Bitter Sweet

Today we woke up as if it were a regular morning… we got to finally sleep in, enjoy a great breakfast and relax with our friends but today was one of the most memorable days of our lives. After a week of spending time with two amazing families from the beautiful village of Arroyo Seco and building with blood, sweat & tears, we got to do what we have been working so hard for. This has been our third LiveDifferent Build, but today was the day that two fantastic families would finally be living in a safe, sturdy and clean new home.

The ceremony for Dedication day approached more and more closely as the afternoon went on and the nerves and excitement started to kick in when we all hopped onto the bus one last time for a drive to our beloved village community. Today was one of the most emotional days because as Grade 12 students who will be graduating soon, it meant it was the last Gonzaga trip for us this year. We were honored and so thankful to be the two individuals to hand the keys over to each family. It may seem like a simple gesture, but for each of us it meant we handed both families a new future, a fresh start as well as a safe new home. 

Hugging and congratulating each one of them was the biggest example of raw love that someone could ever experience. The gratitude that you could feel from each family was radiated right back to each one of them. Over this past week, they have taught both of us the importance of love, hope, and family. Seeing both of our families open the door to their brand new homes was a sight that we know everyone will never forget. The excitement in all of their eyes to see a solid roof and concrete floor was something that gave us all a reality check of how much we all take for granted.

As the afternoon went on, it became harder and harder to say goodbye to the family we now call our own after 3 years. The whole community of Arroyo Seco holds a big piece of our hearts. Today was one of the toughest days for us to go through because we don’t know when we will be able to do another LiveDifferent Build but it was also one of the most memorable and meaningful days in our lives. We are so thankful to LiveDifferent, our high school Gonzaga and most importantly the village of Arroyo Seco for our experience.

-Sloan & Lisa, LiveDifferent Builds Volunteers, Gonzaga 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 24th, 2015

Making a Change

So far our journey has been much more than we expected it to be, as we have made connections and relationships with many people in the community. We have always wanted to help the less fortunate and make a change in our world. It is an incredible opportunity we have been given to not only accomplish this goal, but also to be accomplishing it together.

As our journey continues we are constantly learning and realizing how lucky we all are to be living in a country as wealthy as it is. We are so grateful to be exposed to the reality of the poverty that exists in our world as it has helped us grow and share our love for others.

We are so excited to see the impact that we have on this community and how both of our lives will change. We have grown very close to both families in which we are building for because of the stories they have told us, and the memories we share by building their home by their side.

Thank you to everyone who has helped made this experience possible.

Kristen & Kayla, LiveDifferent Builds Volunteers, Gonzaga 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 22nd, 2015

Building Houses and Building Friendships

Today was filled with a lot of hard work and cement mixing, but we also had the opportunity to sit down with the family we are building for and really get to know them, with the help of our translator, Charlie. We asked them questions about their daily routines, how long they have lived in the community, and were able to make jokes and laugh with them. It was similar to the Day in the Life experience, where we really got to connect on a more personal level with community members.  Cement mixing and sand sifting are crucial; but aspects such as setting aside time to ask how the contractors are doing, having conversations with the family, and playing with the kids, are pretty important too.

-Erin, LiveDifferent Builds Volunteer, Gonzaga 2015

Today was the first day that I was able to join the group and although I only had an hour at the actual site, I can already imagine how life changing this experience will be. I got to meet the family, who were so kind and welcoming, and was able to play with the young kids around the build site. Even though I can’t speak Spanish, I was still able to use hand gestures and actions to connect with the family and other community members. I look forward to continuing my experiences with the LiveDifferent group throughout the rest of my trip; I’m excited to be building the actual house but also to build long lasting bonds between myself and the people of the community.

-Lexie, LiveDifferent Builds Volunteer, Gonzaga 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 21st, 2015

Out the Gate

It’s our first day of building! Our group split into two teams, one at each job site, and started working hard. At the sites, we worked extremely hard mixing cement, carrying blocks, moving buckets full of mortar and laying brick. By lunch we had all worked up a sweat and enjoyed a well-deserved break playing with the kids at the school. Between playing basketball, sitting and talking with the kids, and joking around, it was wonderful.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend about half an hour speaking with the parents of the family on my site. We asked them questions and got to know more about their family and their life prior to learning they would be receiving a house. For me, it was incredible to witness their strength and resilience, despite the numerous obstacles they overcame and the gratitude towards us for the house. They are truly inspiring people.

Another experience was on the other job site, when Mary-Lei (one of the girls in the community) started to braid some of our hair on the job site. Although we were all surely sweaty, it was lovely to watch her take the time and have fun braiding our hair. It truly showed how open and loving these people are.

Tonight brought tons of excitement with a mixture of barbeque night and karaoke night (which there are also videos of). 

-Kelly & Julia, LiveDifferent Builds Volunteers, Gonzaga 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 20th, 2015

Seeing Familiar Faces

“Welcome to the Dominican” was said to the 28 students and 5 teachers as we got our bags and finally set foot into the world of unknown for many, and a familiar area for others. Being back in the Dominican felt great to myself and I could feel the excitement from many others who have never been before. The hot air and sun on our skin is way better than Canada right now!

As we got onto our bus we were greeted by Heather, Joy, and Andrew who would be leading us in this life-changing experience. As we were on our way to Sousa by the Sea (our hotel) we were told the basic rules and expectations for us as students. We also received our room keys along with whom we would be rooming with for the duration of our trip. Boy were we hungry when we arrived at our hotel, I have never seen so many kids drop their bags off so fast to enjoy some amazing food! Next was orientation where again we were given the basics and what to expect. Being my third year I thought I had everything hands down for sure.

This morning we woke up bright and early for a morning mass; it was amazing to see how strong these peoples’ faiths are. They have so little but look to their religion for absolutely everything. The priest stopped the mass to tell his community about the work that we would be doing, they prayed for us and thanked us greatly. Although we had a language barrier, the love they were giving us was incredible. One hug can make one thousand words.

The last highlight of today was going to the community of Arroyo Seco, to not only meet the fantastic Pastor Garcia but also to visit our future two families. 

Pastor Garcia has always been inspiring to me, however today I realized that he is the person I want to be one day. He puts his community before himself and receives his happiness from them! Meeting the new families was amazing; the joy in their faces as they got to meet us all individually was incredible. You would have never realized that a house could make a family so happy that it brought them to tears. One family in particular stuck out to me; the Father broke down into tears when he told us a little about himself. It showed how thankful he was that God brought us down to save his and his families’ lives. 

Afterwards we got to see our old families, Lisa and I are the only two that are present from the year that we built a house for a woman named Lucia. We were the first to go into her house to surprise her, one hug and a bunch of happy tears brought memories flooding back to us.  Then we visited our family from last year and Alejandra could not stop crying. The seven “veterans” from last year were balling our eyes out because words could not describe the feeling of seeing her safe and happy in the home that we built for her.

I am so excited for the next five days with these amazing people and to learn so much more! Thank you to everyone that made this trip possible by donating or allowing it to happen. We are all looking forward to what is next on this amazing adventure.

-Sloan, LiveDifferent Builds Volunteer, Gonzaga 2015


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 19th, 2015