Shark Tooth

The moment I saw the “LiveDifferent” presentation at my school (Margret Twomey Public School) I realized that a goal of mine was to learn more about this organization, poverty and to someday travel on a “Hero Holiday.” Those three years that “LiveDifferent” had come to my school, gave me the motivation to travel and help people in need, when I was old enough to attend on my own.  When I realized that my family was supporting me to go on a “Hero Holiday” I was ecstatic. I was even happier that I was able to get the chance to experience this amazing adventure with my Mom.

The day I travelled to Dominican Republic to the village of Nuevo Renacer on our awareness tour, it was not what I was expecting to see. The homes I had seen were no larger than a small shack. Most homes were made out of scraps of wood, and tin, or anything that could be found. They had holes in the roofs and walls. Water was leaking from the roof and flooded on the streets on rainy days. The house I have been building with my team is for a single dad with three sons. The father has been raising the three boys on his own for the past fifteen years. I could not even imagine how hard that must be for him.

One of the highlights of my Hero Holiday is called “A Day in the Life.” I got to experience this amazing morning with my Mom. The family I had met was a Father, Mother, and two children (ages 15, and 11). The son was born premature, which has given him many physical and mental disabilities with upcoming surgeries to repair his vision. The father provided for his family, by fishing as his employment. Eight months ago, he had a terrible accident, and could not fish anymore. Today he picks and sells fruit, and he also has three rooms that he rents out for income. He also fixes electronics. When my Mom and I went into their home, the Father showed us a jaw of a shark that he had caught, and also a beak of a sword fish. This was the most amazing thing that I have ever seen, because he had so much pride in showing us that he had caught these.

Many people have running water, washing machines, dish washers, microwaves, but here in Dominican Republic they often have none of these things. All these appliances that many people take for granted this family that I had spent the day with only dreams of having. Washing clothes by hand in a tub with hauled water and hanging it on a string line is not the easiest thing to do, as I realized after spending time with this amazing family. After spending the day with this family, it made me realize how privileged I am living in Canada to get all the things that I have, and how much I take them for granted. Now that I am on this Hero Holiday, I realize what LiveDifferent is all about.


Grace ~ Hero Holiday Volunteer 2013 

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 23rd, 2013

The Act of Teaching

Lugging a suitcase around an airport with only thirty minutes of sleep the night before isn’t the ideal way to begin an enormous humanitarian trip in the Dominican Republic. With so little energy, I didn’t feel overly enthused about meeting forty-something new people, struggling through Spanish, and suffering through the extreme heat and intense humidity – not to mention the incredible workload I would be taking on in the following ten days. And now, here I am; I’m just wrapping up Day 4 on my Hero Holiday and I’ve already had a handful of incredible experiences.

One morning on the worksite, I was given a task that involved a shovel and a group of muscles that I never bothered to develop. When our translator asked who wanted to pull nails from boards, I immediately volunteered, thankful for being assigned an easy job. It wasn’t easy. “Nail removal” quickly became “yank on the nails, give up, put the board in another pile, wish for stronger deodorant, grab a new board, and repeat.” A local elderly woman watched this process for a while and then beckoned me over in Spanish. Although we didn’t speak the same language, she began to teach me the best way to remove the nails (put an extra board by the nail and use it as a booster for your hammer so you don’t have to pull as hard).

For the next little while, she guided me: she straightened out crooked nails, she loosened up tough ones, and she held down the boards to keep them steady. She would never do the job for me, but rather would demonstrate, hand me the hammer, and smile. It would have been less stressful for the entire worksite if this little old lady had just taken over the Nail Removal Site and let me take a siesta somewhere, but she took the time and care to teach me how to do it properly. By the end, we were celebrating each completed board with a cheer, a high five, and a quick exchange of Spanish and English that the other never understood. When we finished for the day, her and I even compared biceps (she acted impressed at my muscles, but hers were much bigger so I think she was just flattering me).

The next day on the worksite when it came time to remove the nails, I didn’t have to worry about nails with a mean curve or two boards being nailed together. The little old lady worked alongside me, smiling as wide as ever. This really ties into the whole “give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime” philosophy that I believe is at LiveDifferent’s core. We’re providing a house, yes, but we are also involved in creating a better community and helping the local economy by hiring contractors. I’ve experienced many awesome things – a waterfall hike, a pool party, and the cool relief of an ocean swim after a hard day’s work – but this woman’s act of patience and guidance is something that has been vital to my experience thus far. I can’t wait to see what the remaining days will bring. And I can’t wait to tell this story to my Dad, who I assure you will say, “You didn’t know how to take out nails?”

Shanae ~ Hero Holiday Volunteer 2013

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 22nd, 2013

Meeting amazing people

Today was the second day on the work site. The house is coming up a lot faster than I thought it would be. Everyone always had something to be doing. If it wasn’t sifting sand or mixing cement, then you would be playing games with the kids on the beach.

Everyone in the community was there to help.  Even the family the house was for was helping. You can’t really tell how grateful someone is until they receive something that they’ve worked for and deserved their whole lives and they are still there to help build, all day.

Everyone in the community is like a big family, they don’t care who’s blood you have, it’s just if you’re there then you’re loved and cared about the best you can. All these people give up so much of the little they have just to please everyone else. They always think of other people’s needs and wants before their own. It’s like they would rather do things for you than have you do something for them.

I was told about a boy that already lost their father to Diabetes, and who’s Mother and Brother have the same disease. That boy had to watch his mother bring his sister to an orphanage because there wasn’t enough food on the table for the four of them. People that live in such harsh conditions don’t deserve to be burdened with even more struggles. I think that if a few teenagers can build a house for a family to live in for the most part of their lives, then the amount of change that can be made with more and more people everyday is unimaginable.

Ben ~ Hero Holiday Volunteer 2013


Today was our second day on the worksite here in Dominican Republic. Our names are Amy and Danica and this is our second Hero Holiday with LiveDifferent. This year was a little different to last year because we got to participate in ‘A Day in the Life’ experience. This is where we as volunteers travel to a member of the community’s home and experience things about their everyday life. This was an eye opening experience of how we need to recognize the priveleges we have back home.

We had the opportunity to visit a woman named Mila who lives alone. We learned a lot about this woman and her difficulties throughout her life in such a short period of time. Six years ago she lost all of her toes on her right foot and one on her left due to Diabetes. This restricts her ability to walk freely and she also can not work. Mila should be able to depend on her insurance to pay for the expenses of her daily insulin shots, but due to unknown reasons she has to pay the 3 dollars herself which is an extremely difficult task when you are unemployed. She relies on her neighbours and family to help with the medical expenses as well as her daily expenses.

While we were in Mila’s home we helped her cook, clean, and do laundry. It was very interesting to see the differences between how she performs these basic tasks compared to us at home. This was an eye opener of how hard the people in these communities have to work to perform responsibilities that take us less than five minutes to do. We gained a new perspective of how fortunate we are to have the standard of living that we possess here in Canada. We also gained a new level of respect for the people in the community and how hard they work for the lives they have.

We are extremely grateful for receiving this opportunity to connect and experience a day in the life with this courageous woman. It taught us to not take the little things at home for granted and to appreciate everything we have in our lives.

Amy and Danica ~ Hero Holiday Volunteers 2013

Author: LiveDifferent


Intern Week in Dominican Republic


In between the two public trips, the interns have the privilege to stay in the Dominican Republic and take part in a week full of adventures. So far we have painted a school and experience ‘A Day in the Life’ and we have had time for intern and staff to get to know each other better. Today all the interns participated in a Leadership workshop. This establised what leadership is and how we as interns are leaders. During the workshop we completed multiple tasks and activities that gave us a better perspective on what leadership is.

When asked during the workshop what characteristics a great leader would express, there were so many different answers. I sat there thinking in my head that great leaders are not made up of the same characteristics, but they can have many. If you look at great leaders in your life they all have different characteristics and all have accomplished different things. When I look at all the leaders that I was sitting with, almost every person expressed unique leadership characteristics, and that’s what makes a great leader.

We were also shown a video that showed leadership from a dancing guy. The video involved a guy who had the courage to stand up at a festival, dance alone and look ridiculous. What he was doing was easy to follow and that is one key to being a leader. If a leader is easy to follow and sets an example, more people will join and it eventually becomes about the people and not the leader anymore. It also taught us the importance of being able to follow a leader and not always be the one making decisions.

Overall this workshop helped us understand more about leadership. It helped us know how to improve and become an even better leader. It gave us the chance to participate in activities and make new goals. It is information that will never leave my head!

Austin ~ Dominican Republic Intern 2013



When returning to the Dominican Republic as an intern I had no idea what to expect. During intern week we participated in many fun activities, one of which was a creative workshop in Arroyo Seco. During this time we got to teach the children of the community how to make bracelets, help them with colouring, arts and crafts and also got to have a face painting area where they got to choose what ever they wanted. My fellow artistic interns made it happen.
We started off the day by explaining to the kids the different stations and then they got to choose where they would like to begin. The station I was first at was bracelet making. At home I love making threaded bracelets so I was very excited to share that knowledge with the children. They each chose three colours and we cut the string to the correct length tied it all together then placed it on the bench so each child could have their own working area. First it was a little confusing to teach everyone because of the language barrier but once we overcame that battle it was all giggles, smiles, and beautiful bracelets.
Another station that was set up was painting. The kids loved getting their hands dirty with paint and creating master pieces on the paper, even on each other sometimes. After each child had completed a painting and signed their name on the bottom we would hang it up on the wall of the community centre to display their beautiful art for everyone to see. 
One of the most creative stations we had was arts and crafts. We had googly eyes, pipe cleaners, construction paper and so much more. Here the kids were using glue and tape to piece together the best thing their imaginations could conjure up. One of the interns started making pipe cleaner glasses for the children which was super cute because before we knew it everyone around had colourful Harry Potter style glasses. 
The most popular station was the face painting. It started out only needing two interns but turned into four and five because each child had such a creative imagination that each face was so elaborate and we needed to make sure everyone got their turn! 
At the end of the day all the interns and staff said our goodbyes to the children as they raced outdoors to compare faces, crafts and bracelets. Although it was quite the big mess to clean up after our tiring but awesome day we did not hesitate to each get in line to get our own faces painted, we had everything from pirates to fishbowls on our faces, we’re all kids at heart right. After many pictures and laughs we packed everything up and headed back to the resort. We all raced down to the beach to cool off in the pool.
Later that night the interns and staff all went to Cabarete. We window shopped and talked, took awesome beach pictures and enjoyed a lovely Italian meal together. To end off the night our awesome leaders Kelly and Kent treated us all to ice cream for dessert, it was such a great night out to end an amazing day. 
Being able to stay in this beautiful country for an entire month is one of the obvious perks of being an intern, but the not so obvious perks are some of the best. We form incredible bonds with the people of the communities we work in and also friendships that will last a life time within our LiveDifferent family.
Kimberley ~ Dominican Republic Intern 2013

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 20th, 2013

Eager to grow, be used, and come back changed!

Putting the 35 hour bus ride and anxiously anticipated border crossings behind us, we have arrived in Mexico not only safely but eager for what is ahead. Although the circumstances were maybe not ideal for everyone, it was definitely an experience consisting of opportunities for relationships to form and for people to be stretched. 
Meeting the families for the first time was emotional, humbling, and exciting. Introductions were made and an instant connection was felt with the families and the group. We were thankful for some down time before our first day of building we were able to start construction strong. 
The houses are progressing nicely; however, “Life is about people not stuff”- LiveDifferent, and everyone has been impacted in one way or another by this saying. It may be through interactions with the kids, giving piggybacks, or simply building the homes alongside the families. We look forward to the week ahead and all that is in store for us; eager to grow in and be used, and come back changed.
– Lisa, Hero Holiday Volunteer, Mexico 2013

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 16th, 2013

A day of celebration

My name is Beth and this was my very first LiveDifferent experience. Today I experienced something that not many people have the privilege of experiencing in their lifetime. I, along with 54 other inspirational people, handed over the keys to a brand new Medical Clinic and two homes for two very deserving families in Nuevo Renacer, Dominican Republic. At twenty one, I feel so blessed and honoured to have taken part in this journey. I am sad that I just recently discovered the work of LiveDifferent and got involved. However, I am glad that I can now say that is it something that I have accomplished and it is an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

The people of Dominican Republic are unbelievably admirable. They have the hope, happiness, relationships and dedication to their lives that some people search for forever. The hardships that they overcome each and every day are often more than anyone can experience in a lifetime. Medicare is now something that I know I previously took for granted. Until coming here, it was hard for me to understand the depth of their struggles. As medical practices are some of the largest expenses and the one of the greatest demands in this community, it was incredible to be a part of the construction of the Medical Clinic. Not only does it provide services to the community and to those who require the facilities, but it provides a new sense of hope for the longevity of life. It is hard to fathom that people die every day because they do not have the access or money to medical services. As the Medical Clinic is open to the entire community at large, I am incredibly excited and proud that so many people will be able to reap the benefits of this facility.

Earlier in the week, I had the honour to sit down and talk with a few of the family members of the first house that we were working on. Talking with Sonja, her two daughters and daughter-in-law was inspiring and eye opening. After discussing several areas of their lives from their hardships to their hopes, it gave me so much joy to watch them receive the keys to their homes. Sonja, Antonio, their two daughters along with their son and his wife were living in a house the size of my parent’s kitchen and dining room. They have faced numerous struggles throughout their lives. However, they continued to dream through the belief of greater powers. After hearing a bit of their story, it was incredible to see them receive the keys to their home, knowing that it would provide a glimpse of light to their lives. Hugging the family as I walked through their new home gave me a feeling that I will never forget. 

Our team worked with several different Dominican translators during our time here. Their stories alone make me wish that I had more time and money to commit to the incredible community of Nuevo Renacer.However, today was a day where time and money didn’t matter. Today we handed over the keys to the fiftieth house built in Nuevo Renacer to Bella and her family. Bella and Sara have been working with LiveDifferent for the past few years. Over the years, LiveDifferent heard about the struggles and hardships that they faced in their lives and in their previous home. Knowing this, LiveDifferent with some other sponsors, jumped through as many hoops as possible to provide Bella and her family with the home that they deserved. As Bella and her family are such special people and have provided LiveDifferent with so much help and their kind spirits over the years, we were determined that their house would be a surprise to them. As our team and several of the other translators knew this prior to the build and dedication, it made it that much more difficult to hold in our excitement during the build. The house is special in so many ways. It was such a surreal experience to hand over the keys to Bella, knowing that their lives would dramatically change forever. Their new home provides them the security and safety that they deserve. After today, Bella and her family no longer have to be concerned about not being able to pay rent. As a result, they do not have to be fearful of the struggles that they previously suffered in their old home. Knowing this provided me with emotions that I am unable to describe. Watching Bella accept the keys to her new home as she was supported by her daughter and son is something that will forever be engraved into my mind.

At the beginning of our trip, the interns and staff told all of us volunteers that we would not be the same individuals walking away from the Hero Holiday. After today, I now understand why. Prior to this experience, the hardships and lifestyles of the families that we worked with and met were only stories. After experiencing a “Day in the Life” and the emotions of providing a home to two deserving families and a Medical Clinic to a community, the stories turned into life experiences and memories. I feel so privileged to have worked alongside so many inspiring young people and volunteers over the last ten days. I hope that I can one day return to the Dominican Republic and sit down and talk with Sonja, Bella and their families. I would also love to see the next part of the Medical Clinic and hear all about the people that have benefited from the services from the centre.

Beth ~ Hero Holiday Volunteer 2013


Author: LiveDifferent


Family bonding while mixing cement

I’m currently in Dominican Republic with my son Robby, 14, on a Hero Holiday.  When my children were little I would fantasize about taking a trip with each of my sons the year they each turned 14.  I thought this would be the perfect age.  They would be old enough that we would have many travel options and young enough that they would be willing to travel alone with their mother. Another key element in my fantasy was that they would be responsible for deciding where we should go. My husband agreed it was a great idea as he knew the hours he would be spending sharing his passion for hockey and this would be an opportunity for me to share my love of travel and besides we had 10+ years to prepare!
Well the years flew by much more quickly than we ever anticipated here I am on the trip I dreamed about with Robby, my second oldest son. Like his older brother, he chose for us to come on one of LiveDifferent’s Hero Holidays to the Dominican Republic and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  Just as they did two years ago, my entire family has made sacrifices so the two of us can enjoy this trip together. Again the investment has given us a priceless return. 
A Hero Holiday was not the kind of trip I originally anticipated taking all those years ago. Yes, it involves us traveling together to a different part of the world but no, it hasn’t been the opportunity for the two of us to indulge alone time together deciding each day what to do and see. Instead we’ve become teammates working alongside each other with the goal of improving the living situation of people who were initially strangers to us. We’ve shared a schedule that’s been carefully planned for us and 17 other members. 
We’ve been introduced to pushing ourselves to think about the world around us in a different way and we’ve been asked to work hard and play hard. As a parent I could have never imagined all I have learned about Robby by watching him meet the demands of this trip: to build relationships with teammates from all over Canada, to build relationships with the trip staff and leaders and to build relationships with people who live in a community far away from our own. The joy in seeing him work just as hard to mix cement as he does to find a translator so he can find out more about the friends he’s meeting around the work site. I see it in the sweat beading on his skin and the huge smile on his face as he works as hard as he can to make a difference for his new friend in a community that now doesn’t seem so distant.
This Hero Holiday has been so much more than any trip I could of envisioned taking with my son all those years ago. This trip has shown me what a terrific young man my baby boy has become. A young man his entire family is very proud of.
Alison ~ Hero Holiday Volunteer 2013

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 9th, 2013

Who our heroes are

At debriefing tonight we talked a lot about people’s wants and needs. You have your needs such as food, shelter and water, and you have your wants such as entertainment, special brands of clothes and richness. Today we spent our first half of the day with a family learning how they live and helping them out with daily challenges. The second half of our day was spent helping to build the new local medical clinic. Both of these tasks really helped us open our eyes and really understand the difference and separation between wants and needs.

The family we helped was a family of three children as well as the mother and father. The father was off working; he does not have a specific job but he goes out every day looking for any odd jobs he can do to make money to provide for his family.  On a good day the family makes $2.50, which does not cover the daily needs, so they often survive off one meal a day. We helped clean dishes, sweep the floor, clean clothes, fold laundry and cook a meal called “morro”. Their water was stored in a big bucket that was placed in the kitchen and used for multiple tasks. The house was very small and filled with children, which made the house really crowded and very hard to move around. They have so little but are the happiest family we have ever met, they are always smiling and full of energy. They struggle with daily needs that we take for granted at home, which leaves little room for wants. We are so grateful to have met and spent the day with such a wonderful and beautiful (bonita) family.

The medical center that is being built is something that is a need for the community and its people. We worked very hard and as a team with not only the LiveDifferent team but also with the people in the community. It felt so uplifting and great to be a part of such a wonderful experience. The people are so friendly and affectionate. You don’t need to speak their language to understand their gratitude because their hugs and smiles say it all.

It’s very hard to put all of our emotions onto one little piece of writing, because the emotions just keep building. We’ve only been here for three days and already feel so inspired and affected by everything that we are so fortunate to take part in. In school almost every year they ask us to write about who our hero is. If we had the chance to do that assignment now there is no doubt we would write it about all the wonderful and amazing people we’ve met so far.


Gracias for reading,

Hannah and Chelsea

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 6th, 2013

Giving Back

My name is Lesley. I’m 16 years old and I’m from Musgravetown, Newfoundland. This is my first, but definietly not last, Hero Holiday with LiveDifferent! I first heard of this organization from a presentation at my school back in March. Listening to the speakers talking about children and families that have nothing really hit home for me.

Last July, my family home burned down. We lost everything we owned, including our family pets. I realized after the fire that I only owned the clothes on my back. Although this was tragic, everyone in our community was so supportive. People I didn’t even know were coming into my work place and handing me $50 bills! After hearing about Hero Holiday, I knew that this could be my way to give back. I have been amazed by the kindness of strangers, and I want to give others the same feeling. 

Today we did an awareness tour of some of the houses that LiveDifferent has built in the previous years. We got the chance to visit Nuevo Renacer. The first thing I noticed was that everyone was so friendly! People were waving to us as we were driving down the street, and we were all greeted with a smile. During our walk through the community, a little girl ran towards me and jumped into my arms. We instantly became best friends! She was so cute. She took my camera out of my hands and started taking pictures of anyone and anything. When it was time to go, she wouldn’t let me go. I attempted to tell her in Spanish that I would see her tomorrow. I’m so excited to spend the rest of the week with her and the rest of the children.

The next community that we went to was Arroyo Seco. We got to visit a school that had been built there and it was fun to try to read the Spanish words that were up on the walls. It’s great to know that the children there can get an education. A specific thing that caught my attention today was that although these people don’t have very much, they are very generous. The last house that we went to was on top of a huge hill. The family there was so kind to us. The boys picked some mangos and gave them to our team. They also gave out fruit that looked like mini limes. They were so good! The children and families in these communities warmed my heart and inspire me to be a better person. I’m looking forward to spend the rest of my trip working with them and my team.

Lesley ~ Hero Holiday Volunteer 2013

Author: LiveDifferent


Not ready

Today was the day we have been dreaming of since our arrival.  The energy, the excitement, the anticipation has consumed us. The house is finally complete.  A house that we built for Paulina.  A house that we built for the community and we cannot wait any longer to turn it over.  But wait, a sudden thought hits us.  If we pass over the keys now, we have completed our project.  Our time here is over. We are not yet ready to go home.  We are not yet ready to stop building.  We are not yet ready to stop playing, laughing and smiling with the children.  We are not yet ready to say good-bye to William, Junior, Gustavo, Martin, Spiderman and Carmen. We are not yet ready to say good-bye to our team of “Glamazons”.  A group of ladies we have formed an unbreakable bond with and who are now considered family. 
If we were home and a real estate agent turned over the keys to a new home owner, it would be a joyous day for everyone.  The real estate agent would get their 5 % on goodness knows how many hundreds of thousands, the seller would be cashing their cheque and the new owners would be so happy and proud to be moving into their new home.  Today, we gave more than joy to a handful of people.  We gave a new home and life to 83 year old Paulina. We gave hope to a whole community – a community of young and old, who only last Friday, were complete strangers to us.
All 10 of us arrived here thinking that building this house was our goal, our mission, our reason for coming here.  We thought we would wake up each morning with such pride knowing we were one day closer to completing this house for Paulina while adding to the LiveDifferent housing community. But very early on it became about more than just a house.   Little did we know, this project would play a huge part in shaping our thoughts.  It has changed the way in which we act and the things we say and do.  Each day was a journey.  We learned a lot about love, strength, kindness and the gift of giving, never considering the monetary side, just of faith, hope and change.  Pastor Garcia and Sandra attempted to open our eyes to this on our first day but we were too naive to know the real purpose of our journey to their wonderful country.  
Working so closely with 10 amazing women, we began to share their thoughts, see their strengths, help them with their weaknesses.  This journey would not be complete without recognizing these 8 women: 
To Barb, our “Moufasa”, who has watched over us and given us a perfectly timed smile, word or hug.  
To June, who’s laugh, chatter and reminder to “Wake up June!” gave us a lift whenever we were feeling low.
To Viola, a woman initially of few words (and now not so much…lol) can lift your heart with one simple gesture of love, without needing it returned.
To Michelle, the quiet, driven, not so photogenic lady who always “has your back”.  
To Laurie, the nurturing spirit who is ever patient (Karen’s roomie) and who always comes to life when a child catches her hand.  
To Karen, our “walking zombie”, our fly dope distributor, our chicka who is equally as excited about knowing the recipe for different types of concrete as she is about making the human connection with each community member.  
To Lisa, the master of timing – whether we needed a funny English Harbor West saying (“shined up”) or an uplifting song or nudge, she was always there.  To Jacinta, the creator of “this mess”…lol. To put 10 women together for 10 days knowing that each and every personality would complement the other is no easy feat.  She gave us the opportunity to feel and see what she had previously experienced and we will be forever grateful.  She lives for each and every day.
As for us two, when the monkeys are running the zoo, who knows what can happen?  Can you say “PARTY ALL NIGHT???”  The “Glamazon girls” will continue to lead our warrior pack to whatever adventure they are unsure about tackling. 
 “I thought that if I touched this place or feel it, the brokenness inside me might start healing”. 
Debbie and Amy – Raising the Roof Volunteers – 2013

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 1st, 2013