full and it was time to deliver it to where he and his family kept all the collected recyclables. When we got there, an older woman was sitting on a plastic bucket, trying to have some shade under a triangular tarp. Chichi told me she was, “mi abuela,” his Grandma. He opened the bag and rummanged inside until he found the zip-lock bag with the bread. With such a proud on his face Chichi gave the bread to the grandma. This was something that touched my heart.
When it was time to get back on the truck, I remember how my eyes were getting full of tears, and I was trying very hardly to hold back from crying. That was the moment that everything came together in a mix of emotions.What about Chichi, I wondered, what would it be his life in a couple of years? Would he be able to live the kind of life that every kid deserve? Would he be able to go to school? Would he be a healthy kid? Will he have dreams and ambitions? Will he have more opportunities to have a better life one day? Will he have hope that things could change? And moreover, how many Chichi’s are there or will be there very soon? How many will have the same future? I left that place with a feeling of high respect for these people, and I realized that a plastic bottle is never going to look the same to me again.
Hello my name is Brandi. I’m 17 years old and visiting Mexico from the small town of Edam, Saskatchewan. I came to Mexico thinking I would simply meet new people, observe another culture, and lend a helping hand. There couldn’t be a bigger understatement. When packing for Mexico I was anxious for the experiences I would be encountering. Mexico was a place I had gone for nice warm trips with my family. I had been to resorts, the beach, and toured vendors. I remember visiting this country in the past and hearing about what was going on outside of the tourism area and not understanding. Also, as my Mom was preparing me for this trip it was a preparation for a dangerous place where I wasn’t to trust anyone. That was a huge mistake. I have never felt so safe in my entire life. The more that I see this country, the more understand about the Mexican culture and poverty in general, the more I don’t understand about humanity.
Earlier in the fall we were sent profiles on the families that we would be building for. There were some heart wrenching living conditions that were tough to comprehend. Of course it was easy to continue to work and live in my own little world, retire to my heated house, and crawl into my own comfortable bed every night. On Monday we went to meet these strangers that we had read about months prior. These people were no longer blank faces on a computers screen, they were now physically in front of us. Their story was no longer words in an email but something we couldn’t get away from. Poverty is real, and these people live completely different lives from us all simply because of the birth lottery.
It didn’t take long for these people to become our friends. Although we didn’t share the same language, we could communicate in different ways: hand gestures, broken Spanish, and smiles. The children stole our hearts in a fundamental way, showing us just how much love one can have in the direst of circumstances. And the fun they have! Without helmets or protection of any kind, four kids raced down a steep hill riding Tonka trucks and tricked out milk carts as we cheered them on! Everything was a game to these children; we had kids lining up for a chance to hammer a nail or paint the walls of the house, excited to simply be part of the build. Their happy grins and loving smiles were some of the best things that I’ve ever been lucky enough to experience.
Not everything is fun and games, however. On our second build day, we were struck by a sudden rainstorm, an experience very different from the Canadian weather that we are used to. These storms can devastate the communities in which we work, as many houses are built from little more than cardboard and plastic and provide minimal protection from the elements. Though we had been informed that the rain was coming, it was still a challenge to put down our tools and retreat to our bus, while so many others shivered outside. It was a relief to finally put the roof up on the house, so that our family (and their neighbours and friends) would no longer be exposed to Mexico’s inclement winter weather.
My time in Mexico this Christmas and New Year’s was among the best experiences in my life; the people that I’ve grown to know and love will be with me forever. I can’t fully express how amazing this trip is in this blog; to understand the joy in the smile of a child in poverty, you must see it for yourself.
One day earlier this year, I was searching the web for something special to do with my daughter over the past summer. The link that came up for ‘LiveDifferent’ completely caught my attention, and I had to click on it. The more I read, the more interested and enthusiastic I became to participate . The ideas and concepts that were demonstrated on this website were something that my husband Carlos and I have been looking for for a long time. We have always wanted to make a difference in the world, we just didn’t know how. One of the things we considered was to travel to Venezuela, the country that we are originally from, to help the poorest people there. However, since Venezuela is one of the most dangerous countries in the world due to criminal activity, we decided it wasn’t a good idea. This is why the discovery of LiveDifferent was awesome. The next day I showed the website to Carlos, and he seemed very excited about it too. Days after we talked to the kids about it, they felt it was fantastic. We were very proud about their reactions. A week later, we started to come up with ideas about fundraisers that could help meet our goal to collect as much money as we possibly could for this project.
That dream became a reality and today we are in Sosua, Republica Dominicana, on the Hero holiday program, and I can honestly say that this has been the most spiritual and meaningful trip of my entire life The sensations, feelings and emotions I am experiencing are indescribable. It is one thing to watch a short commercial or documentary, showing how poor people are living, but it is entirely another to experience it in reality. This experience is something tangible. You see the faces, you smell the dirty garbage all around you, and you try to interact with these people as much as you can to make them feel important! I have realized with this experience, that although it is true that we are giving these families a wonderful gift by building them a nice home, that for me it is also a wonderful gift knowing that my family, other volunteers and myself, are making a difference together for the lives of these people.
Today I had a very joyful moment with Carmen, the woman whose home we are building. As I was smoothing concrete on to the wall, I couldn’t help but notice Carmen, in her future room, walking around, with the biggest smile that I ever saw on her face. I asked her what was on her mind and she said, “this is something that I’ve always been yearning for . Every time that it rained, the river close to my house would overflow and all the water would barge into the house. Some rainy nights I would stick my finger on the floor and in that moment I knew that as soon as I woke up my house would be flooded with water, not knowing how I’d be able to get out of bed. I lost everything, my bed, my clothes, my furniture. Everything! Now with this new house, I will be able to watch the rain through the window, feeling calm and safe, knowing that water won’t ever barge into the house like that ever again. God bless you all for everything you are doing for us.” I told her how glad I was and she gave me a kiss on the cheek. We gave each other a big hug. Her smile and the hope in her eyes made my day! Carmen’s son Juan Carlos, will be in the room next to hers. I also had a short conversation with him. He also talked to me about the whole water situation and the struggle that they’ve had trying to keep the house together. Juan Carlos proudly expressed to me his love for math and how he’s studying in the university to become a math teacher. He also said how focused he is to meet his goal . As he was explaining all his dreams to me, the hope in his eyes were priceless . The look of joy and gratitude on his face were indescribable. My best wishes to Juan Carlos!
It is only the second day participating in this project of LiveDifferent, but I feel that my soul and spirit have gratefully enlightened themselves, not only for the new hope we are giving to this family and for the difference we are marking in their lives, but also for all the beautiful children in Aguas Negras that receive us with open arms and gorgeous smiles:)