Open Hearts

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One month – five groups – and ten families receiving homes.


Coming to Mexico I had never been on a Hero Holiday – and here I was preparing to help lead them! I was both nervous and excited; nervous because I knew what to expect from talking with friends who had been on one, but I knew that it was going to be a much bigger experience than words could explain. I was excited not only to meet the groups and families, but to finally feel the amazing feeling I had heard so much about – the feeling of being a part of something so much bigger than yourself.


Uleimi – this is the name of the three year old girl that was part of the family of the first house build that I helped with, and the little girl that completely stole my heart! I love kids, and I knew working on the build sites that there would be kids to play with, but Uleimi was different.

Our first few days of building Uleimi and her younger brother Efrain were shy and were more hesitant to come play with many of us while their older brother Eberic was right there helping and playing. As a day or two passed the two younger ones began to come around – and that is when I found myself with a constant attachment or “appendage” as our house build leader joked. There were times when I would pick Uleimi up and she would just put her head on my shoulder and I could feel her completely relax in my arms; and there were other times when I would be hammering and I could see her watching so I would invite her to come and help me and she would run into my lap and proceed to hammer the nail I had started. Little moments like these are what hold my heart and made this experience so special to me.


Dedication day – the day that we give the family the keys to their new home and the day we have to say goodbye and wish them well with the hopes that we will have the chance to come back and see them again one day. Talking to Georgina, playing with Eberic, Uleimi laughing and smiling, Efrain’s huge smile when we were playing and him finally coming and giving me a hug – all of these moments were running through my head as we share with the family about what they have done for us. We may have built them a house but they have treated us like family and welcomed us into their lives, changing our lives in this process. This was one of the hardest days of the entire trip for me. Now that may seem strange seeing as we built a house in four days but let me tell you, dedication day is draining. Its an amazing day – seeing the family in their new home, the joy on their faces, but it is also tough finding a way to say goodbye. It amazed me how much I loved this family that I had spent 5 days with.

The second house build I helped with was a completely different experience than my first one. This dynamic came as a bit of a surprise to me. We were completing the same task but the family and group brought such a different experience. The connections I made with this family were much different than my first, but just as unique and again I fell in love with this family. They were so incredible, and taught me a lot about the importance of family.


Seeing the contrast in both builds that I was able to be a part of showed me how although we may be doing the same things, the connections you make with people and the different things each person can teach you make both experiences completely unalike! No matter how many times you may do something if you go into it with an open mind and an open heart the people you meet will teach you something new every time.

We went back and visited the first family I build for just the other day and I got to see Uleimi again. When we got there she was shy again and was hiding behind her mom and I was worried that she didn’t remember me but as we were leaving I opened my arms for her, she came and I scooped her up and was welcomed by a huge embrace. I didn’t have to say anything but she knew how special she was to me. That connection has changed me forever, and saying goodbye this time was even harder than dedication day – but leaving knowing they have a house to sleep in tonight makes it a lot easier.


– Tianna, LiveDifferent Academy Student, Spring 2014


Author: LiveDifferent

Date: April 17th, 2014