Live with purpose, live with love, LiveDifferent

I can’t believe this day has finally come. After months of fundraising, planning, and anticipating we’re all here in Haiti. It is the most surreal experience to speak and dream of doing something, and then actually live it. I had no real idea of what Haiti would be like; after all, all I had ever known of this country was through text and film. What I have experienced on my first day in Haiti has surprised me, amazed me and touched my heart in so many ways. 

When we first came to the Haitian border after our 3 to 4 hour journey from Dominican Republic I was instantly aware of the change between the two countries. First step was to get our passports and papers processed by the Haitian customs. As we got out of the bus to get some fresh air, it was instantly clear that our presence was noticed by all the locals. It is later that I found out how rare it is for a group of Caucasians, “blons” as the Haitians call it, to be seen in Haiti. We began lining up to get processed. The female officer would call out each name of the passport and match our face to it. As she did this I noticed her smile at every single person that came up to her window. A smile on a custom officers face is something that I am not used to in Canada or the United States. Her smile instantly put me at ease and I felt my anxiety fade away. I was ready to begin my journey. 

Walking through the border in the blistering heat is something I will never forget. I kept looking around me and thinking I cannot believe I’m in Haiti!! It really felt like an out of body experience. There were fewer guards than I had anticipated. The extreme difference in the environment, infrastructure and scenery was shocking from what I have grown up with in Canada. 

Once we crossed into Haiti, we got on another bus to drive to our hotel. During this ride we all got to see a glimpse into some of the lives of the people. As I looked out the window I noticed children running around, parents working, people walking along the street. The condition of the houses that the families were occupying was incredibly heartbreaking. At times I could see 6 to 7 people in a house the size of my bathroom at home. It is one thing to hear about these conditions, but to actually see them as a tangible reality is really an emotional experience. Out of all the quick glances, one struck me the most. As we drove by one of the houses I noticed a young boy, maybe 4 or 5 years old, run to a man who seemed to be his father. The boy bear hugged the man’s leg and did not let go. It was in that moment I saw in front of me what we hear all the time. We as people are all the same. We all have families, we all love our families and all we want is to love and be loved. We are all of the same worth and we all deserve basic human necessities and amenities. The people of Haiti are just like us, but why is it that they suffer and live in such unfair and brutal conditions? I knew this question would come back to me again and again every step of my journey. 

Once we arrived at our hotel in Cap Haitien, I was so surprised at how beautiful, clean and well kept it was. My own pre-conceived notions were confronted and crushed. The staff were equally beautiful and extremely gracious helping us settle in. Although I was happy, I also felt a conflicting sense of guilt because of the beautiful space I would be living in compared to many Haitian families a few minutes away from me. 

Once we were settled in, we went to visit the school we would be working on for the next few days. The walk up the hill to the school is definitely not for the faint of heart. It is yet another example of what people go through everyday in this country. Once we got to the school I instantly saw the breathtaking view of the mountains, ocean, and Cap Haitien. It is something that cannot be described in words, and it encompasses the beauty of Haiti. The entire school was made of stone, cinder blocks, and cement. I could already tell how much work and effort had gone into building the two classrooms and principals office that holds 177 children. I was astonished that so many children fit into such a confined space. And yet they come to learn, they want to grow and build a better future for themselves. These tiny rooms are the hope for so many families. I could also see the work that still needed to be done and I knew how much work it would take. I am so excited to be a part of it and leave my fingerprint on the school in Cap Haitien. 

After the school visit we went to explore the town. Walking through the village I was confronted by level of poverty that I have never before seen. It was so hard to walk by and not be able to do something for them right away. There were so many children and parents peering through their doors to watch us walk by. We waved to as many as we could to say hello. So many would light up and wave back saying, ‘Bon Soir!’ Somehow the people of Haiti are surviving, they are living. They get up everyday and work for a better day. They open up their homes and smile and wave at a group of foreigners walking through their town. The spirit and strength surrounds you at every corner. The people of Haiti live in conditions that no human should ever had to experience. I never really truly understood this statement until I walked through the village. 

I cannot wait to keep exploring this beautiful city and learning from the amazing people who call it their home. I hope to bring hope and show the people of Haiti that someone cares. Someone in the world out there has thought of them. Everyone deserves that. Everyone in the world should feel that they matter, and that their suffering has not gone unnoticed. As much as I am excited to help with the construction of the school, I am equally excited to learn from the people in this city. It has become very clear to me that the Haitian people have many things to teach me. I am in anticipation of the lessons and adventures that await me. It has been less than 24 hours that I have been in Haiti and I have a renewed understanding of what it takes to live with purpose, live with love and to LiveDifferent!


Star, Hero Holiday Volunteer, Haiti 2013


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 6th, 2013

Haiti School Opening: How You Can Help!

I remember so many first days of school, (come on they are not that far back for me to remember!) I remember the week before sharpening all my pencils, writing my name on all my binders, and picking out the outfit I would wear on my first day back. That day after Labour Day generally had a light crispness to it with the promise of fall about to begin and an excitement. My mom even use to sing the Christmas carol “It’s the most wonderful time of year”!  But the thing I remember most is being excited to see all my friends again after a long but fun summer and to start playing school sports. Being educated was a given, something I really did take for granted. You often do not see the value in it until you meet someone who does have the same privileges. 


Having a primary education is listed in the UN’s Rights of a Child, and yet every year approximately 67 million children worldwide, many of them girls, do not receive this opportunity. Three years ago, when LiveDifferent’s Cole Brown (our Manager of Operation in the DR and Haiti) visited the mountain community of Calvaire in Cap Haitien, he found children who were a part of this astronomical number of uneducated children. He knew that LiveDifferent needed to help and set out with the plans to help Calvaire. The first thing LiveDifferent did was to buy the land for the school. The crazy thing was that to the naked eye it looked like we had just bought the side of a mountain, but as construction began, our work crews dug right in (literally!) and built a beautiful retaining wall and it all came into better focus. 

retaining wall

Construction began May 2010 and our first group of Hero Holidayers from Ft. McKay Native Reserve were there to do it! Since that first trip we have had 3 other teams come and complete 2 classrooms, washrooms, and an office (currently being used as another classroom). Construction has not been easy and is even primitive at times. For example, instead of using heavy machinery, our crews have dug and lit fires under boulders to make them easier to chip away. Nothing gets wasted though, because these rocks have been used to build the retaining walls around the school. Water for this project had to be brought by hand, mostly from a natural spring at the base of the mountain. On our trips, for fun, we get our volunteers who are up for it physically to do a “water run”. It’s hard! I had to do it with only half a bucket and still came to the school huffing and puffing as little children passed me with full buckets on their way to their homes (these kids do this up to 12 times a day!). Despite all these challenges and daunting tasks LiveDifferent kept focused on the fact that our school would help in educating this community and aid in ending their cycle of poverty. Finally, in October of 2011, we began our first year of school!!! 


This October 9, 2012 was the first day of our second year running classes. LiveDifferent partners with a Haitian charity called A.S.E.E.D.H. and this group oversees the day to day running of the school. They and our teachers believe in education and its strength in ending the cycle of poverty. It is so evident when you see them in action at the school how much they love and care for each of the students. Currently, we have 177 students enrolled for this 2012/2013 school year. There are grades JR Kindergarten to 5 being taught by 6 teachers, 1 Principal, 1 Administrator, and 2 Educational Assistants. Each child wears an adorable yellow and green uniforms. The subjects taught to the students are: Creole & French, math, social studies, science. 


This school is truly making a difference in this poor mountainside community! Education is a key part in fighting poverty. Haiti may seem so far away from Canada, and sometimes you want to help but don’t know how. Don’t worry, it’s easy to help! Here are some suggestions: 

  1. Partner with LiveDifferent and donate to our school. There are lots of operating costs associated with the school (teacher’s salaries, books, uniforms, supplies, water). Plus we need to build more classrooms too! /donate
  2. Come on our May 2013 Haiti trip. Meet the children and be a physical part of building new classrooms. Registration and trip info:/haiti
  3. Tell others about what we are doing! This is a story worth telling! Share this story on facebook or email it to your friends!

These children are valuable. Their future is valuable and we want to see them become the men and women they were meant to be, and you can be a part of helping that happen!

Nettie Brown
Manager of Operations for Dominican Republic and Haiti


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: October 25th, 2012

A Wooden Bell

As a previous Volunteer on Hero Holiday in Dominican Republic in 2010, I am so happy to be on my second Hero Holiday. I remember being in grade 9 sitting through my first LiveDifferent Motivational Presentation. It blew my mind, but like many others I went on with my day and forgot all about it. When I was in grade 11, the same thing happened again, I was so interested in these trips they kept mentioning, and how little old me could actually go to Haiti myself and make a difference. It was right then and there in my high school cafeteria I decided I would set out to LiveDifferent. And now I LiveDifferent everyday. I am so excited to be here in Haiti. Right now I am on the roof of our guest house in Port-au-Prince, and I am enjoying wonderful laughter and music in the distance, as I sit here with a nice cool breeze and wind chimes all around me. But before I was able to sit here and enjoy all of this, I had to work REALLY hard the week before. 


When we first arrived in Haiti we flew to Cap Haitien. There, we finished building the ceiling to the washrooms and to the principle’s office/teachers lounge area. We also picked up some very heavy rocks. We had assembly lines to get them to the retaining wall we also helped start. We were able to work alongside incredible men who were so great at their jobs and so patient with us as we learned how to get things started. During recess we would take a break and play with the kids. It’s always so fun to play with the kids because we need to know their faces and smiles so that when we look back on this trip, we think of them. I always had to put a child in my mind that I really wanted to see so that when I would be struggling up the hill to get to the school, it would be worth it.


One young man in particular stood out to me the most. It was our last day on the work site, and I was having a really hard time getting up the hill because I was so exhausted. Wesley is his name. He would always hang out in front of our hotel and come with us to the work site and lend a hand – he was a volunteer just as much as we were. He became a part of the team and everybody loved him. He was far ahead of me up the hill and he was carrying the green soccer ball we always brought with us to use to play with the kids. He turned and saw me in the distance struggling to walk up. He walked down to me, reached out his hand and nodded his head to the top of the hill. How could I give up now? I put my hand in his and we walked together.


Those moments are the ones that will stick with you forever, the good ones, the bad ones, the hard ones, and the painful ones. But the moment when you are supposed to be out there helping others and those others help you even more, that stays in the back of your head forever. When we arrived in Port-au-Prince we visited the orphanage, where it was hard for me to see so many kids so happy with what we gave them, even though they don’t have parents. The kids were playing hop-scotch together, laughing, and having so much fun with the chalk they were playing with. I noticed their hop-scotch was a little small for their feet, and so I drew them out a big one; their eyes lit up, their smiles hit their ear lobes, and they were ready to play! One little girl grabbed my hands and she pulled me behind her a thousand times and we played as one. Hop-scotch was something I used to do in grade school as a kid, and I never thought I would be doing it in Haiti as an adult.


When I come on these trips I am able to help the community, my friends, my family, etc. But the kids help me, change me, and love me more then I could ever feel or see or breathe or think in any place in Canada. As I sat with my roommate, looking at the nice art work in our hotel room, we came across this bell. Neetu read out loud the quote on the bell “No one listens to the cry of the poor or the sound of a wooden bell”. She turned to me and said, “well, we do.” With a smile on my face I agreed. I had an amazing experience here in Haiti, I am so sad it’s going over soon, and I will hold it close to my heart forever. 

– Cassandra, Participant, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Haiti

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 13th, 2012

Citadels, Twins, and Bubbles

As a third year Finance student at the University of British Columbia, the need for me to expand my horizons and widen my perspective has become almost imperative as I transition into my final year before graduation. Despite being a business major, I have always been fascinated by the rich history of many cultures and nations. Having played integral leadership roles on various on-campus clubs and volunteer initiatives within the community, I wanted the opportunity to help on an international scale and when I heard of LiveDifferent’s collaboration with UBC for a trip to a nation struggling to survive in poverty and being the poorest in the Western hemisphere, the choice became clear. Today I got to experience Haiti’s Citadel and it is definitely something I will never forget. Seeing real cannons and cannonballs and dungeons above a 3000 foot mountain was extraordinary. However, I personally felt my hike up was an accomplishment all on its own. Despite being out of breath and sweating profusely after the hike, the breath-taking view and exceptional restoration of the Citadel makes the hike worth doing several times over.

This afternoon we were able to finally celebrate our wrap up on what we had come here to start- an expansion on a school for one of the poorest communities in Cap Haitien. It was now finally our chance to celebrate this accomplishment with the teachers and workers who helped make it possible – along with the students themselves. I cannot express the joy that was felt when we were able to hand out cake to the students and teach them how to blow bubbles (which always causes quite the excitement and awe!) However, during my time I was fortunate enough to connect closely with a few students in particular. One specifically being a ten year old boy, one of a twin. On the day of the party, as he has always done before, he met me on the bottom of the makeshift steps to the school. He would grab my hand and help me up and then proceed to dust the dirt off of me before guiding us to his seat – always making sure no other kid, including his brother, stole me away from him. I must admit it was hard to hold back a tear saying my final goodbye to him, and the look on his face as I squeezed him goodbye indicated the feeling was deeply mutual. I wish him, his brother, and all the students at the school the deepest amount of luck and good will. I have never met students so eager and desperate to learn; whereas we in Canada, myself included, tend to take that opportunity for granted. I will never forget seeing all the students who would show up for classes in the oppressive heat despite terrible illnesses or in some cases, extreme hunger.

As we left, I felt a certain level of pride to see the roof and retaining wall we had all struggled so hard to build.I have suffered from back problems for years and the buckets of cement that needed to be carried was definitely not an easy task. We were finally also able to raise the Haitian flag for the school. Seeing that flag rise and wave established a sense of hope; it solidified the emergence of education for these children who otherwise would not have had the opportunity. When walking away from today’s community party, the one prevailing thought that continued to run through my mind was how much I felt these little Haitians had changed and helped me, when really I had thought I was coming to help them. Through my various associations on campus I hope to fundraise funds for this school as donations are still needed for windows, classrooms, etc.This small community in Cap Haitien will stay with me as I head back to Vancouver in the next few days and I think that a part of me will always stay there with them.

Nina – Participant, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Haiti


Author: LiveDifferent


Bon aswe ki soti Haiti! (Good evening from Haiti!)

My name is Cedric, I am 22 years old, traveling to Haiti all the way from Norway. Co-writing this blog is David, who is 18 years old from Canada. We are both attending university/college in Canada, but are currently in Cap Haitien, Haiti, completing a building project for the school here in Calvaire. We both feel extremely proud to have lived through a life changing experience down here in Haiti, and to have completed the roof on the new school building today.


Today was the last day of working on the school here in Cap Haitien. When we arrived on Monday, one part of the school stood without a roof and the foundation of the building had just been started. Being the last day on the worksite we all had one clear goal set in mind; finished the roof. ‘Roofing’ in Haiti is a very intricate but laboured job that will leave you exhausted. Being from Norway and Canada we have never seen roofs being done without the help of machinery or power tools. In Haiti, the process is done with minor tools such as buckets and shovels, and your bodies are used as the machinery in order to complete this process.
In order to complete the roof the first priority is to mix the cement. Mixing cement in Haiti is a hard task to complete as you only have shovels and the bare ground to use as your tools. First sand has to be transported by hand up a small incline in the mountain and then the shovels are used to blend it with cement mix and water. Once the blending is completed, our group and the Haitian workers form an assembly line to transport it one bucket at a time up to the roof. When the cement reaches the roof, it is poured out on the roof where it is smoothed out and becomes dry within minutes. The process was very exhausting due to the intense heat, heavy lifting, and uneven ground. Also the danger of rain in Haiti’s tropical climate requires the process to be done at a high pace, as rain would ruin the cement. It was fascinating to see the contrast in how we struggled with the environmental natures, compared to the Haitian workers who were not even breaking a sweat after a hard days’ work. We also found it incredible how the language barrier was only a small hurdle to overcome. Communicating with the Haitian workers became gradually easier as they instructed us in Creole and we responded in English; thus, this allowed us to teach each other the languages. They were not only patient with us when we did not understand their instructions, but also extremely efficient when teaching us how to perform the duty. We are very proud of what we have accomplished here in Cap Haitien and it was great to see the finished product in the end. We encourage everybody who is reading this to be brave and to LiveDifferent!
My highlight of the day (Cedric)
Today I got to teach a Norwegian class for the kids up at the school. It was a great experience to see how willing and enthusiastic the kids were to learn, and to see how involved the professors got as well. The teachers are doing such a fantastic job with their students, and hopefully the bright minds’ of the kids will end up in offices of doctors, lawyers, or perhaps teachers.
My highlight of the day (David)
At the beginning of the trip I was very unaware at how big of a language barrier there was between Creole and English. I found out today that you do not need language to communicate with others. My biggest highlight of not only today, but the whole trip was developing such strong friendships and bonds with the children and some of the Haitian workers. One highlight in particular today was when the final bucket was hauled to the roof and a Haitian worker put his final artistic touches in smoothing the cement into place. I sat down on a rock in exhaustion and basked in the ambience of our completed work. A Haitian worker by the name of Toonie walked by and stuck out his hand to lift me up to my feet. I told him “I’m exhausted, the job is done”, he chuckled and just pointed down at the children and kept on working. That moment truly represents why I am here.
Finally, we would like to pay a tribute to our Toyota Coaster driver Alce, who got us through the roughest terrain one can find in Haiti!
– Dave and Ced, Participants, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Haiti

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 12th, 2012

So Much for So Little

Haiti…this country.. there seems to be so much to say. Its people, their encouraging smiles and friendly attitudes, their tireless ability to work hard, the culture, the hot piercing sun, the beautiful terrain – the list goes on. I have traveled before, I have seen some awe-inspiring things, I have even seen harsh poverty before, but I have never seen anything like Haiti. This is such an amazing place! Haiti, a country with a rich, deep, yet young history, that grew from a revolution of slaves. It went from being known as “the jewel of the Caribbean”, one of the richest lands in the West, to becoming one of the poorest countries in the world. The Haitian people have seen many natural disasters, repeated dictatorships, destruction and abuse of their land and resources, and contamination of their water systems by people who are supposed to be here to help. It would seem only natural to be angry, to give up, to lose hope and to stop trying, but I have never seen people work so hard for so little.


My name is Quinn, I am a psychology major at the UBC Okanagan campus. I have had the opportunity to work side-by-side with Haitians for the past several days to build part of a school in an impoverished district in Cap-Haitian called Calvaire. Here in Calvaire the people have no real transportation, in fact they have no real homes. On our first day here we went on a tour of the community. People here live in shacks with tin roofs and makeshift walls; concrete is expensive and not many can afford it. There is the constant worry that if it rains, “Will it flood my home?”, “Will the roof cave in?” There are no locks on doors and there is the always the chance of being robbed, or worse.
As traumatic as this sounds, to me the most stunning realization has been the situation of their water supply. For us “blancs”, a term the Haitians use in reference to foreigners, we have dubbed it “the water run.” Many women, children, and men must make the trek up and down a mountainside each day; over garbage, rocks and boulders, and through wooded areas to access a community well filled with dirty polluted water – yet the only source they have. I did “the water run” and carrying a pail of water in this searing Haitian heat is absolutely draining, yet I have seen men take twice as much, and little girls and boys no older than 12, (some with no shoes), carry this water alongside us. I have also seen women doing as much as 12 loadds of water in a day! They do all of it without looking drained; still smiling, politely greeting and laughing with us, and the children even had a water fight, ( I totally lost that water fight).These people of Calvaire don’t have the luxury of turning on a tap, turning on a light, or locking their doors, and the children especially don’t have the chance to reach for their dreams like we do…like I did. 
Education is not normally an option here, as it is too expensive and too far away for most families. Thanks to this continuing project with LiveDifferent, the children of Calvaire have a chance to reach for their dreams. Over the last few days we have built a roof and part of a retaining wall  for this school that had been started a few years ago. Children currently attend grades 1 and 2, for morning or afternoon classes. Their teachers and their principal/teacher Denise, a wonderfully smart and caring man, are from Cap-Haitian. The look on the children’s faces alone is enough to make me feel that all the work that I have done to get here is worth it.
On work days, when the kids get recess, we also get recess, and it didn’t take long before everybody was having so much fun! When the end bell rang, I was the first one to say “Ahhhwwwwwww, already…can’t we play a little while longer?” These children have a beautiful light-hearted innocence to them that just makes you want to give more, stay longer, and work harder. They deserve their dreams, and though what we have been doing in these few days is only a roof and part of a wall, it is stepping stone to giving those children their dreams.   
There is so much I could say, there have been so many amazing experiences that I have had, and amazing times that I have shared in getting to know these beautiful Haitian people. The Haitian workers are the strongest, most hard driven people I have ever met! They have a strong sense of community and a lot to teach us. They live with so little, but they live for reasons that seem beyond my of understanding. 
– Quinn, Participant, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Haiti


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 11th, 2012

The Many Languages of Love, Hope, and Change…

Hero Holiday Haiti team today teaching French, Norwegian, Punjab, and English at our LiveDifferent school in Cap Haitien.

Author: LiveDifferent


Trees Growing from Rocks

Today was the third full day of our amazing adventure in Cap Haitien, Haiti.  Each and every day in this region has provided me with what seems like a million new insights and memories that I want to hold onto and grow with.  I personally have never experienced first-hand what it is like to visit other countries, unless you count driving ‘across the border’ to the United States for a day of shopping! This trip has been such an experience for me, beginning with the simple fact of taking my first long-distance plane ride, down to the first time coming face to face with extreme poverty.  


When I heard of the earthquake that rocked Port-Au-Prince and the surrounding areas, I was immediately struck in a way I had not been before.  Earthquakes in the news were not necessarily anything new, but hearing of the unthinkable toll it took on its inhabitants due to the unstable infrastructure that existed prior to the tragedy was unfathomable to me.  When one thinks of a natural disaster occurring, the first thing you assume will happen is that aid will be dispensed, and an attempt to rebuild would begin to take place.  But what does a country do when its hospitals weren’t even adequate prior to the disaster? What is a country to do when its government was already riddled with corruption? What do the people do when they had nothing to begin with to “rebuild”?  
At that time I only knew the facts that the news told me, and that was enough to make me want to donate all I could.  Then, when I heard my sister Karly, who had previously worked with LiveDifferent on multiple aid trips, discuss the idea of trying to organize a group to go to Haiti, I was immediately on board.  I didn’t have a passport, I had never been anywhere further from home than I could drive to, but I was absolutely certain in my heart that this was something I needed to do.  I had always taken for granted that if natural disaster were to occur close to home, that help would be provided, that structure to dispense aid would be in place, and that I would not be left to fend for my own.  I now realized that the people of Haiti did not have that privilege, which was an injustice I could not simply ignore. I knew upon committing to the trip that I wanted to be prepared, and I wanted to arrive in Cap Haitien with a thorough knowledge of Haiti and its history, as well as its current situation. So I began to devour as much information as I could, from the material recommended by LiveDifferent, to history books and current events, to convincing my Art History professor to allow me to integrate Haitian history into my final term paper, which would allow me to continue my research while still keeping up my role as a student.  
Stepping off the plane in Cap Haitien, I felt prepared.  I knew to expect filthy streets and starving people.  I knew to expect the smell that is inevitable when you do not have consistent electricity and water.  I was prepared to see things that would be very difficult to see, and perhaps feel the fright associated with an unstable government and rogue army. What I did NOT expect to see was beauty.  And yet despite the fact that, yes, all those things are a fact of life for the people of Haiti and were here waiting for me, I have still been struck every single day here by the beauty that endures. There is a beauty in hope, a beauty in love, and a beauty in life, and somehow, without any of the materials that we may assume are necessary to grow these things, they exist and flourish.  Today while driving on a dirt road, we passed a stretch where trees were literally growing out of the rocks, with their roots hanging down from the rocky mountain. I couldn’t help but feel that they really symbolized the people of Haiti – these trees had no soil, no nutrients, and probably had to work very hard to access water, and yet there they were, green, lush, and growing.  The people here may not have what we think of when we think of a home, and they may have to put effort we cannot even imagine into acquiring food and water, and yet here they are, full of hope, full of love, and full of life.  I have encountered more smiling faces, been hugged by more children, and been taught more about what it means to hope and live than I ever would have thought imaginable.  
Instead of seeing myself coming home with visions of sadness, I have been taught while here how to truly see beauty.  While I may be here building a school to teach children reading, writing, and arithmetic, I am the one who has really been taught a lesson.  Life can grow from tragedy, love can flourish in sadness, and hope can shine where it seems it should be hopeless.  Trees CAN grow from rocks.
– Jayme, Participant, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Haiti

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 9th, 2012

Define Poverty

Haiti first came into my world view in 2008, as was the case for many, after the enormous tragedy that was the earthquake. I was in Grade 12 at the time, and just beginning to pique my interest in social justice issues after a volunteer trip to Honduras through my high school in Grade 11. The overwhelming coverage and global response to the event were impossible to ignore, and I read every little thing I could. I couldn’t even fathom the devastation that must have gripped this country, and I knew it was something I couldn’t just let slip off my radar. The night of hearing about the earthquake, I drew on a giant red shirt the words “Hope for Haiti”, and set off to school armed with a donation bucket and a sharpie for donors who wanted to sign my shirt. I stood up in front of my classmates and explained Haiti’s situation before the earthquake, and why I wanted to raise money to send with a friend, Nikki, who was already planning a trip down with LiveDifferent prior to the earthquake. I raised about $100 and helped her out where I could with other fundraisers she organized. But Haiti had me hooked, and for the next two years I read everything I could about Haiti. In those two years, I completed LiveDifferent Academy in 2010/2011, as well as my first year in university as my interest in social justice issues continued to grow and grow. After a couple years of dreaming and fundraising, I am here in Haiti and I couldn’t be more excited.

Walking through the streets of Calvaire and Cap-Haitien today, Nettie had asked me to write this blog tonight and try and compare it to what I had seen living in Mexico for four months with LiveDifferent Academy. This morning, that seemed like a fairly easy task. For some reason, in my mind, Haiti had been set apart, and I felt like the poverty I would see here would be unlike anything I’d seen in Honduras or Mexico. Being the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere, I expected a whole new level of poverty, although I was unsure what exactly that might look like.

To my surprise, I truly struggled throughout the day to find many differences between what I was seeing and what I had seen in other countries. Despite the obvious language differences and some slight cultural differences, I found that poverty in developing countries has a very similar face, wherever you happen to find it. Poverty still feels unfair. Poverty equals no garbage collection, resulting in garbage collecting in the water, which results in disease. Poverty equals shacks with tin roofs if any at all, which haunt me after my own shack experience through LiveDifferent Academy, with the idea of surviving a rainy season while you and everything you own is constantly in danger of being completed soaked and often destroyed. Poverty equals housing so crammed together, one can only imagine if disease were to strike one house how easily it could spread to them all.

But then again, is that all that defines poverty? When it comes down to it, it seems that all they’re really impoverished in is financial matters and governing structures to offer things like garbage collection and healthcare.

However, the people I met today are so much more than their governance and financial state. Poverty also equals the friendliest faces you’ve ever met, and a world where you’re not crazy to go around greeting every person you meet. Poverty also equals bright, vibrantly coloured buildings that are bursting at the seams with interesting culture. Poverty can also feel unbelievably hopeful, with big dreams and hope for tomorrow. Maybe it is all crammed tightly together, but one can only imagine if we open up and take in the immense amount of love and hope, how far we could spread it.

– Alex, Hero Holiday participant 


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 7th, 2012