A win-win situation!

I was fortunate enough to take part in a hero holiday in Dominican Republic from April 4-13. How I got there with a bunch of westjetters is a story in itself!!!  Up until I received a misdirected phone call I had NO idea who LiveDifferent were, much less what they did. I operate a small convenience store in a very small community in rural Newfoundland with a population of just under 500 people. At the time I received a phone call that was intended for our school (it seems that LiveDifferent was contacting our local school to come do a presentation). While phone to ear and hands vigorously typing on laptop I quickly came to the realization of who and what LiveDifferent really are. I asked the person on the other end of the phone how to register online…and it spiraled from there. I am happy to report that a few months ago LiveDifferent did indeed do a presentation at our local school and I did indeed register and go on the hero holiday as well!!!   It was a win-win situation!
I have said from day one that ” everything happens for a reason” and YES,  I know that now to be true.  Not only did I meet 30+ fantastic people who completed this journey with me,  I also met hundreds of Dominican and Haitian people as well. I have also said that from the very beginning of this journey that it was like an emotional roller coaster for me. I honestly have no other way to describe it. I cried enough tears while I was there to fill an ocean I’m sure, but at the same time, one huge smile could absorb it all.
I find it very hard to put into words all the feelings that consumed me while on this journey, and it really doesn’t matter because no amount of words, story telling, or photos could even begin to describe the feelings that one will endure after completing this type of journey. My only regret is that I did not find out about this earlier in my life however that will not stop me from continuing on to help for as long as I can.
I feel that not only did I go help build houses for five families, I also built life-long friendships with my fellow workers, the Dominican people, and the phenomenal crew of LiveDifferent. I will DEFINITELY go do this again and again and again.  The smiles on every face makes every blister, every tear,  and every sad moment  SO worth it at the end ! There are a lot of problems around the world and yet there is always hope…and I’m feeling so blessed right now that I actually got to be a part of that HOPE and let me tell you it feels Awesome!! They certainly named it right when they named the organization LiveDifferent because anyone ever fortunate enough to participate in this will most certainly  LIVE  DIFFERENT!!
Janet – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Dominican Republic 2013

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 30th, 2013

The strength of the Haitian people

Today was a hard, yet inspiring day. We woke up bright and early, at breakfast together and started our trek up the steep hill to the school. After the relief of making it up to the top, and seeing the beautiful view that we would witness while working we were greeted eagerly by all the young Haitian children attending the school. They rushed outside yelling ‘Blons’ which is the name for white people, and shortly after formed a circle around their teachers who led them into the most adorable song and dance. We all took pictures and a few team members even joined in. There were a few children with broken school shoes, frayed socks. One boy I noticed had a badly disfigured foot, so bad he couldn’t walk on the sole of his foot. He walked on the side of it and still managed to wear shoes, walk and kick around a soccer ball like all the other children. He coped with life the way all the other children did, and didn’t let his disability stop him from doing anything he wanted to do.

When we got back to work, I noticed quite a few differences from Haiti to home in Canada. In Haiti when you need some water, you have to send someone all the way down to the well to carry up 5 gallons at a time on top of their heads. In Canada, you would just call in the water truck. The construction worker’s lack of protective gear was alarming. Most of them were slip sliding around in their flip flops every time water got on them during all the cement mixing. None of the workers wore gloves to protect their hands, goggles while smashing rocks, or hard hats for protection.

Seeing our new friends Wesley and Kevinson working so hard shovelling and using the only broken pick axe they could find bought me to tears. I was wearing gloves just to pick up sand and rock filled buckets, immediately passing them to another team members. So after a short while, I couldn’t handle watching them clench their hands in pain anymore. I dug up the extra pair of gloves I had brought along, took off my gloves and gave a glove out to some of the workers. The relief and thankfulness on their faces from such a simple act filled me with such joy. I have formed a friendship with these two boys and I am so thankful to have met them! I have been so moved by everything I was able to witness today and I look forward to more while on this amazing journey in Haiti.

Michaela ~ Haiti Hero Holiday volunteer 2013

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 11th, 2013

A Collective Thought on Trees

A very special day today! Three groups of business people came to the home to give back. It all started with a group tour that allowed the donors a chance to look into the lives of these children and inner workings of the home. 


Joanna- “It was amazing! After the tour, a business group had all the children, all the donors, and our mighty LiveDifferent team plant trees that grow fruit and vegetables around the home. What was so special to me was that this gift wasn’t just going to be used up. It was something sustainable and long lasting, and will continue to give to this incredible group of kids. My special memory was when one of the kids; Umnud, had planted his tree and had his arms wrapped around it. Clearly enveloped with joy by this bestowal, Umnud reminded me for the one millionth time on this trip how grateful these kids are. Not to mention how much honour they carry with them.”


Taylor- “I was overwhelmed by the act of giving. Not just by the children, (how they are with each other and our LiveDifferent team) but also by the donors . Declan, the leader of a company gave a moving speech that inspired me. He spoke about philanthropy and explained that he was a businessman who worked to help others invest money so they were constantly increasing their funds. Refreshingly, he had realized that giving back was the reason he sought out to make so much money. He said, this (the home) and places like it are where his heart is. It moved me to find that this man may have been a businessman, but that it did not define him. He proved to me that stereotypes can be very wrong and that all people can do great things when their heart is really in it!”


Jessica- ” I don’t even know where to start. My favourite part was physically planting the trees with kids and the donors. What was so special to me was how invested the kids were in the maintenance of their trees. It was comparable to how a mother would nourish her child. The thrill of actually putting these plants in the ground was obviously something these kids cherished. Ironically, where we come from a lot of kids may not have put so much love and respect into planting a tree. R-Pae, the sweet girl I planted my tree with was immensely involved in the process. She and I planted the tree and by herself she went to get a watering pale. I watched this little girl lug the pale across the court (she would not let me help her) and water each and every tree around her, one by one. I should mention, running back and forth with full water pales. We’ve experienced many acts of kindness by these kids. Today was no different. A gentleman who’d been planting, had dirty hands and R-Pae helped him wash them.”

Isn’t the cycle of giving magnificent? These companies were ecstatic to be in the presence of these remarkable kiddies and visa versa. When they were headed to their truck the kids gave each member a present, a bracelet or necklace they had made, as they doused them with water and smeared wet baby pounder on their faces (a Thai New Year’s tradition!!) Lastly, proceeding this eventful farewell, we surprised the munchkins with a water filled balloon fight! One of the most hilarious events that we took part in all week. The balloons disappeared almost instantaneously but it did not stop there. The kids roared with laughter as they threw the remaining hidden balloons (in their shirts, behind their backs…etc, etc.) at the best targets and then filled buckets with water and dumped them on each member of the LiveDifferent teams head. SO refreshing on such a hot day, and an amazing way to end yet another memorable day at the home. 


Sah wah tee kah:) 




Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 10th, 2013

Coffee, Rock Stars, and Thrift Stores


Recently, our wonderful cross country journey has brought us to a little town called Winkler, in Manitoba. Winkler is your average small town, with plenty of friendly people and fun things to do – except that this specific small town created an environment for one of the most amazing weekends that I’ve had on this tour. Throughout my experience on tour we have met some of the most inspirational and heart warming people, yet for some odd reason a large amount of those people seem to have been pooled together in this little town in Manitoba.
What brought us to Winkler was a man called Hebb, a friend of Mosely, the band currently touring with us, who went out of his way to book this absolutely amazing show around our schedule in order to allow Mosely to play at his youth event. The night of the show, consisting of two local bands and Mosley, kicked off our epic weekend! I see Mosely play almost every single day in front of students in countless schools, but I had never seen them do something like this. They chose the song order, they practiced for hours and hours, and this was 100% them. It was honestly beautiful to see something that they put so much time into finally come to life. The whole time they were on stage I couldn’t stop smiling, and I had this overwhelming feeling of pure joy. I felt so thankful to have such a truly talented and hardworking group of people travelling with me, and even if I told them every single day it would never be enough.
The next day started off with an awesome breakfast made by Hebb, which involved a lot of bacon! It was the first morning in a really long time that we got to sit down, with no plans for the day, no time crunch, and just enjoy ourselves with some new friends. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to have no place to be, and nothing to be doing. It was wonderful to spend a day hanging out at a local coffee shop and fooling around at a thrift store. There is something so freeing about being able to spend long periods of time getting to know people, and doing things that aren’t really productive but are so satisfying. During the tour we meet new people everyday, yet sadly sometimes we don’t get to spend long periods of time getting to truly know them and that’s unfortunate. Luckily on this weekend we got to know this group of epic people and spend time together! It reminded me of the value of a casual conversation, the wonderful feeling you get when you meet people who share common interests with you, and the importance of once and a while not having any responsibility and getting to just hang out and be yourself.
I want to thank the people of Winkler for giving our team amazing memories that we will never forget. Thank you for taking us in and showing us your little bit of Canada; thank you for allowing us to have a weekend without worries and reminding me how beautiful it can be to do nothing. Thank you for sharing your stories and lives with us, and lastly thank you all for being amazing human beings.
Brigitte, LiveDifferent Academy Student, 2012/2013

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 9th, 2013

Bamboo Poles and Hearts Filled With Hope

When Christal  asked for blog volunteers, my hand shot up. I usually have a lot to say and was so excited to be in Thailand, I thought, no problem, the words will roll off my tongue…..I was wrong.

We have now been at the Children’s Home for 3 days. Each day has brought a bucketful of emotions followed by questions…many of which have no answer.
I’m not 100% sure what exactly we expected to find when we arrived at the home, but what a wonderful joyful place we discovered. There are kids of all sizes, all ages, some Thai, many Burmese, all abandoned by parents for one reason or another. Perhaps we expected to find caution and maybe even suspicion. Instead we were greeted with welcome smiles, open arms, jasmine necklaces …and of course buckets of water mixed with baby powder. What kid, young or old, doesn’t like soaking another kid (or adult) on a scorching hot day!
These kids are cared for. There is a palpable feeling of love and well-being in the home, and not just between the caregivers and the kids, but also between the kids themselves. Young ones hang off of older ones, siblings take each other under a protective wing. Everywhere you look you see the signs of a joyful childhood, laughter, smiles games, tickling and teasing, candy, ices and all the rest. So it is so easy to forget that, until the home, many of these kids lived off their wits alone on the street. And many were sold for labour or sex, doing whatever necessary to survive. Some were tortured by their parents when they refused to beg. Others simply left, no longer able to carry the burdens of their home lives.
For me this is where all the questions set in. As a mother myself how do I reconcile my own view of the gift of motherhood with one that permits the sale of a child? And how do I suspend judgment so that I can learn and see and possibly even understand?
It seems to me that the women and men who run this organization do not seek to judge, but rather to love. Corny? Perhaps. But there is no other explanation for what I have been witnessing; the sharing, the teaching, the extraordinary kindness in the face of enormous problems, drug addiction and extreme poverty.
Kru Nam, the founder of the organization and a passionate and dedicated advocate for the rights of children is married to Pi Pot, who works alongside of her in the parenting of these 120 kids. She told us a wonderful story. Last year LiveDifferent built a library. Pot asked each child to pick a bamboo stick and paint it with a different colour. When all the sticks were completed, Pot fashioned them into a beautiful fence to surround the library with beauty and strength. “We are like that fence” he told his kids, “all different shapes, all different sizes, but standing together we hold each other up and give each other strength.” Corny? Perhaps. But how remarkable to see family and community built in the place of devastation and destruction.
I have been moved beyond words by what I see all around me here.
~ Annette, Hero Holiday Volunteer, Thailand 2013


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 8th, 2013

Would you like some water?

On a hot summer day, if someone asked you this question I guarantee your answer would be yes, without another thought. Nothing could ever prepare me for what I experienced today and it will forever force me to rethink the answer to this simple question.

Today was our second day in Haiti and as usual, it started with the very tiring hike up the mountainside to our build site, the school. We were told that we could help today by bringing water to the work site from a local well. LiveDifferent is pretty cool because they really get us involved in the community and do things the way the locals would, so this means that we would be bringing the water up the mountain from the well that is 20 minutes away…on our heads!

I was quite nervous about this because while watching the locals they made it seem a little too easy. While walking down the mountain I kept watching to see if I could pick up any tips. We arrived at the well and there must have been about 50 people there filling up their buckets. Everyone from 5 year olds to grandparents were filling up buckets, placing them on their heads, and walking away as if it were normal to be carrying that amount of weight on their heads. What wasn’t normal was the group of white people who were attempting the same, so of course we drew quite a crowd!

We learned the bucket rarely goes directly on your head, you must have a piece of cloth wrapped in what looks to be a donut between your head and the bucket. If the ‘donut’ wasn’t folded or placed right, you had no hope of taking any step towards your destination. As I stood there waiting, I was laughing and joking with my friends wondering how I was going to do this with a full 5 gallon bucket of water in front of me. As I was attempting to tie my extra shirt into a ‘donut’, a lady about my Mom’s age walked up to me, took it out of my hands and tied it for me. As I thanked her in Creole she placed it on my head and helped me place the bucket properly then she walked off. Later while the group was discussing this, another volunteer said ‘she wasn’t even smiling, this wasn’t funny to her because this is her life.’ She made the trip up the mountain everyday, most likely upwards of 5 times a day, but she was willing to help us. The group of LiveDifferent volunteers stopped a few times on the way up the mountain to catch our breath and she was waiting for us every time with a full bucket still balancing on her head, and she helped us retie our ‘donuts.’

It was only after reaching the top of the mountain, when I could empty out my bucket into the large container that it hit me how privileged we are in developed countries.

In our debriefing that night one of the staff mentioned a quote that states, ‘one of the worst parts of being poor is that it takes up all of your time’ and after experiencing the hike up the mountain today, this quote could not have been more true. Instead of spending time with her family, developing skills or even finding a job, this lady spends the majority of her day getting water. This is something that in Canada, we wouldn’t even give a second thought to. An average 8 minute shower uses 40 gallons, one flush of a toilet uses 2 gallons and that doesn’t even include the water we use for drinking, cooking, cleaning our cars, or watering our gardens. It took me 20 minutes and all my energy to get only 5 gallons and I guarantee the next time I turn on a tap I’ll think differently, will you?

Matt ~ Haiti Hero Holiday volunteer 2013

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 6th, 2013

Live with purpose, live with love, LiveDifferent

I can’t believe this day has finally come. After months of fundraising, planning, and anticipating we’re all here in Haiti. It is the most surreal experience to speak and dream of doing something, and then actually live it. I had no real idea of what Haiti would be like; after all, all I had ever known of this country was through text and film. What I have experienced on my first day in Haiti has surprised me, amazed me and touched my heart in so many ways. 

When we first came to the Haitian border after our 3 to 4 hour journey from Dominican Republic I was instantly aware of the change between the two countries. First step was to get our passports and papers processed by the Haitian customs. As we got out of the bus to get some fresh air, it was instantly clear that our presence was noticed by all the locals. It is later that I found out how rare it is for a group of Caucasians, “blons” as the Haitians call it, to be seen in Haiti. We began lining up to get processed. The female officer would call out each name of the passport and match our face to it. As she did this I noticed her smile at every single person that came up to her window. A smile on a custom officers face is something that I am not used to in Canada or the United States. Her smile instantly put me at ease and I felt my anxiety fade away. I was ready to begin my journey. 

Walking through the border in the blistering heat is something I will never forget. I kept looking around me and thinking I cannot believe I’m in Haiti!! It really felt like an out of body experience. There were fewer guards than I had anticipated. The extreme difference in the environment, infrastructure and scenery was shocking from what I have grown up with in Canada. 

Once we crossed into Haiti, we got on another bus to drive to our hotel. During this ride we all got to see a glimpse into some of the lives of the people. As I looked out the window I noticed children running around, parents working, people walking along the street. The condition of the houses that the families were occupying was incredibly heartbreaking. At times I could see 6 to 7 people in a house the size of my bathroom at home. It is one thing to hear about these conditions, but to actually see them as a tangible reality is really an emotional experience. Out of all the quick glances, one struck me the most. As we drove by one of the houses I noticed a young boy, maybe 4 or 5 years old, run to a man who seemed to be his father. The boy bear hugged the man’s leg and did not let go. It was in that moment I saw in front of me what we hear all the time. We as people are all the same. We all have families, we all love our families and all we want is to love and be loved. We are all of the same worth and we all deserve basic human necessities and amenities. The people of Haiti are just like us, but why is it that they suffer and live in such unfair and brutal conditions? I knew this question would come back to me again and again every step of my journey. 

Once we arrived at our hotel in Cap Haitien, I was so surprised at how beautiful, clean and well kept it was. My own pre-conceived notions were confronted and crushed. The staff were equally beautiful and extremely gracious helping us settle in. Although I was happy, I also felt a conflicting sense of guilt because of the beautiful space I would be living in compared to many Haitian families a few minutes away from me. 

Once we were settled in, we went to visit the school we would be working on for the next few days. The walk up the hill to the school is definitely not for the faint of heart. It is yet another example of what people go through everyday in this country. Once we got to the school I instantly saw the breathtaking view of the mountains, ocean, and Cap Haitien. It is something that cannot be described in words, and it encompasses the beauty of Haiti. The entire school was made of stone, cinder blocks, and cement. I could already tell how much work and effort had gone into building the two classrooms and principals office that holds 177 children. I was astonished that so many children fit into such a confined space. And yet they come to learn, they want to grow and build a better future for themselves. These tiny rooms are the hope for so many families. I could also see the work that still needed to be done and I knew how much work it would take. I am so excited to be a part of it and leave my fingerprint on the school in Cap Haitien. 

After the school visit we went to explore the town. Walking through the village I was confronted by level of poverty that I have never before seen. It was so hard to walk by and not be able to do something for them right away. There were so many children and parents peering through their doors to watch us walk by. We waved to as many as we could to say hello. So many would light up and wave back saying, ‘Bon Soir!’ Somehow the people of Haiti are surviving, they are living. They get up everyday and work for a better day. They open up their homes and smile and wave at a group of foreigners walking through their town. The spirit and strength surrounds you at every corner. The people of Haiti live in conditions that no human should ever had to experience. I never really truly understood this statement until I walked through the village. 

I cannot wait to keep exploring this beautiful city and learning from the amazing people who call it their home. I hope to bring hope and show the people of Haiti that someone cares. Someone in the world out there has thought of them. Everyone deserves that. Everyone in the world should feel that they matter, and that their suffering has not gone unnoticed. As much as I am excited to help with the construction of the school, I am equally excited to learn from the people in this city. It has become very clear to me that the Haitian people have many things to teach me. I am in anticipation of the lessons and adventures that await me. It has been less than 24 hours that I have been in Haiti and I have a renewed understanding of what it takes to live with purpose, live with love and to LiveDifferent!


Star, Hero Holiday Volunteer, Haiti 2013


Author: LiveDifferent


Falling In Love, One by One

It’s common to fall in love with Thailand. It’s hard not to. But I’m falling in love in Thailand. Seriously. One child at a time. One adult at a time, one idea at a time. 

Every day we travel from our hotel to the children’s home. Once there, we’re instantly enveloped by the younger kids who compete, it seems, in expressions of affection. Then we play!

This morning we began with photography lessons. Augusto and I were just amazed at our eager pupils. They handled the cameras with  tenderness. And then shared their knowledge with each other with equal tenderness. 

Tonight was karaoke night and time again to put work aside and fall in love with all of the incredible people I’m blessed to be with. 

And I’ve fallen hard for the idea that love is power. And there is none greater. 

~ David, Hero Holiday Volunteer, Thailand 2013

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 5th, 2013