Roof over my head

I remember first hearing about a ‘Week in the Life’ when I went on my very first Hero Holiday in 2010. Never did I imagine that in a few short years, I’d actually be doing it myself. 
This past week, my fellow LDA’s and I worked jobs that the locals do here in Mexico, such as working in the fields, rock picking, clamming, and general labour. We had to budget with the money we made everyday in order to pay for food, water, rent, transportation and any other fees that came up. We also cooked our meals over a fire, washed our clothes by hand and had bucket showers in our makeshift shower throughout the week. Last but not least, we lived in a house that we built ourselves using cardboard, plastic, and whatever other garbage we were able to find on the side of the road, and at the dump. This week was meant to simulate a week in the life of a typical local family.
I had certain expectations going into the week due to what I’d been told by friends who had already experienced it, I knew that it would be tough, but that it was going to be an amazing and incredibly eye-opening experience, and one of the highlights of my LDA journey. I was nervous and excited for the week to begin. Despite all of the expectations that I had for the week, I really had no idea what I was getting into. It’s one thing to hear stories and to see pictures, and it’s another thing entirely to actually be living the experience. 
Early one morning, we were awoken to the sound of rain coming down on the roof of our shack. It took a moment for the situation to sink in, as we were all still half  asleep. We just lay there at first, and then, realizing that the rain was coming in, the chaos began. We all packed up our stuff as fast as we could and stored it all in our  second baño. Water was starting to leak through the holes in our roof of cardboard and tarps, and our walls were starting to get soaked through as well. We quickly  gathered up all of the cardboard that we had been using as our floor, and hid it away out of the rain so that it wouldn’t get drenched. Then, people began bailing water off of the roof with bowls so that our roof wouldn’t get weighed down by water and collapse. Other than that, there wasn’t much we could do but stand outside in the rain, cold and wet, until it stopped. 
Before this experience, I’d thought about what it must be like to live in a leaky cardboard shack when it rained, and how difficult it must be, but to experience it was so much different. We had nowhere to go; outside or in our shack, we couldn’t stay dry. I’m very accustomed to the rain, but not having a place to go to warm up and stay dry was very foreign to me. This experience really made me think of the importance of having a solid roof over your head. Like I said every day on tour when talking about the homes that we build for families, having a roof over your head is a simple thing that many of us take for granted, but that is really so important. I truly experienced the full meaning of those words this past week, when I stood out in the rain thinking about all the families around us who were being affected by the weather like we were. Families who struggle with same things we did, except they don’t get to go back to the comforts of a warm house when the week’s over. 
That rainy morning was just one of the many eye-opening moments for me over the course of our ‘Week in the Life’. While it wasn’t always an easy week, it was an  amazing experience to learn what it’s like to live in poverty, and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to do so. I gained so much insight and have so many memories to look back on and stories to share, and I’ll definitely never take the roof over my head for granted again.
Jordyn, LiveDifferent Academy Student, Spring 2014

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 20th, 2014

A big, beautiful, inspiring family

I am amazed by the maturity and sensitivity of these children, who come from a background of abuse and/or exploitation. On Saturday night, we had the opportunity to hear the older teens perform at the night market in town. I think it may have been their first time.

They sang six original songs about their lives, with themes like ‘I hope one day you can forgive me and accept  me’ and ‘even when days are tough, I will try to be a good person’. I was thoroughly enjoying the melodies, tapping a hand and foot, swaying to the music. As a new song was introduced, the translator informed me, “This one is about fathers. About waiting for their father to come back and care for them”. Seeing their beautiful faces and listening to the heartfelt words was overwhelming. I could not stop the tears.

I was thinking about my three sons whose father died three years ago. They are at home in Canada with their grandparents while I am in Thailand for these two weeks. I know they will be missing me. I was thinking that they must also still long for their father to return, as these children do. So it was personal. But it was also very global. So many children do not have the consistent love of their parents that they desire and deserve. Yet these young people speak of hope and have repeatedly expressed gratitude for their current home situation in a children’s shelter.

During our final afternoon of their arts camp on Sunday, they amazed me again. They had a slide show presentation that allowed them to share there experience at the market with the younger children. They brought the guitar case that had been used to collect donations at the concert, choosing to count their gifts together. To their delight, they earned the equivalent of approximately $90 CAD. Here is what surprised me most…they asked the whole group how they would like to spend the money. The responses were “on food”, “more musical instruments”, and “on gas, so we can visit the kids at boarding school.” I was impressed, and truly, almost dumbfounded that their most frivolous request was to spend new found money on musical instruments for the enjoyment of the whole group. I guess, in some way, it also shows their wisdom that music is a way that they can earn money and contribute to society in a meaningful way.

The idea that touched me most was the suggestion to use their earnings for gas. The shelter is a permanent residence to about 40 kids, while dozens of others are living away at boarding schools, coming home to the shelter on holidays. I love that those who are “home” all the time long to see their “siblings” who are away. They are young and old, boys and girls, Thai and Burmese, from a variety of hill tribes. Some have parents who sold them for a pittance, while others have lost their parents to drugs or disease. But no matter what their background, they are family. A big, beautiful, inspiring family.

Kathy – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Thailand, 2014

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 8th, 2014

The day has finally arrived!

The day has finally arrived. The reason we have traveled as long and as far as we have. The children in Thailand and the Buddies Along the Roadside project.

When we arrived at the home, all of the children were at the front gates waiting for us. They seemed as excited as we were at meeting. One by one they walked up to us, to present us with necklaces and ornaments made of fresh beautiful flowers. The emotional feelings were so overwhelming. Such beautiful, innocent faces. Unimaginable what each child has gone through prior to their arrival.

As we continued to walk to the main gathering area, we were surrounded by bounding, energetic, full of life children. They covered our faces with a white liquid, which I believe is a customary way. They cooled us off with pouring refreshing water down our backs. All the while giggling as we went along. The sound was intoxicating.

We made it to the main gathering area. Introduced ourselves, ate lunch with them and played some games. I think the group of us had just as much fun as the kids did. We then got a tour of the grounds,to see all of the work that has been completed in such a short time frame. We were briefed on the projects we will be involved in, as well as some of the future goals. Once we finished the tour of this most amazing place, we headed over to the Mekong River to go swimming with the kids. What a sight to see. The boys and girls climbing the ropes at the rivers edge, skipping stones in the river and jumping in for a refreshing swim. It was amazing to watch the kids at play. Then one by one they all lined up as the ice cream cart showed up. Amazingly patient, well mannered, respectful children. I was fortunate enough to be involved with distributing the cones to each child. Every single one said thank you, either in Thai or English, each one with a genuine appreciation.

At this point we parted ways for the evening. The children back to their home, us to our hotel. I will never forget this moment in time. I feel so blessed to have been included in this journey. I look forward to many more days with the children and the events that will unfold.

– Joycelyn – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Thailand, 2014



Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 2nd, 2014

So Sad To Leave, But Never Good-Bye

Having been given the blog for Dedication Day, a swarm of emotions came to mind. Being the final blog, I know that it should finish with a “Bang”, but that would only cause 60% of our outreach team to scream.

The day started off with a division of the team into three groups: sorters, shoppers and adventurers. One group had been chosen to stay at the resort to sort through all of the donations. However, the job description is actually quite deceiving. Having had to carry one of the bags full of donations, it was easy to tell that the group had sorted through several waves of heavy donations!

The second group was in charge of gathering another set of donations. They had gone to the local supermarket and were in charge of purchasing essential goods for the family: eggs, milk, soap, matches, all fitting into the list. With only a few moments of distraction, as the students themselves had needs (mainly chips and chocolate), the group finished shopping in record time

The final group had left on an excursion to Monkey Jungle. Monkey Jungle is everything that the name suggests and so much more! The primary function of the complex is that it serves as a clinic, which doctors from all over the world come to, to provide free healthcare to local Dominicans and Haitians. But the real excitement for the group was the squirrel monkeys that were equally excited to see them – and only partially because of the food they brought. The monkeys help to bring in profit so that the clinic can continue to be free for the locals.

All the groups met back at the hotel later in anticipation for the house dedication. Near 3pm, the keys to the new house were passed over to Alejandrina after several heart warming speeches. As Alejandrina’s tears of joy began, it had finally dawned on me, we were truly changing the life of this family, hopefully forever. 

After a tour of the house, in which the two children found and had started playing with all their new toys, we left for the school. All the kids were let out soon after and the school yard soon became a display of pandemonium. All the students, Dominican and Canadian alike, had a glowing smile on their faces as they played even without truly understanding. But it had ended too quickly. Almost as quickly as it began, there was a need to pack up and leave the smiling faces of all the children. But no matter how saddening it was, the children continued smiling, walking out to our buses, and waving goodbye as we drove off.

Although we hate to be going it is important to remember that we are not saying goodbye. Whether you come back to the community or not, we will never forget the lessons taught to us by the Dominicans. Their unrelenting smiles, love and joy are things that I hope that we can all bring back home. We will never forget what we have done here in the Dominican and no matter how sad it is to leave, remember it isn’t goodbye because they will live on in us forever.

Trevor, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Gonzaga Trip 2014

Author: LiveDifferent


Tears of Joy

As a Gonzaga student who got to go on this Dominican outreach trip last year, preparing to go for this trip was both nerve wracking and exciting at the same time. There were several things I knew I could look forward to and many new experiences I didn’t expect to have, but have made this trip a whole new experience for me to remember. 

After meeting the family we were building for and starting full work days to complete this project, it didn’t take us any time to get into the routine of working together as a team. This year our group has many more students compared to previous years but for me, now my Dominican family has grown and I couldn’t be more grateful. 

By Tuesday, all of us students, teachers, LiveDifferent staff, contractors and members of the community were working hand in hand to build this home for Alejandrina and her two granddaughters. Our work consisted of tons of cement mixing, smooth coating, sifting, painting and much much more. After working several hours in the sun, many of us were exhausted because of how much physical work we were doing in comparison to our normal weekdays at school. But one thing that stood out to me is how not one person complained because all of us were fuelled by the smiles on the family’s faces as they watched their new home be built up from the ground where their old home used to stand. Even though many of us face the language barrier with people here in the Dominican, their smiles were something that needed no translation. 

After working hard to complete as much as possible on the house and helping out at the local school to build a new office, we all got some time to play with the children who were there at the playground that afternoon. Just pushing them on the swings or playing tag with them is something that they cherished and looked forward to which was then passed on to each of us in ways we could have never predicted. The love that they showed for us was something that you can’t buy anywhere and will never forget. 

That evening was our team dinner out in Cabarete which is a beautiful beach town where we all got to eat dinner together by the shore. We all bonded some more, learning things about each other and just becoming closer as we continued to share this experience in our lives. 

Wednesday morning we were back to work on our last building day which was the final stretch for us to complete this home before Dedication Day where we hand over the keys to our family. All of us were exhausted, sunburnt, and sore but I think it was the best work day we had by far. The motivation we all had to keep going and energy that was present at the work site was something everyone could feel because of how excited we were to give not only a new home, but a future to the Martinez family. We mixed batch after batch of cement, passed buckets along in a line and helped each other out to finish up everything left in the house before our workday ended. When the end of our workday was coming close to an end, those final few moments to push through we’re definitely moments to remember. While painting the house we all got into a little paint fight and everyone was covered in paint among the cement already on us. But one moment I won’t forget is when the floor was finally finished in the house and I went to ask Alejandrina if she was excited and she nodded her head because overall she was just speechless, and when I told her tomorrow she will be living inside a new home with her granddaughters she teared up which just made everything that we worked all week for absolutely worth it. It didn’t matter how exhausted we were because just the fact that the time we spent this week changed a family’s life is something you’ll never forget. 

Overall this trip not only reinforced the lessons I learned last year but added on new ones. The importance of community, the benefits of hard work and determination, hope, love and appreciation, which I hope to continue to remember and implement not only for myself but to share with others for the rest of my life. 

 – Lisa, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Gonzaga Trip 2014

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 1st, 2014