Change The World | Columns | Travel

The Bigger Picture: A Trip To Mexico Changed Hailee Forever

A trip to rural Mexico gave Hailee a new perspective on the importance of family, friends and love.

Live Different Hailee

Hailee is 17 and from B.C. She likes many of the same things that you like. She has 752 friends on Facebook and she just graduated from high school. She thinks that being true to your ideals is important and yet she loves to laugh at herself. She loves hanging out with her friends and she is pretty proud of her new tattoo. But she has also fallen in love with something else and it has changed her take on life, love and all those other mysteries. It is a crazy experience we like to affectionately call “The Shack.” At first glance, you would never be able to see how important The Shack was if you drove by it in that small town in Baja California, Mexico, but it changed Hailee’s life.

Hailee is one of our Live Different Academy students. She comes from a family that would be classified, here, as “the working poor”— often there were not quite enough funds to provide everything the family needed. For the first seven years of her life, Hailee’s mom raised her alone. She has never met her real father. Her family life has been tumultuous, but she knew that she was going to move past that and begin to reach out to the world around her and that’s why she decided to join us at our Live Different Academy. She will spend half her year in Canada, travelling into high schools and reaching thousands of students with the message of love, hope and change. The other half of her year she will be living in Mexico, working with the poor, studying our social justice curriculum and getting her world rocked on a daily basis. She will never be the same. Especially after The Shack.

The Shack is a house that our students make out of whatever they can find: cardboard, metal scraps, rusted tin and even hammered out beer cans. They build it themselves, live in it for a week and work among the “working poor” in Mexico’s outback, living on $8 a day. Together, Hailee and the other students have experienced a lifetime of lessons. She recently told me what she has learned that has changed her so much.

Live Different Hailee

“I learned that without your family or friends you have nothing—even when you have food or shelter—because without them there is no warmth in your shack. I learned that a mother who feeds her six children off 110 pesos a day (less than $10) can turn money into gold better than Donald Trump ever could! I learned that chivalry isn’t opening the car door for your date; it’s carrying your five gallon bucket of tomatoes and your pregnant wife’s five gallon bucket too. But what I really learned over this week of bucket showers, tomato fields, cardboard boxes and cooking over our open fire was that, at the end of the day, I went to bed smiling. We had pride that shone brighter than the sun because dirty hands don’t mean bad hygiene—they mean hard work.”

Hailee will never be the same. Her fresh perspective on what it can look like to love people, exactly where they are at, will always remind her of the time spent in The Shack.

Sometimes, all that we really need in order to change the world is the chance to make it happen. Hailee has reminded me that love is about more than what I can get—it’s really about how I can learn to give back. So, this is my shout-out to Hailee and all of the other Live Different Academy students that have experienced The Shack thus far: you make the world a better place!

Live Different Hailee

christal-earle-200Anyone can take a Hero Holiday—even you!

Each year, hundreds of Canadian teens join Live Different on a Hero Holiday: building houses, schools and children’s homes in developing countries. To learn more about how to go on a Hero Holiday, how to bring an Absolute presentation to your school, or just find out more about how you can get involved, check out

Check out more from Christal Earle at her blog,

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