How our volunteers are making a world of difference

Volunteering is an important part of creating positive change in our world.

LiveDifferent relies heavily on volunteers to support our mission and we are truly grateful for their dedication and hard work in making this change possible.

For more than twenty years, our volunteers have been making a difference in the lives of people in need. From humanitarian work in Mexico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic to inspiring youth across Canada, our volunteers embody what it means to live a life of caring for others.

From those who have been with us for years to those who have recently joined our ranks, each and every one of our volunteers is a valuable asset to our organization and to our cause.

Bill Rawlins’ 18-year journey with LiveDifferent

As a long-time volunteer, Bill Rawlins – president of the Parksville Rotary Club – has seen first-hand the impact that his efforts have had on the communities that LiveDifferent serves. Bill joined us on our first Build ever in the Dominican Republic, and over the past 18 years, has been on more than 50 Builds.

Bill was a principal at a high school in Parksville when he first heard of LiveDifferent—though back then, it was known as Absolute Leadership Development, Inc. After one of our in-school presentations in 2005, Bill’s daughter Lauren was the only student at the school to sign up for our first Build. Bill joined her as a Team Leader and the rest is history— from the Dominican Republic to Mexico, to Haiti and back.

“The project was digging a water line from a natural spring on the hillside down into the village of Ascension,” said Bill. “What was happening in that village, some of the kids were dying from the parasites in the water they were drinking, that was coming up through a rusty old hand pump.”

The team succeeded in getting the water line to the top of the village, and Bill and his daughter returned the next year to continue their volunteer efforts. It was during that return trip that Bill truly understood his impact, which has kept him coming back ever since.

The power of compassion

While touring through the village of Ascension with our team in 2006, Bill and Lauren came upon a bunker where a woman was cooking lunch for her and her two children. The kids had “swollen tummies, orange-coloured hair,” and were “obviously severely malnourished.”

And in her frying pan for their lunch, the woman was cooking two meagre fish heads.

“I was done. I was absolutely done,” Bill said. “I looked at Lauren, she looked at me [with tears in our eyes] and I said, ‘This is not right sweetie, this is not right.’ And she said, ‘Daddy, it is not. What do we do? What can we do to change this?”

Bill shared this story with his fellow members at the Parksville Rotary Club as an example of how bad things can be for those living in poverty and told them they needed to do whatever they could to help address this issue.

Part of the Rotary Club’s mandate is to fundraise and finance an international and community project every year, and while it was standard for them to write checks for causes in the past, Bill was motivated to get them more involved in a hands-on way.

The result has been amazing.

Since 2014, the Parksville Rotary Club has travelled down to Mexico to build houses, a community centre, a kindergarten classroom, the Brigade 54 Adult Education Center and a tech classroom in Centro De Bachillerato Tecnológico Agropecuario (CBTA). With the help of district matching grants, donations from local businesses and some serious fundraising by the club and local volunteers, the Rotary Club has been able to make a real difference in the lives of the communities they serve.

Bill also started the Interact Club for students ages 12 to 18 so that more young people can be involved in these projects. He says the highlight for him is when he sees the way these kids are awakened to the potential of their own compassion and kindness as they come to understand the power of their actions to positively impact lives.

“It’s very rewarding to see that we really have made a difference,” says Bill. “Lives have been impacted and the idea that changed hearts can change the world is absolutely true.”

Bill’s story is an inspiring example of how one person can make a huge difference.

The kindness and generosity of volunteers like Bill are truly remarkable and have changed the lives of countless people. We are so fortunate to have such an amazing group of people who are willing to commit to such positive change, and we are so grateful for their dedication and hard work.

So here’s to our volunteers – thank you for all that you do!

Author: Gina Alward

Date: January 31st, 2023

7 ways to lift people up during Kindness Week

In Canada, the third week in February is known as Kindness Week—a time when people are encouraged to make some sort of declaration of kindness and charity.

So in the spirit of kindness, we’ve compiled a list of challenges for you to do each day in your school or community to help spread more kindness.

Day 1: Help someone feel seen

When we take the time to show people they’re valued, we can make a profound impact, and it all starts with one small word of kindness.

Your mission: Think of a person in your life who should be thanked for what they do, find them and thank them!

You can call, text, email or better yet, reach out for an in-person get-together. At the end of the day, the important thing is that you’ve shown this person how much you appreciate them.

Day 2: Clean up

Helping to create a warm and welcoming space is a great way to show someone you care.

Your mental health is greatly affected by your environment, so taking the time to make sure that a space is clean and tidy can have a positive effect for those interacting within this space.

Your mission: Clean up! Pick up some trash, do the dishes or help tidy up a common room that you share with others, like your classroom, cafeteria or library. You can even take this task outdoors and show some kindness to the environment.

Day 3: Hand out high-fives

Research shows that teammates who high-five during a game are more likely to be successful.

That’s because the high five is generally programmed in your brain as a positive experience. It’s even been proven to be more effective than words of affirmation to encourage and lift others up.

Your mission: Find ten people and give them each a high five!

Day 4: Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes

We’ve all heard this expression, right?

Well, that’s what empathy is—it’s understanding someone else’s experience so much that you can actually imagine having that experience for yourself.

You’re mission: Strike up a conversation with someone outside of your circle.

It could be a volunteer, a new teammate or someone from a different grade. Simply take the opportunity to connect and try to see the world from their perspective.

Day 5: Give a small gift

Think back to a specific time when someone went out of their way to let you know they were thinking of you. How did you feel?

When we do small things to show someone we’re thinking of them, they often feel seen, valued and cared for.

Your mission: Gift someone a small token of your appreciation.

You could bake them their favourite treat, lend them one of your video games, or make them a care package to help them study for a big test (filled with pens, flashcards, snacks and more!). The trick here is to think of something this person would want to receive, and give it to them.

Day 6: Volunteer for a passion project

There’s always a reason for your passions.

Whether it’s taking care of animals, creating beautiful music or simply having meaningful conversations, your passions help you understand your purpose. And these callings have the power to transform both you and your community.

Your mission: Volunteer for a cause that you think is important.

Go online, take a look around your community, and plan some time when you can get involved. It could be as simple as fundraising for this cause, volunteering directly or donating items to support their mission.

Day 7: Offer to help

There’s never a shortage of people to help in the world. Sometimes you just need to think outside the box.

You could help carry someone’s groceries to their car, offer to babysit for a family member, change someone’s tire, visit with the elderly, help your siblings with their homework, walk your neighbour’s dog, or even share this list with others.

Your mission: Find five people who need help and give it to them!

Do you have more suggestions?

Kindness can be shown in small ways like those listed above or in big ways like joining a humanitarian build in another country.

No matter how big or small, each time you show kindness to another human being, you’re creating a ripple effect that can be felt throughout generations.

What other acts of kindness can you think of? Drop them in the comments section below.

Thank you to our partners at Boston Pizza for supporting this initiative.

Author: Gina Alward

Date: April 17th, 2023