Taylor DeVos hasn’t lived in Fort St. John for very long, but she’s already made a mark. She was nominated for, and won, the Youth Award at this week’s Annual Community Awards, and there’s a good reason why. Over the past two and a half years, Taylor has been raising money for schools in Haiti, and in total she’s managed to raise $15,000.
It all started for Taylor on her 10th birthday, when she asked her parents if she could sponsor a child through World Vision. She chose a little girl her age from Haiti named Mesline. That quickly grew.
“I started looking thought the World Vision catalogues and you could buy goats, pigs, chickens, stuff like that, but that was just for your sponsored child,” she said. “I started getting every cent that I could to buy a small gift. Then another catalogue came in and I was looking through it and I saw you could build a school, so that’s where I started.”
And she didn’t stop, putting on fundraisers, putting on dances and selling bracelets, pizzas, Christmas wreathes, holding big and small events to collect funds. She started her own website, www.1kidmakingadifference.com, where she tells her story and tracks the funds she receives. Much of this was done back in Saskatchewan, where she lived until last year. Through it all she was made a World Vision Youth Ambassador, and was invited to speak at We Day in 2013.
For those who don’t know, We Day is an event put on by Free the Children. In 2013 it was held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
“She shared the stage with Martin Luther King the Third, Magic Johnson, along with a bunch of Canadian celebrities,” said her mother Cora proudly. “She spoke in front of 15,000 people.”
Taylor added that it wasn’t easy.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking,” she said, thinking back. “I was scared before I went on stage. I was sitting backstage and I was dancing around, all scared and nervous. My mom had made me a pin with Mesline’s picture on it, and then as soon as I put the pin on under my scarf, I calmed right down and knew what to do because I knew that she was why I was there.”
At We Day, she spoke about how she caught a program on television about the living conditions in developing countries, with some people going without a reliable source of potable water and food, and the privilege of education.
“An American philosopher, Allan Bloom, once said that education is the movement from darkness to light,” she told the crowd. “I feel that every child regardless of their gender or where they live, deserves to be in the light.”
“Taylor is an amazing and inspiring young activist who demonstrates how one kid really can make a difference,” said Lon Wong, World Vision Canada’s youth and student engagement manager. “We are blessed to know her and to work with her, and we honour her hard work in support of children’s education in Haiti.”
Education is big for Taylor, and she isn’t stopping in Haiti.
“I want to send girls to school in Malawi,” she said. Malawi is a country in southeast Africa that she said has one of the lowest rates of female education. “Their biggest need is for girls’ education there, so that’s really why I picked it. They only have something like one percentage of girls in Malawi that go to school,” she said.
Although she’s just getting started planting roots here in Fort St. John, Taylor promises to be a force in the community. She said she wants to start getting her name out there and raising money for her Malawi project.
“I was thinking of doing t-shirt sales and maybe setting up a club for people to come out and help make a difference in the world,” she said. “I think I’m going to be going to Save-on-Foods and I’m going to set up a table there, and share my story.”
All of this made Taylor a good contender for a Youth Award, which recognizes for those who “display outstanding qualities, provide leadership, support their peers, overcome challenges and/or contribute to their community in a meaningful way.”
If the past couple of years are any indication, Taylor is going to have a busy summer. She said that one day she hopes to pay a visit to the places that she’s affected.