Courtesy of Bill Rawlins - Bill Rawlins in Cap Haitien, Haiti where Live Different has done significant work. Rawlins has been awarded the Governor General’s Sovereign Medal for Volunteers.

Islander honoured for 56 volunteer international aid missions

Former Parksville principal Bill Rawlins receives Sovereign’s Medal from Governor General

When Bill Rawlins’s daughter came home from school one day with a plan to head to the Dominican Republic on a volunteer trip, he didn’t think that his life was about to change.

Joining daughter Lauren Bedard on that mission would turn out to be the start of something big for Rawlins.

Since that first trip, he’s led volunteer teams on numerous international trips to do charity work in other countries with organization Live Different.

Now, the former principal of Ballenas Secondary School in Parksville has been awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. It’s an official Canadian honour that is awarded by the Governor General’s office.

READ MORE: Locals build a house abroad

The medal “recognizes the remarkable volunteer achievements of Canadians from across the country in a wide range of fields,” according to the Governor General’s website, and “pays tribute to the dedication and exemplary commitment of volunteers.”

It was his first trip to the Dominican Republic in 2005, working on a clean water project, that really changed his perspective on life.

“It just totally opened my eyes to the fact that for 55 years I had been absolutely blessed. While I taught this stuff and thought I was doing a good job of it, I had no clue as to what real abject poverty really is,” said Rawlins.

“I’d taught poverty, but I’d never seen it and tasted it and smelled it like that.”

During the past 15 years, he’s led volunteer teams on 56 international trips doing everything from building schools, kindergartens, houses and water lines.

READ MORE: City of Parksville proclaims volunteer week April 7 to April 13

Rawlins feels as though he’s found his second passion in life.

“I realized that what we do on the ground is cool, whether it’s a house or a school or water line, but it’s really what really got me was how it impacts the people that we take down there to see this, and realize that because we were born where we were born, we won the birth lottery,” said Rawlins.

Rawlins received his medal at a ceremony at the Government House in Victoria with Lt. Governor Janet Austen in early September. A total of 44 people from across B.C. also received the medal.

To find out more about the work that Live Different does around the world, visit

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