Lake Country human rights leader honoured at Vernon school

Alaina Podmorow, 22, was inducted into Mission Hill Elementary’s Hall of Fame

Alaina Podmorow was just nine years old when she first helped bring human rights to girls in Afghanistan. Now 22, she stopped by at a Vernon school to receive a special honour, and to show students they’re not too young to make a difference.

Mission Hill Elementary School inducted Podmorow to it’s Hall of Fame recently in honour of the work done by Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan, a non-profit she founded when she was a student in Lake Country.

“It is such an honour to be here today,” Podmorow said to the students sitting attentively in the school gym.

“I’ve gotten the opportunity to see that there is just so much greatness in this school and so many hearts that are so full and so willing to give, and to make the world a little bit better.”

Podmorow began her work in human rights in 2006 with a silent auction to raise $750 — enough to fund a teacher in Afghanistan for one year. Her fundraiser ended up raising enough for four teachers’ one-year wages.

Since then, her initiative has spread far beyond her nine-year-old imagination.

“When we first started it was really just one small team of kids in an elementary school, and through the years I’ve really gained momentum and started teams across B.C., across Canada, even into the States,” she said.

As the school’s eighth and youngest inductee, she joins a list of standout individuals from the area that includes muralist Michelle Loughery, On Ouchs and family, singer-songwriter Justin Hines and athletes Sonja Gaudet, Josh Dueck, Larry Kwong and Camille Martens.

Students at Mission Hill will be doing some fundraising of their own to help Podmorow’s cause.

“To support Alaina’s charity, we will be having a bake sale in January,” said Sylvie Drinkwater during the assembly. “Hopefully we can bake a difference and help girls in Afghanistan get what they so desperately want and need: an education.”

Some Mission School students have already demonstrated a likeness to Podmorow, having recently returned from the annual Me to We Day in Vancouver. Me to We helps fund development projects such as schools, water infrastructure and healthcare by donating half its profits through its WE Charity.

Amolak Mann has been to the past two WE Days. At the assembly he told his schoolmates about Toronto Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia, whose story of facing discrimination had a strong impact on him at the event.

“My life has been changed because of WE Day,” he said.

Podmorow has already received a number of honours in her young life — the ME to WE award in 2008, the Huggable Hero award in 2010, and the “Top Teen Philanthropist” in Canada award sponsored by Mackenzie Investments in 2012, to name a few.

She was also made Honorary Youth Ambassador for the inaugural International Day of the Girl in October 2012.

At the close of the ceremony Podmorow was surrounded by Mission Hill students, many of them the same age as her when she first started down this path, and all of them wanting to share a moment with her.

“I got to spend a few moments this morning with some pretty awesome kids,” she said. “It is such an honour.”

All funds raised through Little Women go towards its partner organization, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, in support of projects created and managed by Afghan women or communities. For more information or to donate, visit cw4wafghan.ca. To learn more about Little Women, visit littlewomenforlittlewomen.com.

READ MORE: Okanagan Indian Band conducting study for new school

READ MORE: Outdated Vernon school library gets a boost with books


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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