I just came home from a LiveDifferent Build…now what?

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I have now been on two trips with LiveDifferent (both of which were in the Dominican) and each time, the goodbyes only seem to get harder. With Live Different, you build so much more than a home for a family. You build relationships, with both your teammates and community members; you build self confidence, understanding that you are capable of creating change; you build hope, for a family that may have found it hard to hold onto; and you build dreams, as you reflect on the things you have the learned, the ways you have changed, and the goals you have for the future.
Returning home the first time was incredibly difficult for me. I came home to people who couldn’t comprehend the way I had been touched by such an experience, and an environment so clouded by things I no longer saw as important. So, the second time around, I vowed to find better ways to adjust, and refused to let the fire that LiveDifferent had lit inside of me to burn out. After mulling over my thoughts and piecing together every part of my experience, I came up with a list of things I thought were important to me; things I wanted to maintain long after my experience in the Dominican Republic. Hopefully, these things will also help many of you as you process what you’ve experienced, and the ways in which you can apply this knowledge in order to create change in your life back at home.
1. Surround yourself with people who share your passion for change.
I learned pretty quickly that when people with big hearts and similar passions surround you, you thrive continuously and endlessly. It is so refreshing having conversations with people like this because it provides a portal for you to share your knowledge, your values, your thoughts and concerns, with a level of understanding that others aren’t able to give you. My involvement with Live Different has allowed me to build lifelong friendships with people exactly like this.
2. Maintain a thirst for knowledge and remember that you never know everything.
I recently met a middle-aged gentleman at my university. We engaged in small talk and he asked what I was taking in school. Upon telling him I was an anthropology student, he suggested I look into “ethnobotany,” explaining to me that it was the study of how people of particular cultures interact with plants and biodiversity. How cool is that?! Had I not given this guy five minutes of my time to have a short conversation, I probably still wouldn’t know that field even existed. This reminded me that you can learn something from everyone – whether it be someone very close to you, or someone you meet once and never see again. Remember to take advantage of this. Engage in conversation, not because you feel like you should, but because you want to. Keep an open mind about all the things you can take out of a simple interaction with someone, and let this guide you in speaking with as many people as possible. Of course there will be times where you are not so interested in what someone’s saying, but there will be just as many times you find yourself saying, “Whoa! Who would have thought?” – so make sure you take that chance! To take this further, spend time researching what you’re interested in. This doesn’t have to mean spending your Friday night on Google skimming through articles, but it could very well mean spending your Friday night watching a documentary about something you’re passionate about. Take advantage of the easy ways to stimulate your brain and continue learning.
3. Set goals for yourself… and stick to them.
Make a list of things you’d like to accomplish, places you’d like to see, and people you’d like to make contact with. They can be short-term or long-term goals, and they can be as “far-fetched” as you’d like, but whatever they are, I think it’s important to have personal goals for the future. It’s a way to keep your mind and body busy and stimulated, and for you to feel a continued sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. Once you have a list, narrow it down to a couple things you’d like to devote yourself to in the now, and brainstorm ways in which you can reach those goals.
4. Don’t get overwhelmed.
When I was first in the Dominican, I was immensely overwhelmed by the magnitude of poverty and desperation that I saw. I couldn’t really comprehend the things I was seeing, smelling, and hearing, nor could I formulate any sort of understanding of how I could possibly change it. Vincent Van Gogh once said, “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” As my time in the communities continued, this became all the more real to me, and I realized the importance of remembering we cannot change the world overnight. Rather than feeling hopeless about the number of people living in poverty, I think it’s important to focus on what you are doing and whom you are helping at one particular moment. If it wasn’t for you, the organization and community that you’re working with, and your amazing team members, one family’s life might not have been changed. Focus on the now, and take it day by day.
5. Keep a healthy balance.
I’ve talked a lot about ways to maintain your global citizenship after returning from a humanitarian trip, but it’s nevertheless important to keep a balanced lifestyle. There are times where it’s important to be kind to yourself and to do things simply because you will enjoy them. Go out for dinner with your friends, plan a spa weekend, or pick up tickets to see your favourite band. Make sure to stay involved in the activities that you love, whether it’s sports, art, music, fashion, movies, comic books, etc. Whatever it may be, it’s important to do things for yourself sometimes without feeling guilty.
6. Think of small ways to make a difference. 
Remember what I said above about not getting overwhelmed, and remembering that we can’t change the world overnight? Well, there are some things that you can change. Think of something small that you can take on, whether it’s volunteering in your local community, doing advocacy work for a cause you care about, or maybe even fundraising for LiveDifferent (or another charity that matters to you) so that they can continue to bring change to people who need it. Even something as simple as asking your parents or neighbours if there’s a way you can help them out will make a huge difference, and will show you how easy it is to bring change in small ways.
So far, these are the practices that have assisted me in ensuring that I don’t lose the momentum that being a part of a Build has brought to my life. These positive choices have helped me see that I can continue to make a difference, both in my own life, and in my community. I hope that others can benefit from these lessons, and find ways to put them to use so that we can all “LiveDifferent” as we continue to find ways to bring about positive change.
– Haley, LiveDifferent Volunteer

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: March 28th, 2016