Building a home with Anakil: How LiveDifferent chooses families to welcome home

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Strong connections are what make a LiveDifferent Build truly special. And when Tara Ryan came to the Dominican Republic in 2018, she felt an instant connection after meeting Anakil.
“There was just something – I was really drawn to him,” she said. “When I looked into his eyes, I saw stories. When I looked at his hands, I saw a hard worker. It’s just a little something that pulled at my heartstrings.”
Anakil is the oldest member of the community. Originally from Haiti, he does not have any family members around to help care for him. His friends and neighbours try their best to look out for him, understanding the struggles they all face. But unfortunately, it isn’t enough.
So when Tara met him, she thought about how she would feel if this was her parent, and immediately wanted to help.

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Bringing Anakil Home
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At the time, Tara was able to support Anakil in smaller ways, but the biggest thing she wanted was to see him in a safe home.
“I have never wanted something so much for someone else like I did the new house for Anakil,” says Tara.
Tara has been volunteering with LiveDifferent for the past nine years and has helped build 30 homes. She brings her team, Army of One, down to the Dominican Republic each year to help build these homes, but this year was extra special.
Tara has been advocating for Anakil to have a new home since she first met him. She has passionately followed LiveDifferent’s efforts to collaborate with community leaders and neighbours to overcome the obstacles preventing this from happening. When Tara learned that it was finally possible for us to build with Anakil, she was completely overjoyed.
Together with the group, Todos Somos Uno, the two teams worked tirelessly for 10 days so they could give Anakil a safe and secure place to call his own. It was an unforgettable experience for all involved and one that Tara will treasure for a lifetime.
So what did it take to finally bring Anakil home?

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Identifying families for a Build
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Our selection process for determining which families we build with and when is based on our core values of respect, compassion and empathy.
When we work in a community, we strive to build strong relationships with local families, leaders and volunteers, and take the time to understand the local context and culture. We rely on community leaders and neighbourhood committees, and through genuine conversations and consultation, we determine who needs a home the most.
When identifying families, we take into account a variety of factors, such as family size, health, income, and the condition of their current house. We also consider the family’s past efforts and involvement in community projects.
One of the main requirements is that families need to own their own property. If we build for a family who is renting and the owner then raises the rental fee, these families would be displaced. This way, we can ensure families have the stability and peace of mind they need to grow and thrive.
LiveDifferent is not just about building homes – we are about restoring dignity and worth to the communities we serve. We are committed to fostering meaningful relationships with the families we build with, which is why it’s important that we work side by side and show how much we value them and their contribution to the project.
Because of this, families also commit to building their own septic system (if necessary), providing water for mixing cement, meals for the contractors/helpers, and taking care of the tools and building materials provided.
We recognize that the process of identifying which family to build with is not an easy one, but we take our responsibility in making sure it is done right very seriously. We are here for the long haul, and by working in collaboration with local leaders, government officials and other organizations, we believe we’ve created a process that is both fair and effective.

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Get in on the action!
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We are committed to helping families and communities improve their lives. We are honoured to be welcomed into these communities and love bringing volunteers along for the ride.
If you’d like to join us in making a real, lasting change in people’s lives, come volunteer with us! Together, we can make a world of difference.


Author: Gina Alward

Date: March 15th, 2023