A big, beautiful, inspiring family

I am amazed by the maturity and sensitivity of these children, who come from a background of abuse and/or exploitation. On Saturday night, we had the opportunity to hear the older teens perform at the night market in town. I think it may have been their first time.

They sang six original songs about their lives, with themes like ‘I hope one day you can forgive me and accept  me’ and ‘even when days are tough, I will try to be a good person’. I was thoroughly enjoying the melodies, tapping a hand and foot, swaying to the music. As a new song was introduced, the translator informed me, “This one is about fathers. About waiting for their father to come back and care for them”. Seeing their beautiful faces and listening to the heartfelt words was overwhelming. I could not stop the tears.

I was thinking about my three sons whose father died three years ago. They are at home in Canada with their grandparents while I am in Thailand for these two weeks. I know they will be missing me. I was thinking that they must also still long for their father to return, as these children do. So it was personal. But it was also very global. So many children do not have the consistent love of their parents that they desire and deserve. Yet these young people speak of hope and have repeatedly expressed gratitude for their current home situation in a children’s shelter.

During our final afternoon of their arts camp on Sunday, they amazed me again. They had a slide show presentation that allowed them to share there experience at the market with the younger children. They brought the guitar case that had been used to collect donations at the concert, choosing to count their gifts together. To their delight, they earned the equivalent of approximately $90 CAD. Here is what surprised me most…they asked the whole group how they would like to spend the money. The responses were “on food”, “more musical instruments”, and “on gas, so we can visit the kids at boarding school.” I was impressed, and truly, almost dumbfounded that their most frivolous request was to spend new found money on musical instruments for the enjoyment of the whole group. I guess, in some way, it also shows their wisdom that music is a way that they can earn money and contribute to society in a meaningful way.

The idea that touched me most was the suggestion to use their earnings for gas. The shelter is a permanent residence to about 40 kids, while dozens of others are living away at boarding schools, coming home to the shelter on holidays. I love that those who are “home” all the time long to see their “siblings” who are away. They are young and old, boys and girls, Thai and Burmese, from a variety of hill tribes. Some have parents who sold them for a pittance, while others have lost their parents to drugs or disease. But no matter what their background, they are family. A big, beautiful, inspiring family.

Kathy – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Thailand, 2014

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 8th, 2014

The day has finally arrived!

The day has finally arrived. The reason we have traveled as long and as far as we have. The children in Thailand and the Buddies Along the Roadside project.

When we arrived at the home, all of the children were at the front gates waiting for us. They seemed as excited as we were at meeting. One by one they walked up to us, to present us with necklaces and ornaments made of fresh beautiful flowers. The emotional feelings were so overwhelming. Such beautiful, innocent faces. Unimaginable what each child has gone through prior to their arrival.

As we continued to walk to the main gathering area, we were surrounded by bounding, energetic, full of life children. They covered our faces with a white liquid, which I believe is a customary way. They cooled us off with pouring refreshing water down our backs. All the while giggling as we went along. The sound was intoxicating.

We made it to the main gathering area. Introduced ourselves, ate lunch with them and played some games. I think the group of us had just as much fun as the kids did. We then got a tour of the grounds,to see all of the work that has been completed in such a short time frame. We were briefed on the projects we will be involved in, as well as some of the future goals. Once we finished the tour of this most amazing place, we headed over to the Mekong River to go swimming with the kids. What a sight to see. The boys and girls climbing the ropes at the rivers edge, skipping stones in the river and jumping in for a refreshing swim. It was amazing to watch the kids at play. Then one by one they all lined up as the ice cream cart showed up. Amazingly patient, well mannered, respectful children. I was fortunate enough to be involved with distributing the cones to each child. Every single one said thank you, either in Thai or English, each one with a genuine appreciation.

At this point we parted ways for the evening. The children back to their home, us to our hotel. I will never forget this moment in time. I feel so blessed to have been included in this journey. I look forward to many more days with the children and the events that will unfold.

– Joycelyn – LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Volunteer, Thailand, 2014



Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 2nd, 2014

A Collective Thought on Trees

A very special day today! Three groups of business people came to the home to give back. It all started with a group tour that allowed the donors a chance to look into the lives of these children and inner workings of the home. 


Joanna- “It was amazing! After the tour, a business group had all the children, all the donors, and our mighty LiveDifferent team plant trees that grow fruit and vegetables around the home. What was so special to me was that this gift wasn’t just going to be used up. It was something sustainable and long lasting, and will continue to give to this incredible group of kids. My special memory was when one of the kids; Umnud, had planted his tree and had his arms wrapped around it. Clearly enveloped with joy by this bestowal, Umnud reminded me for the one millionth time on this trip how grateful these kids are. Not to mention how much honour they carry with them.”


Taylor- “I was overwhelmed by the act of giving. Not just by the children, (how they are with each other and our LiveDifferent team) but also by the donors . Declan, the leader of a company gave a moving speech that inspired me. He spoke about philanthropy and explained that he was a businessman who worked to help others invest money so they were constantly increasing their funds. Refreshingly, he had realized that giving back was the reason he sought out to make so much money. He said, this (the home) and places like it are where his heart is. It moved me to find that this man may have been a businessman, but that it did not define him. He proved to me that stereotypes can be very wrong and that all people can do great things when their heart is really in it!”


Jessica- ” I don’t even know where to start. My favourite part was physically planting the trees with kids and the donors. What was so special to me was how invested the kids were in the maintenance of their trees. It was comparable to how a mother would nourish her child. The thrill of actually putting these plants in the ground was obviously something these kids cherished. Ironically, where we come from a lot of kids may not have put so much love and respect into planting a tree. R-Pae, the sweet girl I planted my tree with was immensely involved in the process. She and I planted the tree and by herself she went to get a watering pale. I watched this little girl lug the pale across the court (she would not let me help her) and water each and every tree around her, one by one. I should mention, running back and forth with full water pales. We’ve experienced many acts of kindness by these kids. Today was no different. A gentleman who’d been planting, had dirty hands and R-Pae helped him wash them.”

Isn’t the cycle of giving magnificent? These companies were ecstatic to be in the presence of these remarkable kiddies and visa versa. When they were headed to their truck the kids gave each member a present, a bracelet or necklace they had made, as they doused them with water and smeared wet baby pounder on their faces (a Thai New Year’s tradition!!) Lastly, proceeding this eventful farewell, we surprised the munchkins with a water filled balloon fight! One of the most hilarious events that we took part in all week. The balloons disappeared almost instantaneously but it did not stop there. The kids roared with laughter as they threw the remaining hidden balloons (in their shirts, behind their backs…etc, etc.) at the best targets and then filled buckets with water and dumped them on each member of the LiveDifferent teams head. SO refreshing on such a hot day, and an amazing way to end yet another memorable day at the home. 


Sah wah tee kah:) 




Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 10th, 2013

Bamboo Poles and Hearts Filled With Hope

When Christal  asked for blog volunteers, my hand shot up. I usually have a lot to say and was so excited to be in Thailand, I thought, no problem, the words will roll off my tongue…..I was wrong.

We have now been at the Children’s Home for 3 days. Each day has brought a bucketful of emotions followed by questions…many of which have no answer.
I’m not 100% sure what exactly we expected to find when we arrived at the home, but what a wonderful joyful place we discovered. There are kids of all sizes, all ages, some Thai, many Burmese, all abandoned by parents for one reason or another. Perhaps we expected to find caution and maybe even suspicion. Instead we were greeted with welcome smiles, open arms, jasmine necklaces …and of course buckets of water mixed with baby powder. What kid, young or old, doesn’t like soaking another kid (or adult) on a scorching hot day!
These kids are cared for. There is a palpable feeling of love and well-being in the home, and not just between the caregivers and the kids, but also between the kids themselves. Young ones hang off of older ones, siblings take each other under a protective wing. Everywhere you look you see the signs of a joyful childhood, laughter, smiles games, tickling and teasing, candy, ices and all the rest. So it is so easy to forget that, until the home, many of these kids lived off their wits alone on the street. And many were sold for labour or sex, doing whatever necessary to survive. Some were tortured by their parents when they refused to beg. Others simply left, no longer able to carry the burdens of their home lives.
For me this is where all the questions set in. As a mother myself how do I reconcile my own view of the gift of motherhood with one that permits the sale of a child? And how do I suspend judgment so that I can learn and see and possibly even understand?
It seems to me that the women and men who run this organization do not seek to judge, but rather to love. Corny? Perhaps. But there is no other explanation for what I have been witnessing; the sharing, the teaching, the extraordinary kindness in the face of enormous problems, drug addiction and extreme poverty.
Kru Nam, the founder of the organization and a passionate and dedicated advocate for the rights of children is married to Pi Pot, who works alongside of her in the parenting of these 120 kids. She told us a wonderful story. Last year LiveDifferent built a library. Pot asked each child to pick a bamboo stick and paint it with a different colour. When all the sticks were completed, Pot fashioned them into a beautiful fence to surround the library with beauty and strength. “We are like that fence” he told his kids, “all different shapes, all different sizes, but standing together we hold each other up and give each other strength.” Corny? Perhaps. But how remarkable to see family and community built in the place of devastation and destruction.
I have been moved beyond words by what I see all around me here.
~ Annette, Hero Holiday Volunteer, Thailand 2013


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 8th, 2013

Falling In Love, One by One

It’s common to fall in love with Thailand. It’s hard not to. But I’m falling in love in Thailand. Seriously. One child at a time. One adult at a time, one idea at a time. 

Every day we travel from our hotel to the children’s home. Once there, we’re instantly enveloped by the younger kids who compete, it seems, in expressions of affection. Then we play!

This morning we began with photography lessons. Augusto and I were just amazed at our eager pupils. They handled the cameras with  tenderness. And then shared their knowledge with each other with equal tenderness. 

Tonight was karaoke night and time again to put work aside and fall in love with all of the incredible people I’m blessed to be with. 

And I’ve fallen hard for the idea that love is power. And there is none greater. 

~ David, Hero Holiday Volunteer, Thailand 2013

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 5th, 2013

Three Countries, Three Experiences, Many Lives Changed

Since I first heard about LiveDifferent and their Hero Holiday trips from my husband in 2009, we have had the amazing opportunity to embark on 3 different Hero Holidays and 3 very different adventures. The first Hero Holiday we went on was in May 2010 to Haiti. Most people, including myself, had never even heard of Haiti before the Earthquake that January. I can honestly say that Hero Holiday changed me in a way I never knew was going to happen. What I loved about Haiti was how full of life the people are. In the state they were in, (the recent earthquake and just the overall reality of how poverty stricken the country is), one would kind of expect the people to be feeling sad, sorry for themselves, and hopeless. What we saw was the opposite. In the orphanages run by David that we worked in, we met kids that would melt your heart. They were loving life with the little they had, and wanted to share with you what they did have. The girls orphanage holds so many memories for me – from the first day where all the girls did our hair in cornrows, (which came in handy throughout the next few days), to the times they would be singing songs while helping us sand the walls we were going to be painting. I have wanted to go back to Haiti to see the work LiveDifferent has been doing in Cap Haitian with the school they are building. I know that the impact they are having there is huge. The time I spent in Haiti has turned me into a lifelong humanitarian, and started the journey I have been embarking on that has taken me to Dominican Republic, and now Thailand.


The Dominican Republic in July 2011 was unreal! I was one of the leaders of Team 4, (aka- the best team ever), and that in itself made this Hero Holiday a whole new experience! In the D.R. we built a house for an amazing family that the team grew to love and who we are still in contact. The connection made between the team and the family was incredible. It was nice to get to know a family so well: you really felt like neighbours, lending a hand when a rough time had come along. Seeing how the trip was changing the lives of our team was the most rewarding experience of the entire trip. To go through the debriefing each night with them and see their perspectives change and their entire lives change in the matter of 10 days was something I feel privileged to have guided them on. My favourite debrief with our awesome team was about needs vs. wants. This debrief has the team go over what they thought were the three basic needs and three basic wants of humanity. I loved seeing their minds work through what they were privileged to have in North America, and contrast it with the reality they were facing day-to-day while building a house and working in a garbage dump with people who are stateless. We had decided on the three basic needs being food & water, shelter, and love. Three basics needs that, for most of the world, are also their three basic wants. During that trip, with those budding humanitarians, it was decided that it was time to make my longing to go to Thailand a reality…and that a few of the people on my team were going to be joining me!


I have wanted to go to Thailand since I first heard about Hero Holiday. I was never too sure why, but I knew it would hold something special for me. The timing to go was great, the fundraising for the trip went well, the flights, (while long), weren’t as bad as I thought being on a plane for that long would be. From last year, aside from my husband and myself, three other people from Team 4 from the previous summer were with us. While being in Thailand, I’ve been the most in awe of the amazing culture. It’s a place that is so beautiful and respectful. I’ve definitely had a few “AS IF I’m in Thailand!!” moments being here. Working in the Buddies Along the Roadside children’s home has been pretty surreal. Knowing the backgrounds these children have makes it almost unbelievable to see them there every day – so happy and energetic, and so full of life! If you’re wondering about their backgrounds, it’s less than an ideal childhood that we would expect them to have in North America. Many of them have been rescued from exploitative situations; human trafficking, slavery, orphaned from things like AIDS and Malaria, or they are considered “at risk” of being involved in any of those previous situations. When you know that, and then see the kids, it’s hard to connect the dots…which is actually hopeful. To know their pasts and to see the lives they are living is so inspirational. They are going to school, are learning valuable skills for the future. and are learning how to be proud of who they are. There is actually no other word to describe this trip other than incredible. For myself, taking part in this Hero Holiday is special, as my humanitarian journey is continuing this summer with an internship with Not For Sale who is committed to ending modern slavery in our time, and also plays a huge role with Buddies Along the Roadside. 


Since being on this Hero Holiday with people who haven’t been on any, I’ve done a lot of comparisons of the three destinations I have been blessed with the opportunity to experience. Each one has shaped me and has taught me new things about myself, the world, and those who are here in this world with me. The few things I have learned are that the only difference between us in North America and others around the world is the place we were born, and that not standing up for someone is like saying the injustice is ok, and that each and every single person, no matter who you are, CAN make a difference. 

Aelea, Participant, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Thailand


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 9th, 2012

Bangkok Biscuits, A Long Boat To Laos, and the Power of the Downward Dog

After two long days of rainfall, today’s sunshine brought us a day that was nothing less than amazing. We arrived at the children’s home this morning with a planned day of fun activities for the kids – from sports, to yoga and music, and the crowd-favorite, the craft station. As the kids moved from station to station, their excitement and enthusiasm was contagious. Carrying their beloved animal masks made at the craft station (with the assistance of Gabby, Bianca, and Alli), the kids showed off their spiritual, mental, and physical discipline at the yoga station, led by 3 lovely Yogis- Christal, Aelea, and Mart-Mari.


Next, they were off to the music station, where our musical gurus, Trevor, J.P, and Natasha brought out the rhythm in the kids as they learned classic North American children’s songs, and then taught us Thai songs in return. Last, but not least, was the sports station led by two very tired, (and slightly sunburnt) leaders, Ashley and myself. Never in my wildest dreams would the thought of playing hours of monkey-in-the-middle have seemed appealing to me, but somehow these amazing children made it one of the best days of my life!

Following lunch and in the need of a little R-&-R, the Hero Holiday crew took a scenic riverboat to the nearby country of Laos where we had our first experience of local market-bartering. Just as I thought this day couldn’t get any better, we were off to then Mekong River to go swimming with the kids! At first, my fears of what lay beneath the opaque river water was overwhelming. Four years of university microbiology raced through my mind as I considered what might be lurking in the water below. But this concern soon became obsolete as dozens of kids arrived and ran towards the water. Before I knew it, I was neck-deep in water with kids hanging off of every limb and having the time of my life! The kids swam and splashed the afternoon away followed by a treat of Bangkok biscuits and juice. As the children devoured as myany cookies as their stomachs could hold, it truly resonated with me that these amazing kids and volunteers we’ve been blessed to meet are more than a gathering of children in need, but a giant family with endless amounts of love. Each child has their own unique and irreplaceable role in the family, being able to express themselves without fear of judgment or punishment. Their bellies are full of food, their hearts full of love, and their eyes are full of hope and opportunity. Days like today compel you to reflect on all things you once though were important and essential in your life, only to lead you to the same conclusion reached in ’67 by The Beatles – all you need is love.
~ Steph, Participant, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Thailand

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 8th, 2012

The Power of One

Since arriving in Thailand and reading the book Not For Sale by David Batstone, I’ve had an uncomfortable feeling that I wasn’t able to identify. I want to help. I think anyone who knows about poverty and exploitation wants to help.  But how do we eradicate poverty, statelessness, and the exploitation of women and children completely?  The vast nature of the root causes and the millions of women and children who are impacted is astounding.  Truly, I don’t even know where to start…and that’s when it hit me during one of our evening debriefings.  We may not see poverty, statelessness, and exploitation entirely solved within our lifetime.  The problem is simply too big.  However, we can make a difference one person at a time.  


At first I had a hard time processing that revelation.  After years of business school, it’s in my nature to want to take a linear approach and identify the root cause of an issue and simply “fix the problem”.  Unfortunately, there is no such approach to this complex challenge, and focusing on the problem in its entirety is simply overwhelming for the average person.  Thankfully, the eureka for me was when I finally realized that I could make a difference in the life of one person.  Impacting one life is realistic and attainable for all of us.  I may not be solving world hunger but that one person I helped matters!  The one child who will get to play in the playground we are building matters!  The one child who will enjoy fresh eggs and meat because of the chicken coop and pig pen we’ve built matters!  The one child who will get to be a kid and play games with our group of volunteers matters!  


I’m on this trip because my daughter Allison speaks so highly of the LiveDifferent organization and has volunteered with them in past.  However, I will confess that I am guilty of worrying that she is trying to single-handedly change the world.  As her mom, I don’t want her to be hurt or disappointed if her efforts don’t produce the desired impact.  Today I stand humbled having learned much from the lovely young lady I am proud to call my daughter.  Clearly she has proven that you can teach old dog new tricks!  And most importantly, you can make a difference – and it MATTERS even if it is only one person at a time.  

~ Natasha, Participant, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Thailand


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 7th, 2012

26,000 Baht and a Whole Lotta Excitement!

Last night it rained so hard that the road to the children’s home was too muddy to get down and had a truck stuck in the middle of it. So, we declared today to be a day of shopping for our party this upcoming week with the kids.  I never thought I would feel so fulfilled from a day of shopping! (Well, truth be told, yesterday’s clothes shopping with the girls was great, too!). Team work and 26,000 baht (about $800) was all it took to fill 80 backpacks for 80 very deserving kids! We filled their backpacks with everything from teddy bears to school supplies to toothbrushes, depending on their age and sex, and I’m so excited for them to get them! I’m glad that we went shopping on a rainy day so we don’t waste any time that we could be spending with the kids.

Yesterday, as part of our project, we worked on the art work on the side of the new library that they are building for the children. The entire building is made out of a rice and clay mixture and we have named it “guck”. We are responsible for doing the art on the outside of the building and we are all becoming very great “guck artists”.

And, in case you are wondering, the food has been amazing! The staff at the children’s home have been cooking special lunches for us every day and we’ve been getting so spoiled!  We sit cross legged on the dining room floor with all the kids. They sing a little thank you song before each meal thanking the farmers for the rice and promising to not waste any. It is quite convicting when you are eating –  you want to make sure you clean your plate every time!

These children continue to amaze each of us. Despite what they have been through and the pain that many of them have endured, they are so helpful, caring and happy! Each day with them is a new adventure and we are grateful for the chance to be a part of their lives. 

I can’t wait to see what the rest of this awesome experience has in store for us!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 6th, 2012

Opium, Monks and the Power of a Changed Heart

Our day began at the point where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos converge, called “The Golden Triangle”. The region has special significance because many of the children we work with at Buddies Along the Roadside come from the hill tribes of Myanmar.

From there we went on to visit Thailand’s Opium Museum where we learned about the history of the cultivation and trade of opium in the Golden Triangle and Asia in general. The sale and use of opium within Burmese hill tribes is a major factor in the abuse and eventual sale of children in these areas. When parents use the drug and develop a dependence for it, they are often forced to make rash decisions to get their fix; sending their children to the streets as beggars or in some cases, selling them to become involved in Thailand’s sex trade. Gaining perspective on the opium trade helps to better understand the situation that this area of Thailand faces.
After lunch, we visited a Buddhist pagoda perched atop a lookout over the beautiful Thai landscape. There, we were met by a monk who was extremely informative and helpful in understanding Buddhist customs and the functions of a pagoda. He also sported a great sense of humour, better-than-average English, and a degree in Airplane Engineering. We all had the honour of receiving a blessing from the Monk.
Down the hill from the pagoda, we met with Kru Nam, the founder of Buddies Along the Roadside. She shared with us her story of how she got involved with helping the homeless and impoverished, to eventually starting her organization. Kru Nam explained how she witnessed her career transition from being an art student, to jewelry designer, to volunteering as an art therapist working with the homeless. She soon realized that her volunteer work brought her much more satisfaction than her well-paying jewelry design job, and decided to quit her job and pursue her passion in helping the less fortunate. 15 years later, Buddies Along the Roadside has helped to rehabilitate 35 drug-addicted mothers and hundreds of children who were former victims of Thailand’s dangerous sex trade. Hearing Kru Nam’s story first-hand was motivating and inspirational, and it set the stage for the day’s next experience.
We arrived at the children’s home to be greeted by 80+ enthusiastic children ranging from toddlers to late teens, and several staff members and volunteers. After a brief meet-and-greet, we took to the playground and tried to keep up with the kids’ excitement  as we played for about an hour before heading back to town for dinner and a good night’s rest.
All in all, today’s activities were eye-opening to say the least. It really set the mood and pace for the rest of our time here in Chiang Saen, and I’m thrilled to experience whatever the next couple weeks may have in store for us.
– Trevor, LiveDifferent Hero Holiday Thailand

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 4th, 2012