Staff Blog – Laura “LiveDifferent has always had a piece of my heart”
Where to start? It has been quite some time since I have collected my thoughts and experiences into one place! I guess I could say that my start with LiveDifferent was way back in 2008 when I went to Dominican Republic on one of the public summer trips. There were many moments on that trip that were life-changing. I think the most ‘directional’ moment was one night’s activity where we were split into groups to discuss different issues that the world was facing, and to either create an awareness campaign or a plan of action. I was thrown into the group discussing slavery, and until that night, I did not realize how naive I had been towards that subject. I’d had no idea that there were more people enslaved in the world today than there were in the entire history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade! My group’s idea was to create a sustainable manufacturing company that provided job opportunities to locals, and also allowed post-secondary students from Western countries to build an external knowledge of how their actions have an impact on more than just themselves. We called it “Triangle Fashion”. To this day I have not put this ‘plan of action’ to rest, although it has been altered and revised many times in the past couple of years. It is funny to think that a simple group activity that most people have forgotten has continued to spark ideas of change inside of me.
Now, let’s fast forward a year! My plans for university in September fell through, and I had no idea what I to do with my life! Naturally, I turned to my best friend, ice cream, to point me in the right direction. Unfortunately it did not offer any sort of support other than an upset stomach! A few days later, I was looking at some pictures from my Dominican trip, and I vaguely remembered someone telling me about a 9-month leadership program at LiveDifferent. I sprang into action, found out all of the information, and luckily, I was able to just barely squeeze onto their list for the following year. It turned out to be one incredible year, filled with tears of joy and laughter and many, many blog entries. My 4 months spent in Mexico were filled with teaching English to a kindergarten school up the street, going to help out at a seniors home, hosting a Hero Holiday, and having many stressful (but important!) debates with my fellow students regarding issues such as stereotypes, poverty, consumerism, and other global concerns. On the road it was a completely different atmosphere. I was given the chance to speak in the high schools, which I really enjoyed, I helped to lead workshops, and I even enjoyed learning about and running the power for the shows! Between living in Mexico and touring across Canada, I learned that real change does happen in communities we worked with, and that real change can begin simply by sharing your story in a high school. I finished the year off feeling very fulfilled, but a little unsure of where life would take me next.
After attending LiveDifferent Academy, I entered into a two-year college program in Community Development and completed it this past spring. This program gives you the ability to be versatile and allows you to work in many different sections of the non-profit world such as non-profit management, fundraising, non-profit marketing, counseling, etc. In many of these classes, the assignments we did were mock up’s of the real deal. For example, in ‘Program Planning,’ the entire course was based around creating a plan that we could eventually execute later on in our professional careers. I handed in a program plan that would create a needs assessment in Sukabumi, Indonesia, to see if building a sewing shop would be beneficial for the locals, (four years later and still heavily based around the roots of “Triangle Fashion”). I found that this program helped me develop many different skills, and now I know that when I continue to work in this field, I will be able to create sustainable change and not just a quick-fix.
This all finally leads me to this summer. I knew I would have a few job opportunities for the four months before I return to school in the fall, but I had a passing thought. If I were able to get a student work grant for LiveDifferent, would they let me come aboard and help out in their office? I got the confirmation that they’d love to have me around the office, so I started filling out the grant application. We soon got a phone call saying that we had received the grant, and I was full of excitement! Ever since volunteering on that first trip to Dominican Republic four years ago, LiveDifferent has always had a piece of my heart. The people who work in the office throughout the year have an unbelievable stamina because everything they do is fuelled by their passion to literally ‘LiveDifferent.’ I have seen many environments where people are unhappy with their careers because they are ‘just working a job.’ However, all the staff at LiveDifferent make it seem effortless, and even when times are stressful, they work through it, because for them this is so much more than ‘just a job.’ From an outsider’s point of view, it is hard to imagine all of the background work that goes into the bigger picture of what this organization does every day. After making the transition from volunteer to student to summer office intern, I have been given the opportunity to see all of the work that goes into every single volunteer, newsletter, donation, school booking, and everything else! It is incredibly commendable and yet often goes unrecognised by us (as volunteers), yet this staff team does a great job of all the work it takes to ensure a brighter tomorrow for the people we serve. I think that was one of the main attractions when joining the team, being a part of an environment that strives to empower those around them.
I will leave you with this last thought. Throughout all of my time at LiveDifferent, I have learned that we all have a purpose and even the smallest of details can have the largest impact. Someone randomly put me in a group to discuss slavery, and they had no idea that four years down the road I would still be working on templates based on the results from that group activity. When you walk out your front door you never truly know what is in store for you, the only thing certain is that you will have more opportunities than if you stayed at home!
Laura – LiveDifferent Summer Staff Intern