So…what’s been happening since your Hero Holiday?

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Ever wonder what other past volunteers are doing once they go home? Many of our teams leave their Hero Holidays armed and ready to change their worlds. If you have ever been on a Hero Holiday you know that you leave with many new friendships with others who get you and understand the crazy things you just accomplished together. They get you, they understand the emotions you have felt and have shared their dreams to make our world a better place for those stuck in the cycle of poverty. They know what it’s like to work alongside someone looking for plastic bottles at the garbage dump in the DR, or to hammer nails while the wind is turning up dust all around you in Mexico, or to have carried water up the side of a mountain to our school in Cap Haitien, or looked into the eyes of a child that has been exposed to things that no one at their age should have seen in Thailand. One thing that we always hope is that our volunteers stay connected as they go home, and encourage one another not to fall into the same way of life before their Hero Holiday. I thought I would get some of the interns from our Summer 2012 to let you know how they are doing to encourage you as you journey on what ever path you are on. 

“Since I have been home from the Dominican life has been so different for me. I started my first year of college which has been a major life adjustment to say the least, and since my experience in DR, there are some things I have not been able to look at the same way. I can’t look at or drink out of a plastic water bottle without having this feeling in my stomach or memory of finding them at the garbage dump, the same goes for wasting food. One of the major things that hit me square in the face was seeing poverty in and around my own community. When I was out one night, there was a women handing out paper towels in the women’s washroom and had a plate beside her collecting tips. When I went to give her a tip some of my friends looked at me weird…which made me a little angry but then I reminded myself that I have experienced something different from them, and everyone has a story so you can’t judge someone by the first impression.  That’s something that has really changed my outlook on life; that everyone has a story, and there is always a positive to every situation. Some days are worse than others, and it’s easy to get caught up in the memories, or shed a few tears because you are reminded of the connections you have made back in the DR or with people across Canada that you may not see every day. Keeping in touch with the other interns and participants from my past years in the Dominican is really what keeps my head up the most. I met some amazing people that I may not get the chance to talk to everyday, but they are forever in my heart and they have created a passion that will never leave me.” ~ Katelynn

“Since returning from a Hero Holiday Internship in the Dominican Republic, I have realized how much I have changed as an individual. I am much more positive, and I feel that I have become a much stronger leader. Since I have been home I have shared my experiences with every person who is willing to listen. I hope that sharing my experiences can initiate change in others. Because of the internship, I keep a mindset that everyone has a story. This makes me more sensitive and open to new people I meet, or even people I associate with on a daily basis. I sometimes find it difficult to realize that I have changed something, but when I volunteer at Special Olympics, the smiles, laughter, and hugs that the Olympians display are sure signs of change that I am a part of.” ~ Reggie

“Since coming home and completing the internship, I feel my perspective on myself and my life have changed so much. For so long I had memories pushed into the back of my mind that I just considered a dark part of my past. I didn’t want to think of them, let alone tell anyone, because I was scared of the feelings they would bring back of the insecure girl I was in high school. Since opening up with the other interns and allowing myself to tell my story for the first time, I felt freed, as if a heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders. In the days and weeks following the trip, I’ve been able to look back on my past with an understanding rather then resentment, and realize how overcoming depressing thoughts has made me the person I am today. Pain changes people and since the Dominican, there is never a day that goes by that I am not thankful that it has changed me for the better. I’ve realized that everyone has a story and everyone is the way there are for a reason. LiveDifferent, the interns, the amazing locals, and all the experiences I have had in the Dominican has changed the way I look at life, and that is an experience I would never give up for the world.” ~ Haley

“After I arrived home this summer, I spent hours upon hours just thinking of what to do next. I stayed up until the wee hours of morning (that’s when I got my best planning done), just thinking of anything that I could do. At school, I am part of three councils: Athletic Council, Students Council, and Roots and Shoots. By far, Roots and Shoots is closest to my heart and I am the leader of the group; we do fundraising for humanitarian reasons in our community as well as for international organizations. Being on three councils, I also try to get the other councils to help us out. In addition to the work I’ve been doing in school, I have also been fundraising for the interns “Arroyo Seco” project. All the interns went home with the goal of raising money to help with renovations on the community centre in Arroyo Seco, DR. It took me a while to figure out how to do this, but in general, the simplest idea ended up being the best. My mom is a teacher at the Montessori School of Sudbury  (a not-for-profit organization) and I placed a large Water Bottle (Culligan Type) for parents of students to put change or bills in. I ended up having immense amounts of success and plenty of parents supported the cause… I fundraised close to a thousand dollars!!!!! Though I have kept myself involved after arriving home, it has not been easy. I have had plenty of ups and downs and I can put my own definition to what is a “angry humanitarian”. Everyone asked me how my trip was, but very few asked more than that. As we learn in final debriefing, I had made my 30 second story, my one minute story, and even my hours long story. It’s disappointing to say that I only shared my hour long story on a couple of occasions. The definite positive aspect is that all those I know that actually care about what I do is that they were very proud of me. I was on the cover of a local magazine when I arrived home and I was actually very proud of myself. Coming home, some of my culture shock and realization had to do with my friends and family. Over the past couple of months, I have had some struggles with friends, and even family; much of it having to do with my different values and perspectives of the world. It has also been an inner struggle. I have had to keep myself from falling back into depression, but I am working hard to stay positive. Also, keeping in contact with the interns from Summer 2012 has helped me TONS. These are people that truly understand me and have seen a side of me that no one back home has. Along with many of the leaders and my team members, they are my LiveDifferent family and they will always have a place in my heart. While I wish I could be planning for another Hero Holiday, I’m very busy. Being a grade 12 student, I have a lot of big decisions to make in my near future, and I am a very high stress person . The two don’t really compliment each other. While I do not have a Hero Holiday planned in the next year, I will do whatever I can to help LiveDifferent and to represent the organization. As I fill in different scholarship applications, my trip always almost comes up as it has been such an important time in my life. I have chosen to LiveDifferent, and hope that I can get others to do so as well.” ~ Rachel

“I’ve had many positive things happen to me since returning from interning in the Dominican Republic. I’ve had hundreds of people ask me about the trip in person as well as on facebook and asked for information and what they can do to get involved. I was asked by the mayor to do a presentation on my trip. I joined a popular society at my university called Enactus that deals with helping people in many different forms. I have recently began talks with them in order to collaborate together to help fund for the school in Arroyo Seco and they enjoyed what we do so much that they wanted to help out even more. I have finalized that I am planning to attend a Hero Holiday trip to Mexico this upcoming summer as well! I have had struggles though since coming home, it’s difficult to be around people at university who have no idea what other people in the world are dealing with. Many people don’t understand and people are oblivious to more important things in life. I find myself constantly getting caught up in drama and materials that really don’t have any significance. My grandmother’s cancer came back after returning home and the words of advice Johnny (LiveDifferent Staff) gave me from my long talks with him really helped me get through it all and they will definitely stick with me for the rest of my life. I often struggle with the day to day boring school items (we all do) and stay motivated but there are many times where the real me comes in, the me from the DR, and I am reminded of the value in my education. I have looked into different career paths and options including being apart of a unit in the RCMP that helps stop sex trafficking and slavery in Canada. I look forward to experiencing a new Hero Holiday location in Mexico and building a house there too.”  ~ Garrett

We LOVE our interns and they are a vital part of our summer programs and help to make them a success! We all go through struggles when we go home but it is important that you don’t forget all the relationships that you developed on your Hero Holiday. For the families you meet or kids in the community, honour or respect their memory by letting your life continue to be different. Let your choices reflect the change that has happened in you. One of the best way to keep this change alive is to stay connected with your team from your trip. If you have not already be sure to reach out to others via facebook or skype. Encourage each other as you choose to each day to LiveDifferent!

Nettie Brown, Manager of Operations for Dominican Republic and Haiti

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: November 20th, 2012