Love beyond measure

The experience we’ve had seeing the contrast between the drastic living conditions and amazing hearts of the people of Vicente Guerrero is one that words can hardly encapsulate. One can barely fathom how a family could have next to nothing, and yet, in terms of hope and love, everything. Those we built for were a beautiful family of seven: Javier and Silvia, and their five children, Isabel, Araceli, Susanna, Javier, and Silvia.

The gratitude they displayed to us was beyond measure. Not only were they thankful for the house they would, and now do, have, but they eagerly participated in helping to build it. Even Javier, the three year old son, grabbed nail after nail to pound in alongside his dad. Wistfully and sadly he cried “More!” when he was told the row was finished. It’s one of the sweetest memories from the build. Every moment of the time we spent with this family, we saw a smile on all of their faces. When the kids fell while playing, they laughed. When the heat inside their old house was unbearable, not once did they complain.

I think is safe to claim that Dedication day was our entire team’s highlight of the week. Sweet Silvia holding back tears in her thanks, the young girls’ sheer excitement at their brand new bedroom, and all that was laid out for them, and Javier calling out “Mi casa es mucho forte!” (My house is so strong!) was a heartwarming experience that we will never forget. Seeing them walk from plastic and cardboard to a building that would brighten their future, and the awe and joy they beheld, was indescribable.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned from this week was the irrevocable joy present in the humblest of circumstances. Going home felt like going to a foreign country – the widespread consumerism, disruption, and indifference in our culture is something our family had made me forget entirely…and, moreover, not want to remember. Every member of the family we built for changed my perspective in a way I had not known possible. The way they opened up to and trusted us, and showed us such love and appreciation, was so touching. I want to live as thankfully, lovingly, generously, and simply as they and my biggest wish with that is to return to see them someday.

Michaela ~ Hero Holiday Volunteer 2013

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 4th, 2013

Scooby-Doo: The Adventures of Bell Island

Remember waking up early Saturday morning as a kid and running downstairs to turn on Scooby-Doo cartoons? We always thought the gang’s crazy and creepy experiences were amusing…until recently when our team got to experience a real-life episode of Scooby-Doo.

Our adventure took place on Bell Island, which is a small island 20 minutes off the coast of Newfoundland. The plan was to spend the night at St. Michaels Regional School on Bell Island and perform in the morning. After a bumpy ferry ride and a long trek up a steep hill, we made it to the school. Upon arriving there, we were fed a potluck dinner and enjoyed talking to the Vice Principal who began to explain life on Bell Island. One topic led to another and soon enough the topic of haunted houses came up to which she replied, “You know this school is actually haunted.” We all laughed thinking she was just yanking our chain, but as she began to describe in great detail the rolling pail of the ghost janitor, the random pencil sharpeners, and the children’s voices in the back corner of the gym, we realized she was serious and that the school was indeed haunted.
Now, I am not brave by many definitions, in fact I quite openly confess that I am a huge “scardy-cat”. So you can imagine my feelings towards staying in a haunted school overnight. The girls decided to bunk in the computer lab for the night because it was supposed to be ‘the least haunted’ room in the school. I hoped that I would pass out fast enough that I wouldn’t hear any of the spooky sounds….but much like in Scooby-Doo, you can’t escape the unusual activities! At roughly 12 AM, as we were all snuggled up in our beds, each computer mysteriously turned on, one after the other. We all freaked out! Throughout the night, the computers would mysteriously turn on and off in perfect synchronization. Needless to say, we couldn’t figure out what was causing it, and no one slept well that night. I woke up the next morning exhausted and honestly just wanting to get the day over with. We performed the show in front of 170 students ranging from grades 7-12. They seemed to respond well to the show, but the full extent of our presence was relevant after the show when we got to talk to them.
We found the students of St. Michaels to be extremely friendly and got into easy conversation. Every person I met greeted me with huge smiles and enthusiasm. I got to met students from all grades and ages and loved talking to each of them as topics ranged from the presentation to Hero Holiday to life on Bell Island to NHL teams. It amazes me how such different people from such different walks in life can form such bonds. It’s as if our differences is what makes us fit so well with each other. In high school I never ventured far outside my group of friends, I didn’t think I could find friendship with people so obviously different from me. This tour has showed me that quite the opposite is true. Audre Lorde said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” At St. Michaels, I saw this truth unfold before my eyes. We had all made such amazing connections with numerous students that the whole team was reluctant to leave!
What started out as a scary situation turned into an inspiring day with amazing people. I never would have thought that the best day would be in a haunted school on Bell Island. I will never forget this incredible experience!
Jenna – LiveDifferent Academy Student, Team 1, 2013

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 2nd, 2013

Laughter and Tears

For some of us, this trip was a new experience. For others, it was a return to a “home away from home”. Regardless, the impact has been substantial for us all. Upon arrival, we learned we would be building a home for a very deserving family of four. Fidel and Leticia are the proud parents of thirteen year old David, and two year old Jesus. Immediately, the entire team adored little Jesus. Like many families before them, they had very little and lived in a manner which many would see as unimaginable. Their previous “house” was composed of cardboard boxes and plastic bags.

When we arrived on day one, many mixed emotions were present. In one way, there was an intense emotion of excitement; however, at the same time there was an overhang of shock and sadness. The conditions which the family and the community were living in were outstandingly different compared to those we were used to in our home nation. However, the family took great pride in their possessions and this was clear to us through the immaculate condition of their double plot property. The fence which Fidel had built consisted of sticks and plastic. Although this may not seem to be much in words, the detail was astonishing. On top of this, they had planted gardens around their house and property.

Throughout the week, the family took part in the build. Hammering, sawing, cutting and tarring, they took ownership of their new home.  Even little Jesus got some painting done, not only with a brush, but also his hands! Relationships with the family and the team blossomed beyond anyone’s expectations. Another highlight for the team throughout the week was playing with all the neighbor kids. They would come up to us saying “capuche, capuche” and calling us “monkey loco”. We had so much fun playing soccer with all of them.

When dedication day finally rolled around, many of us were filled with emotion. As we began to share our thoughts with the family, Jesus decided it was his turn to have the floor. Speaking and gesturing with his hands, he brought laughter to each of us through our tears. This experience has taught me to not only be thankful for all that I have but to also be thankful for all that I can give. The family was truly grateful. We as a team have definitely been challenged by LiveDifferent to actually LiveDifferent. A desire to help others does not have to stay here in Mexico, but rather should follow us home, and wherever else in the world we may be. 

Aaron – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Mexico, 2013


Author: LiveDifferent


LiveDifferent Reunion!

It has been an amazing experience being back in Mexico again.  The highlight of our trip so far has been visiting with the beautiful family we had the chance to build for last year.  The connections that we made with Jesus, Katherine, and Abdiel were beyond our expectations.  It was the greatest feeling seeing them standing outside this year’s house build after walking all the way from their home to see us.  Even though it was a quick visit, it was a breathtaking moment seeing their faces after a year. 

Later on in the week we got the opportunity to go visit them and see how they’ve turned their house into a home.  Unfortunately Jesus wasn’t home, but we were able to speak with Katherine.  Walking around their home and seeing how well they are doing brought tears to our eyes.  The fact that they have bought a car, a fridge, and many toys for Abdiel, goes to show how we’ve given them a hand up instead of a hand out.  Being able to talk with Katherine and hearing her say she hasn’t forgot about us, and how grateful she was that we hadn’t forgotten about her, was a feeling that words can’t describe.

Not only did we get to know Jesus, Katherine, and Abdiel last year, but we got the chance to know Katherine’s brother, Jonathan, as well.  For our recent house build, knowing that Jonathan was our translator was exciting, but when we saw him for the first time in a year it didn’t seem real.  We were so overwhelmed with happiness that we got the chance to reconnect with him.  Overall, we’ve had an amazing time, but nothing beats the feeling of being reunited with a family that made such an impact on our lives and seeing the progress that they’ve made in a year.

Tayler and Sarah – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteers, Mexico,  2013

Author: LiveDifferent