A Day to Remember

We had the great honour of meeting Florencia and Martin during our Day in the Life visit.  We were amazed by the hospitality shown to us with the limited material items they possessed.  We were seated in “pride of place” on a well-used couch that was the most comfortable piece of furniture in their home, and they wanted their guests to be seated there.  Sharon learned from Florencia how to sweep and wash floors the Dominican way with good old fashioned elbow grease and no Swiffer in sight! 

The work was made more difficult by the intense heat in such a small environment.  Florencia showed great pride in her clean floors.  Meanwhile, Linda spent time with Martin preparing a meal. The lack of clean water to properly wash and prepare the food and utensils left Linda wondering how the family stays healthy. A full meal was prepared in a very small space, and the few utensils that Florencia and Martin own are kept in a plastic peanut butter jar with a lid tightened to prevent insects from crawling on them. Martin proudly showed us a box he had made using scrap wood to store any food they may have to keep it safe from cockroaches and rats. A piece of denim material was used as a wiping cloth as well as a pot holder. We were taken aback by the amount of time and work required to do these simple tasks without all the gadgets we have to make our lives easier in Canada.

As we thanked the family and said goodbye, we hid our tears until we were out of sight so as not to offend.  We then broke down in tears of frustration, sadness, and even anger as to how in the year 2015 people can be living in such deplorable conditions. Isn’t it about time that we decrease the gap between those who have and those have not?  As we left the community, we were reminded as the LiveDifferent message states, “Life is about people, not stuff”. 

On the last day of the build, we were invited by Tara and Liam from LiveDifferent to share the amazing news with Florencia and Martin that they will have a new home built for them in a few short weeks.  Florencia looked up to the heavens and thanked God and us for this great gift.  Martin was moved to near tears and kept repeating “thank you, thank you, thank you”.  Both of us agree that this was such a defining moment for us that our future plan is to fundraise and build another home in Nuevo Renancer, hopefully with friends and family members.  This has truly been a life changing experience that now allows us to “LiveDifferent”!

LiveDifferent Volunteers, WestJet Christmas in July Build Trip, Dominican Republic, 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 30th, 2015

Little Things

Sometimes you may see or hear things on the news about poverty, but you never really know what it’s like until you’ve witnessed it first hand and met some of the amazing people who are “living in poverty”. I met so many amazing, selfless people, who were so generous and giving when they had very little to give.
We met so many people who opened up to us, and let us into their worlds. I never felt out of place or judged, instead I felt welcomed and loved by the people who accepted me into their homes and into their hearts. We met so many different people with diverse stories; from losing loved ones, to losing their homes, and of course many happy stories as well. But what amazed me was that these beautiful people have gone through so much struggle, but they light up the world despite the difficult things that they have encountered. It is inspiring to see such courage, determination, and strength that is displayed everyday.
The individuals I met in the communities of Arroyo Seco and Nuevo Renacer had so much faith, and they show so much gratitude for everything that they have, and continue to give even though they have little. I know a lot of people, including myself, who take for granted that we have a roof over our heads, food on the table, and a comfy bed to sleep on. When we got the opportunity to provide an entire family with those things, there is truly no better feeling than being a part of making that possible. 
I could tell so many stories about my experience, both happy and somber, but I think that everyone should experience this amazing opportunity for themselves. I am so inspired thanks to the amazing residents of the Dominican Republic that I met, as well as the LiveDifferent  volunteers and staff, who are all very dear to my heart.

– Chaydin, LiveDifferent Volunteer, Summer Public Trip, Dominican Republic, 2015


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 24th, 2015

The Happiest Place on Earth

Coming into this journey I was expecting to be overwhelmed by the new experiences and circumstances that I would encounter. But to my surprise my observations were completely opposite. To these families, even though they live in a house made up of scrap materials, they did their best to make it a home. While the family has few possessions, (I realized that I have more stuff in my suitcase than they have in their entire house), they clearly do not think that their happiness comes from what they own – instead, it comes from the love and joy that makes up this family of eight! 
While the daily life of providing for their family can be a struggle, it really does seem that all that matters to the families in this area is a relationship with God and with each other. The smiles on everyone’s faces are contagious which causes us to smile back! Today a group of us went and played soccer with a group of kids, and despite the language barrier that we faced, we had an amazing time and made so many new friends. It’s said that Disney World is the happiest place on earth, but from my experience so far, I think that Mexico is! 
– Cayley, LiveDifferent Volunteer, GBC Mexico Trip, 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 21st, 2015

LiveDifferent Stories: Keke and Mina

Keke is 10, and his sister Mina is 7 years old. During the day, both children spend their days at home while their mother sells fruit and vegetables in the street nearby; however, Keke plays an especially large role in his sister’s life. Everyday, while his mother is out, Keke prepares meals for his little sister and himself. Today, Keke was cooking rice and beans in the stove-pot atop the makeshift cooker filled with charcoal that you can see to his right. 

Their mother’s job has taken them back and forth between Haiti regularly, but recently, the family has stayed put on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic and are in the process of gathering the appropriate documentation to register as citizens, in light of the highly publicized struggle between Haiti and the DR with residency and citizenship. Lack of documents presents many problems for natives of both countries, as they can face issues with employment, education, and access to health care, just to name a few issues. Keke and Mina represent a great number of undocumented Haitian and Dominican children who have been forced to grow up so quickly, but one day will hopefully have the citizenship papers that will give their families access to the resources that they need. 

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 16th, 2015

Little Things Matter

On a free afternoon, I took a walk down into the community with another volunteer and Ephny, our translator. We went to visit Cecelia’s house. Cecilia is the happiest 80(ish!) year old woman I have ever met! I looked around her home, trying to see what might have been the reason for her smiles and welcoming arms. Cecilia didn’t have a 42 inch plasma TV. She didn’t have a marble kitchen counter. Cecilia didn’t even have what we would have recognized as a kitchen. What she did have was a husband who was as smiley as she was, a fruit tree outside of her house, and a cat named Felix. Her happiness was found in the little things, in the little matters that many of us often take for granted.

She showed us her pride In brewing coffee with a small, handmade cloth bag that had coffee beans in it that she had picked, dried, and roasted, and later added boiled water to make a Dominican version of a double shot espresso.

She looked healthy and happy and that was enough for her to smile upon our arrival, and to welcome us into her little place that was full of all of the little things that mattered to her. 

Visiting Cecilia reminded me that it’s so important to take the time to look around you. To give love and hugs, and to radiate your energy into this world and start a change, because our wealth is in the things we give, not the things we have.

– Raghda, LiveDifferent Volunteer, Public Trip, Dominican Republic, Summer 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 13th, 2015

Ryley School – All the Hard Work Was Worth It

Coming into this week, we were not really sure what we should expect. Should we be excited? Nervous? Scared? A mix of all three? Upon arrival, we soon realized that the cultural differences between rural Alberta and rural Mexico was too much to comprehend. When we first met the family we were shocked at the emotional and technological differences between our lives and theirs, as well as the appreciation they showed as we first started to help them on their life-changing build. When we first started, we could tell the family was shy to be around us, but they quickly warmed up as we worked with them and played games with their children. As far as construction goes, it was relatively easy, but it was also a great learning experience for everyone. We all learned something about building from our head construction leader, Saùl, and we all learned something about ourselves from our time working together. As a result, teamwork now has a new meeting for us. It helps us grow closer together, and accomplish greater things. It was easy to see that this family deserved this build, whether it be from the father’s admirable work ethic, or the mother’s never ending smiles.

Each build day, a group of four of us accompanied our LiveDifferent translator Felipe on “A Day in the Life,” which is an experience of the daily lives of citizens of Zapata. This experience really opened our eyes into the true lives of Mexicans, and the challenges they face. Many of the amenities we take for granted are considered luxuries for the people of Zapata, and that really made us realize how fortunate we really are. Think about your daily lives. You wash clothes at least once a week, dishes whenever the machine is full, and clean whenever necessary, but to the people of Zapata, it’s a full 12 hour day, seven days a week, just to take care of their families. This experience made us realize how much we take our lives for granted when families can be so happy with a lot less. A fun thing we got to do was make traditional tortillas with the families finding out how good each family’s own salsa recipe is!

As previously stated, the actual build was relatively easy, but it was a lot of fun. The family helped us with everything from cutting wood and hammering in nails, to just interacting with our group in general. There was always time for capuchis (piggy backs) for the children and time to let loose. The parents are quiet people, but even with a big language barrier, if we helped them with the smallest of tasks they tried their best to show their appreciation. The mother of the family showed a very nurturing character by the way she wanted to take care of us, and the father was just a genuinely hard worker.  

The house dedication ceremony affected us all in a very powerful way. Seeing the joy radiating off the family’s faces made all of our hard work worth it. The pastor of the family was there to bless the house and deliver a wonderful prayer towards us all. In the final moments, watching the keys being handed over, the weight of our work really hit home for everyone, even staff who have done this time and time again. Nearly everyone was brought to tears by the powerful emotions of the moment. The pastor, his wife and Saúl also showed great emotion to see what we have all accomplished in such a short time. It was such a pleasure to affect someone’s life in such a significant way, and it’s an experience that none of us will ever forget.  

We would also like to thank LiveDifferent for all of their great support in our journey with this family and how welcoming the staff were. Our group, Ryley School Leadership, would like to give huge thanks to Andrew, Dawn and their son Anthony for sharing this experience with us and making this all possible. They are such a loving and caring family who go out of their way to help countless groups build houses for families in need. Again, a big thanks to Saúl for being patient and guiding us through the build, and to Felipé for taking us on “A Day in the Life” and being the coolest translator that can fit in and tell endless stories to us all. Also would like to thank Yulisa who helped us translate and go through this build. She was another person who had a smile, no matter the situation. Lastly a great big thanks to the kitchen and cleaning staff who made this a whole lot easier and filled our stomachs three times a day while introducing us to many traditional cuisines! Thank you- A trip to remember and an experience we will never forget for the rest of our lives!!

– Daniel and Brady, Ryley School LiveDifferent Build, Mexico, 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 4th, 2015