Life at the End of the Road
When LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) decides to build a house for a family through our Hero Holiday program, there are two things we need to make it happen:
- someone who knows what they are doing
- someone who is willing to learn how to be a part of making it happen
And then, after you have secured those two items, jump in and enjoy the party!Off the main highway, on the north coast of Dominican Republic, on the west side of a kite surfer’s paradise is a busy little taxi/bus/moto-taxi stand. Behind that stand is a long, narrow road, seemingly going nowhere. But, if you follow that road, you will soon come upon a quiet little Dominican village, called La Cienega. Here there are no tourists or foreigners – there are only quiet, humble people working hard day in and day out to try to keep their families provided for. Sometimes they succeed, many times they fall short, but each day they do their best. That village is where we first found out about Iris.Iris (pronounced Ee-rees) is a single mom and like many single mothers around the world, she faces many struggles on a daily basis. Being a single mom is hard. Being a single mom in a developing country with very little resources to provide for her family is especially hard. But, above all of that, Iris is plagued with an unknown disability that inhibits her from working at any job: her legs are continually full of sores and lesions, and at times, the pain is excruciating. Because she is unable to work consistently, life has often been very uncertain for her and her kids.But when you meet her, her disability, illness and her desperate situation is not what you see. You see her eyes, and they are kind. I like eyes like that: eyes that say, “You are welcome here”. Each day, as our Hero Holiday bus would pull up and 15-20 students would tumble out, Iris was there to meet each person, kissing them on the cheek, eager to make them understand how much this meant to her and how much we were welcomed into her world.Each day that house came together, hope would continue to rise and an excitement filled the crowded little neighbourhood around us. Their previous house was little more than a shack that was falling down around them due to shoddy construction and termites. This new house wasn’t just a building to give them shelter – this was a house that would provide income for her and her family because of the second half that we attached to her family’s living quarters. Iris would now sleep a little easier, knowing that there was a source of income for them.On the day we did the house dedication, it was hard to find a dry eye in the crowd. Many people came out from the village to show their support for Iris and their gratefulness for what we did in their community. This house, to all of us, became a symbol in La Cienega: a symbol that our circumstances don’t need to direct our life story.Iris’ house was a lesson for all of us this past summer. It was a lesson for our participants about what poverty looks like and how they can each play a part in helping to fight off its grinding pain. Each day, as we worked on the house and took time to play with the countless kids running around the village, life took on a new perspective as many of our students began to grasp the disparity of the world and recognize that they could help bridge that gap. For LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), this summer meant that, together with our participants and donors, we were able to accomplish some significant projects that helped to change lives in a tangible way. And for me, each time I looked into Iris’ eyes, I learned about hope. It never gives up.LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) is returning to Dominican Republic with our Hero Holiday program in the year ahead – and you can join us! Want to know more? Check out www.livedifferent.com. Together, we really are making a difference – and this is just the beginning!