Ally Myers is a girl on a mission. Her mission is not of the usual variety. It is to win one of the highest awards possible for a Canadian between the age of 14 and 25. She hopes to win the Duke of Edinburgh Award and has been taking steps to do just that.
Myers will be sixteen next month. She just returned from a 27 day trip to India and China with her mom Heather and a family friend, Joy Wallace. The trip began months before the departure date after an invitation was received from, Colleen Mullin, the Consular of Canada in Northern India (who just happens to be Myers cousin) to come for a visit. Ally has been busy working towards fulfilling the qualifications necessary to become eligible for the Edinburgh Award and one of the stipulations is time spent volunteering. Both mom and daughter grew up volunteering and it has really become a part of their life, so it was not a stretch to find a way to make a difference in a country suffering from immense poverty and hardship.
The trip began with a side tour to China to see the Great Wall, but before the threesome left for their trip they had some planning to do. “We decided that being in India and volunteering would be a great thing to do,” said mom Heather. “We located an orphanage in need of help, applied to go help there and asked them what the kids needed. We were told shoes. This is where our campaign really started.” Soon the Myers had an overwhelming response from a few emails they sent out and shoes arrived at their doorstep from Princeton, Penticton, Kelowna, Vernon, Lumby, Shawnigan Lake, Toronto and Vancouver – over 400 pairs of shoes. Pet Mart in Vernon went above and beyond. “They purchased 70 pairs of brand new shoes for us to take,” said Heather. “It was more than we expected. We were overwhelmed.”
Shoes were not the only donations either. Locals donated other things as well including, a good supply of toothbrushes provided by both local dentists, Dr. Dodds and Dr. Cook and Dr. Burchart from Penticton. “The response for help for the kids at the orphanage in Northern India was really quite amazing,” stated Heather. “So many people in Princeton championed the cause.”
After the four day side trip to China to see the Great Wall, Heather, Ally and Joy headed to India. The orphanage had 110 kids there. It was started in 1948 by an Australian family and was really impressive said the Myers. “They grew much of their own food,” said Heather. The time spent volunteering became the highlight of the trip and held memories none of the ladies will ever forget. “I don’t know how the kids there get up and smile every day,” Heather stated. “They have experienced such tragedy.”
One child Ally took a special shine to was Cynthia. Cynthia was found in a storm drain near death and brought to the orphanage to recover. Twins were dropped off their dying of malnutrition by their parents who could not care for them. “The stories are difficult to hear,” Ally said, “but the kids are so happy, I think just to be alive and safe.” Ally did lots of dishes while she was at the orphanage and spent countless hours helping to prepare meals for the 110 kids, but her highlight was definitely the time she spent playing with the kids. “It was amazing,” Ally said.
Ally is not a girl who sits idle. At home in Princeton she is an honour roll student who plays basketball, badminton, skis, snowboards, is in the band, takes summer sailing lessons in Kelowna, volunteers helping score-keep at basketball games and gives a mom a break by babysitting for free. At not quite sixteen, her life seems full of promise.
“Winning the Duke of Edinburgh would be wonderful,” said mom. “It opens up opportunities for scholarships and is something pretty impressive to put on a resume. I am proud of Ally.”
Win or lose, Ally is hopeful for a great future. She plans to go back to the orphanage to help out again. Born in Mexico, Ally has seen the world a little differently than the average Canadian and will undoubtedly continue to do so. Travelling and volunteering is in her blood and with her mom encouraging her and inspiring her all at the same time, it is possible she will see and do a lot more in the years to come.
The trip by Joy, Heather and Ally was one worth remembering, from the trip to China to the tiger sighting and the Taj Mahal. “I was so impressed with Joy,” Heather stated. “She is 75 years old and was such a trooper. We were backpacking in India. I hope when I’m 50 I have that energy.” These ladies left a mark behind and Princeton will hear more from them, that is a certainty.