When I first heard the news, I remember what one affected teenager was quoted as saying: “It all happened so fast. I feel lost, misplaced. They can’t bring our town back.” It turned out to be true.
When the residents of Slave Lake, Alberta went to bed one Saturday night in May, many of them were concerned about the forest fires that were burning just south of their town. But their minds were put at ease by the local police and authorities who assured them that there was no danger. When they woke Sunday, they were told there was still no need to evacuate – and they were sent to local Walmart and Canadian Tire parking lots in town to wait it out. But by Sunday night, that proved to be very wrong, as 40% of the town had been consumed by the fire, leaving hundreds of families homeless and in total shock.
Georgia and Aidan’s family was one of them.
However, along with Gabrielle, another friend from their town, they still managed to show up in Toronto this summer, ready to depart for a Hero Holiday in Dominican Republic. Together with all of the other Hero Holiday participants that met there, they had made a decision to do something meaningful with their summer vacation: they were going to build a house for a family that needed it in a tiny port community tucked inside Puerto Plata. And they did. In fact, they built a house that is now home to 7 people: four adults and three babies.
Building a house for someone else at your own expense in terms of time, money, and energy is a noble feat. But, builiding a home for someone on the other side of the world when you have just lost your own family home is an undeniable expression of character and passion. When I sat down with the three of them and heard their stories, as they spoke about the drastic changes in their community and what it was like to live through such a shocking experience, the three of them were in total agreement: they couldn’t not do this. They had made a commitment to travel halfway across the world to help a family that desperately needed a home, a circumstance which now seemed all the more real to them, and they had every intention of following through on what they’d set out to do.
There was something one more thing that impressed me about them that has left a mark on my heart. It was about more than the fact that they joined us this summer despite what they were in the middle of. It was about their level of passion to see past what they knew as reality, and to believe that they were capable of making a difference for someone else – even when it was not convenient for them. People like Georgia, Aidan and Gabrielle make us proud to be able to do what we do every day: work and bring hope and change alongside of unsung heroes who deserve to be thanked for their simple acts of bravery. Their bravery to keep going and to reach out to others is their gift to the world around them. And that will never go unnoticed.
Want to join us on a Hero Holiday? Check out www.livedifferent.com.