Most young people venture to the Caribbean for the all-inclusive resorts and tourist destinations.
Hayley Little’s eyes light up when asked what she took away from her trip to Dominican Republic last year with Live Different Builds charity.
“It was life-changing,” she says, smiling broadly.
While the beautiful weather and beaches are great, the 19-year-old from Bloomfield building a house for a woman in the Dominican Republic was an unforgettable, fulfilling experience.
The long days working in July heat didn’t deter her from wanting to return.
Little first heard about the possibilities with Live Different in a presentation during her senior year of high school at Heritage Collegiate last year.
She immediately gravitated towards the idea of volunteering for the charity.
“I thought about doing something like it before but I couldn’t find anybody to do it with,” Little said.
When she graduated last June, she set out on her first experience with Live Different. While she left on her adventure alone, she made many friends on the trip who were also volunteering with the organization.
Upon arrival in Dominican, Little and her fellow workers met the family for whom they’d be building the house. Some days, they’d go to the local church and play with kids from the community. They also learned about the culture by helping out and shadowing a family as they went about their daily routine, such as cooking and cleaning.
Little says seeing how happy the people are, despite having few possessions, gave her a wider perspective.
“It teaches you not to sweat the little things.”
The moment that moved the volunteers most was when they saw the woman for whom they were building the house open the door to her new home for the first time.
She says the woman’s previous dwelling was in bad shape and to be able to help provide a new place for her to live was unforgettable.
The trip had such a lasting effect on her, Hayley says it didn’t take long for her to decide she was going to go back to Dominican this summer to continue volunteering.
“Halfway through the (first) trip I was like, ‘I have to do it again.’”
She says she’ll be glad to know exactly what to expect and she’s already looking forward to her second trip with Live Different.
“It’s definitely worth it. It’ll open your eyes to a lot of different things because you don’t actually know how bad people have it until you see it.”
Hayley leaves on her next trip with Live Different this July.
What is Live Different?
Live Different Builds is a charity projects which constructs homes for those in need in countries like Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico and Thailand.
Participants fundraise for themselves and join a team over a 10-day period in the country of their choice.
The charity has built over 500 structures since its inception 18 years ago.