How our volunteers are making a world of difference

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Volunteering is an important part of creating positive change in our world.

LiveDifferent relies heavily on volunteers to support our mission and we are truly grateful for their dedication and hard work in making this change possible.

For more than twenty years, our volunteers have been making a difference in the lives of people in need. From humanitarian work in Mexico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic to inspiring youth across Canada, our volunteers embody what it means to live a life of caring for others.

From those who have been with us for years to those who have recently joined our ranks, each and every one of our volunteers is a valuable asset to our organization and to our cause.

Bill Rawlins’ 18-year journey with LiveDifferent

As a long-time volunteer, Bill Rawlins – president of the Parksville Rotary Club – has seen first-hand the impact that his efforts have had on the communities that LiveDifferent serves. Bill joined us on our first Build ever in the Dominican Republic, and over the past 18 years, has been on more than 50 Builds.

Bill was a principal at a high school in Parksville when he first heard of LiveDifferent—though back then, it was known as Absolute Leadership Development, Inc. After one of our in-school presentations in 2005, Bill’s daughter Lauren was the only student at the school to sign up for our first Build. Bill joined her as a Team Leader and the rest is history— from the Dominican Republic to Mexico, to Haiti and back.

“The project was digging a water line from a natural spring on the hillside down into the village of Ascension,” said Bill. “What was happening in that village, some of the kids were dying from the parasites in the water they were drinking, that was coming up through a rusty old hand pump.”

The team succeeded in getting the water line to the top of the village, and Bill and his daughter returned the next year to continue their volunteer efforts. It was during that return trip that Bill truly understood his impact, which has kept him coming back ever since.

The power of compassion

While touring through the village of Ascension with our team in 2006, Bill and Lauren came upon a bunker where a woman was cooking lunch for her and her two children. The kids had “swollen tummies, orange-coloured hair,” and were “obviously severely malnourished.”

And in her frying pan for their lunch, the woman was cooking two meagre fish heads.

“I was done. I was absolutely done,” Bill said. “I looked at Lauren, she looked at me [with tears in our eyes] and I said, ‘This is not right sweetie, this is not right.’ And she said, ‘Daddy, it is not. What do we do? What can we do to change this?”

Bill shared this story with his fellow members at the Parksville Rotary Club as an example of how bad things can be for those living in poverty and told them they needed to do whatever they could to help address this issue.

Part of the Rotary Club’s mandate is to fundraise and finance an international and community project every year, and while it was standard for them to write checks for causes in the past, Bill was motivated to get them more involved in a hands-on way.

The result has been amazing.

Since 2014, the Parksville Rotary Club has travelled down to Mexico to build houses, a community centre, a kindergarten classroom, the Brigade 54 Adult Education Center and a tech classroom in Centro De Bachillerato Tecnológico Agropecuario (CBTA). With the help of district matching grants, donations from local businesses and some serious fundraising by the club and local volunteers, the Rotary Club has been able to make a real difference in the lives of the communities they serve.

Bill also started the Interact Club for students ages 12 to 18 so that more young people can be involved in these projects. He says the highlight for him is when he sees the way these kids are awakened to the potential of their own compassion and kindness as they come to understand the power of their actions to positively impact lives.

“It’s very rewarding to see that we really have made a difference,” says Bill. “Lives have been impacted and the idea that changed hearts can change the world is absolutely true.”

Bill’s story is an inspiring example of how one person can make a huge difference.

The kindness and generosity of volunteers like Bill are truly remarkable and have changed the lives of countless people. We are so fortunate to have such an amazing group of people who are willing to commit to such positive change, and we are so grateful for their dedication and hard work.

So here’s to our volunteers – thank you for all that you do!

Author: Gina Alward

Date: January 31st, 2023