Without a Doubt

The family that our team is building for is made up of Florencia, and her two adult sons, Martin and Jose. During the trip, I found out that Martin had been born with a clubbed foot and has had to live with it his whole life due to very limited access to medical care. This struck close to home for me because my youngest sister was also born with two clubbed feet. Although we were able to get reconstructive surgery, I remember how expensive it was, even with all the healthcare we are fortunate enough to have in Canada. It was very difficult to afford, but possible. Florencia unfortunately could not begin to dream of affording such an operation for her son. I remember very well how hard it was on my family and how much my mother would lock herself away in her room to cry, then try to come out and pretend nothing was wrong. She didn’t want us to know her pain and this gives me all the respect in the world for Florencia.

To be able to bring up a son and raise him to be as kind of a man as he is, is nothing short of amazing. I know personally that even after surgery, my sister still cannot do many of the things that we all do without thinking twice; how embarrassed she gets when she says she has to stop because her ankle hurts her too bad. To see Martin work with us in his work boots like nothing was wrong makes me see him as almost super human. To see him work so hard with a smile on his face, while whistling, singing, and talking is so inspirational. I am beyond honoured and humbled to be a part of this LiveDifferent/Building Dreams trip.  

After talking to Florencia about my younger sister and how much I respected her and Martin, she stood up, wiped away her eyes, hugged me for an extended period of time and said to me, “you are my son now”. This above all was such a heartwarming and overwhelming feeling. She is such a kind and amazing woman, as is everyone I have had the privilege of encountering in this community. It amazes me how community orientated everyone is and how they will not even think twice about going out of their way to help their neighbour. Knowing people with such wonderful values and outlooks is a rare commodity where I live. It is very rare to even see a person help another without some way of benefiting or making a profit for him/herself. I see people stepping on other people to raise their position everyday. It is so disheartening how these people are often the ones that succeed in our individualistic world. I find it so refreshing to have an escape from that. Even though we are so wealthy and have so much, these people who some might consider to be unfortunate are the real wealthy ones. We live in such an organized society where we are trained to judge one another by our bank accounts and how much materialistic ‘stuff’ we have. I truly wish everyone back home could understand what these people know without a doubt – that some things are more important than money.

Zach – LiveDifferent Volunteer, Building Dreams Build Trip, 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 26th, 2015

Simple Lessons

“My lady just asked me how I am!!”, shouted the girl I was carrying as I toured through the community for the first time. The children are the undeniable force of this community. Every morning our bus is followed by their chorused fanfare, their hands outreached like they are ready to catch us. At first I found this intense level of affection overwhelming. However, I could never have have been prepared for how deeply I have been affected by my experience in this place. 
Full disclosure, I have never found myself naturally at ease with children; maybe it’s a skill you develop over time, but I have a long way to go. Kids are so genuine, trusting, and unreserved, compared to adults. Add in a language barrier and I’m completely lost. Rosa, the girl who shouted with such glee that I spoke to her in broken Spanish, is about seven years old. She had her hair done in braids with bobble ties every day I saw her. Mostly she would say hello, hold my hand, and show me off to her friends. During the week we started affectionately calling this interaction ‘getting a shadow’. But make no mistake, the kids choose us, on what criteria I will probably never know.
I’ve always been wary of some of the more self-serving aspects of humanitarian work. University students doing voluntourism for the chance to boast on their resume, not to mention on their Facebook profile picture holding a child like Rosa, has to me, always felt fake.
I have several photos now like this now, and it reminds me that going on a trip like this is not about whatever agenda you may have had when you arrived. Perhaps I originally came on this trip for some of my own selfish reasons, but those all get thrown out the window once you grasp the reality of the how strong the people in these communities are, and how much they have to teach us even in the midst of their need. In this community the children live a very different life than what I experienced growing up. Like other young children around the age of seven, Rosa will be expected to help with many of the household chores. Depending on the circumstances she may have to miss days of school to take care of her younger siblings. In her free time you’ll find her with a crowd of others, tirelessly shovelling away with these gringos, building a new house for her neighbour
I was aware before my time in here in the Dominican Republic that’s it’s a common trend that children living in poverty are not children for very long. However, seeing what that looks like, and realizing that it’s everyday life for many of these children, that is an entirely different kind of knowledge. These kids flow through their lives facing struggles that even cause me, as an adult, to break down in tears. Yet they do so with such energy and unapologetic joy! These are some of the happiest children I’ve ever met!

This how I ended up sitting in the dirt of a construction zone getting my nails done by Rosa, while her friend braided my sweat soaked hair. I have given endless piggy back rides, and held every hand that was reached out to me. These are the simplest things to give, but to these kids it makes their day. But it’s the lessons they taught me about compassion, hard work, and most importantly how to have fun, that will stay in my heart forever. 

– Chloe, LiveDifferent Builds Volunteer, Boston Pizza Trip, 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 12th, 2015

Laughter, Stories, and Love

When I thought about going to do a LiveDifferent Build, I couldn’t wrap my head around what I would to actually experience. I could only try to picture the people I was going to meet and the house I was going to help build. I am pleased to say that the picture in my head was not as awesome as it actually here! I have never met such inspiring people in my life, including one of our families, Hilda and Fransicso. Their way of living might not be how we live in Canada or the US but they make it work, they laugh, they have love stories just like you and I, and they love each other unconditionally.

At first the family was a little bit shy of all of us, but today they started to come out of their shells and to build alongside us more and more. Hilda, the mother, was so excited to see the green apple paint color she had chosen for the outside of their new home and helped paint almost all day. Fransisco, the Father, and Havar, the Grandfather, came to help also after working his regular day job of delivering water. Lupe, the Grandmother, loved to paint and especially loved telling her loved stories about how she met Havar at such a young age!  Lastly, the children stole our hearts immediately. The language barrier means nothing when you’re laughing and playing soccer with them. They are fun and excited to have us all at the work site – even the neighboring kids come around to play!

Tomorrow is another day at the work site and everyone is saying how different everyday will be and I am so excited to experience it! I am so filled with hope for Hilda, Fransicso, Lupe, Havar, and all the children as we all continue to help build their new home.

Kaelin, LiveDifferent Volunteer, Mexico Public Trip, 2015

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: August 10th, 2015