Okanagan kid named one of 34 youth leaders worldwide

Alaina Podmorow is off to New York to learn how her Lake Country-based organization can change the lives of young girls in Afghanistan.

  • Mar. 17, 2011 7:00 p.m.

Alaina Podmorow is on her way to New York to help build her organization

When 14-year-old Alaina Podmorow heads to New York for the 2011 Three Dot Dash Just Peace Summit she will be travelling light.

In the five years since she started Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan she has learned a thing or two about ensuring her speaking engagements run smoothly.

The audio-video equipment folds into a backpack, so she never has to rely on the venue for technical support, and she and her mother, Jamie Podmorow, have packing their one suitcase like they’re playing Tetris.

“Oh, we’ve got this down,” jokes Jamie, who also has sending out press kits, promo photos, scheduling interviews and playing chauffeur licked.

It was actually Jamie’s interest that started all of this.

She was standing on the soccer field chatting with another mother and heard journalist and human rights activist Sally Armstrong was coming to the Creekside Theatre to talk about Afghanistan.

“We started talking about what was going on in Afghanistan and I just was really, really intrigued. I wanted to hear what she had to say,” she recalls.

She asked Alaina, then a nine-year-old Davidson Road Elementary School student, if she wanted to come and the saw a great excuse to stay up late and seized the day. By all accounts—and there are many out there—what happened next was a little unanticipated.

“I was completely upset about everything and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I knew I wanted to do something to make that change,” said Alaina.

“I was thinking that these girls aren’t that different from us girls here in Canada. We do share the same hopes, and we share the same dreams, and we absolutely deserve the same chance in life to reach those hopes and dreams.”

That little seed of inspiration and indignation quickly spawned a huge organization and within three years, Jamie had to give up her job at a local specialist’s office to serve as her daughter’s administrative assistant.

And if her life trajectory has changed somewhat at the the hands of Alaina’s vision, her daughter’s has pretty well taken a sharp left, a sharp right, skipped the guardrail and is now screaming up a mountain of her design.

Since founding her organization, she has spoken on Parliament Hill, met with the Prime Minister, been to New York, done interviews with Time Magazine and now attends a private school—on scholarship—so she can balance her time commitments.

This latest summit is for 34 youth leaders, selected from around the world, to put their heads together and draw on mutual strategies to affect change.

“We’re going to learn about promoting our organization and making a huge difference in our world and different strategies on how to do that,” said Podmorow.

She’s clearly already had a few sessions of this—and a good deal of success as well. The money from Little Women goes to Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, which sets up and monitors the projects they get involved with, which are numerous.

The organizations team up to train teachers, pay teachers’ $750 annual salary, build and stock libraries, have a library-in-a-box program for communities where they can’t build a physical building yet, support orphans and entire communities.

Generating all of that money takes work and Podmorow has turned in a pretty hefty touring schedule over the years, hitting engagements all over Alberta and Ontario.

She was named a Huggable Hero, by Build a Bear, and thus nominated for this latest summit. She and her mother return Apr. 3, 2011.

jsmith@kelownacapnews.com

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