By Nooshin Shabani
Ana Dodson, a remarkable young lady who is doing big things. Adopted as an orphan from Peru she set up her own NPO at the age of 11. She is now 14 and has raised over $25,000 to help other Peruvian orphans, and has won several awards.
“Being a leader is an action, not a position”, a famous quote which reflects the life of a young teenage girl who at the age of 11 started her own non profit to help orphans in Peru.
Ana Dodson, 14, Colorado is a young lady who set up her own non profit to help orphaned children from her homeland. She was born in Peru and was adopted by an American family, as her birth mother passed away when she was 3. Her family took her on a trip back to Peru when she was 11 years old, as they wanted her to embrace her heritage. Ana and her mother accompied by other families who had adopted children from Peru, visited many orphanages on their trip. Nerves, excitement, and curiosity were the concoction of feelings running through Ana’s mind. In preparation for her trip to the orphanages she began gathering Spanish books and teddy bears to bring for the children.
“Me and my mom love to read and cuddle up together, so I thought books and bears would be a good thing to bring down to the orphanage. Since the children didn’t have a parent of their own to cuddle up with it would be nice if they cuddled up with a teddy instead” said Ana. Her family made an unplanned visit to a small remote orphanage out of town near where Ana was born. It was this day in Cusco which changed her life, aspirations, and gave Ana the inspiration to set up her own NPO. “When we arrived at the orphanage the children streamed out smiling and laughing. Once we went inside they sang and danced for us. We thought they did this for all their visitors but we soon discovered we were the only visitors the had children ever had”.
Ana made friends and became especially close to a girl called Gloria who was living in the orphanage. As she left Gloria give her a cuddle overwhelmed with tears. She said goodbye to Ana and told her she believed she would not forget them and may one day help them. Gloria’s dreams soon enough became reality as once Ana arrived home she had it in her heart to do something more than to hold onto the memories of her experience. Once she returned home she began collecting school supplies and went on to start up a pen pal correspondence between Peruvian girls at the orphanage and her Spanish class. She told her family she wanted to help these girls and so she started taking action. Ana sent letters out to friends and family asking for help. She made contacts at the Evergreen Rotary Club who also supported her . Working hard as ever most of her time was spent finding ways to help the children she left behind and eventually as word got out hearts unlocked.
People started sending in donations which then allowed Ana to organise and host a successful fundraiser event. As word got out money came in. This was the beginning of Ana’s Journey. She went on to establish Peruvian Hearts, a non profit organisation that provides education, food, and clothing to girls in the orphanage.” When I was a baby I could have been put in an orphanage and I could have been in the same situation that these girls are in. Seeing the children that day and listening to what Gloria said really moved me and that is what really inspired me to do something more to help” said Ana. She was also inspired by Ashley Shuyler, a young lady who set up Africaid at the age of 15. Africaid is a non profit organisation that helps girls in Africa to receive an education.
“I want to bring a small piece of fun childhood with me to share with the girls, because they deserve it the most after what they have been through, seeing Ashley I knew that age did not matter” said Ana. The lack of resources came as a shock. She already knew they did not have as many toys, clothes, and books as her, but when she saw the tattered clothing and lack of education she knew that their needs went far beyond books and teddy bears. Most of the girls at the orphanage had been abused and abandoned and their childhood was spent just trying to survive. It was then this realisation had an impact on Ana. She felt very sympathetic and appreciative of the childhood that she had.” In their mind I think their needs are really pretty simple, they would like a roof over their heads, clothing, and food, that’s all” said Ana.
Since starting Peruvian Hearts Ana has collected over $25,000 in money and donations. The money provides girls at the orphanage with 3 meals a day, vitamins, shoes, warm clothing and school supplies. Some of the money is also used to feed local children lunch from the town of Anta each day. Donors have provided money which has allowed Peruvian Hearts to buy a candle making stove for the girls who make candles to sell to the church to raise money.
The change in the lives of these young girls since being supported by Peruvian Hearts is simply remarkable. There health education and standard of life has improved. Ana has won several awards for her work including, the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, and the Prudential Spirit of Community Award in which she was awarded $1000.“Winning $1000 has given me the opportunity to use the money to set up a scholarship fund for girls who want to go on with their education. I am calling the fund Maria’s Gift in honour of my birth mother as she never had the opportunity to learn how to read and write” said Ana. Many people have told Ana she is a born leader but although she describes herself as a very shy person she has learned to make speeches and ask for donations by reminding herself that everything she asks for and that the work she is doing is saving the children.
“Peruvian Hearts has taught me that even when one sees a situation that appears to be hopeless there is still hope. I believe that each person can change the world a little bit at a time. Our motto is “changing the world one heart at a time”.
Currently Ana is spending her time volunteering in the GVN Foundation office where she is working on the Stop Child Poverty Campaign. The focus of the Stop Child Poverty campaign is to raise awareness of child poverty worldwide, and to help everyday world citizens make a difference in the lives of children in need. Stop Child Poverty works to promote the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to halve extreme poverty by 2015.
Take action and be a part of the Stop Child Poverty Campaign see www.stopchildpoverty.org
Change lives today.