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Vital People: Youth philanthropists in training include Myla Bui, 12, who folded 1,001 cranes as fundraiser

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Myla Bui left, with her sister Leila in 2020. Myla raised more then $30,000 for Help Fill A Dream Foundation by creating origami cranes. The organization helped the family while Leila was in B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver after being struck by a car in a Saanich crosswalk in 2017. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

If you were given $50 to donate, which charity would you give it to?

More than 300 people under 25 were given that challenge at the end of the 2021 Coast Capital Power of Youth: Giving Hearts Workshop this month, marking National Philanthropy Day.

This was the fifth year of the annual event, which was envisioned as an opportunity for youth from across Vancouver Island to work through a do-it-yourself philanthropy workshop individually or as a group.

“The workshop is an opportunity to encourage and inspire youth,” said Charlene Smith, chair of National Philanthropy Day for the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Vancouver Island branch. “It is meant to provide them with a new foundation of skills, a better understanding of philanthropy that they can incorporate into their daily lives.”

Applicants had to complete five chapters at their own pace starting Oct. 1, with a final submission Oct. 31. Participants learned about topics such as fundraising, advocacy and volunteering. The youth took part in readings, videos and activities, and could choose to meet virtually or in person.

Upon receipt of their final submission, each youth was given a $50 CanadaHelps gift card to hand over to the charity of their choice.

This year, the more than $15,000 made available to the program was provided by the Andrew D. Beckerman Fund and Viveka Foundation at the Victoria Foundation.

“Getting to see the diversity of the charities the participants choose gives us an insight on what social issues matter to them — and how they want to use philanthropy as a way to change life for the better,” said Smith. “We are inspired by the youth today and hope they maintain that fire as they become the change-makers of tomorrow.”

One of the participants was Myla Bui, 12, who is no stranger to philanthropy, having raised more than $30,000 in three months for the Help Fill a Dream Foundation in January.

She was inspired to raise money for the foundation as gesture of thanks for the support her family received after her sister Leila was struck by a car in 2017 at the age of 11 and sustained severe brain damage.

Her 1,001 Cranes, 1 Wish campaign was based on an ancient Japanese legend that the gods will bestow one wish for anybody who folds a thousand origami cranes. Myla asked supporters to donate a dollar for every crane she or her family would create.

Even after the campaign ended, donations have continued to come in and Myla says she will continue making cranes until they stop.

“Myla started creating cranes when she was just 11 and she is still committed to it,” said her mother, Kairry Nguyen. “She is a very giving girl. I am very proud of her and also overwhelmed at the support she has received.”

She said that the workshop appealed to her daughter because she could complete the course materials at her own pace throughout the month.

When they initially heard about the workshop, their first response was that there wasn’t much more to learn, given Myla’s success in fundraising.

“But Myla just loves to learn, so she said ‘Why not?’ ” said Nguyen.

They are happy they signed up. Myla said the part she enjoyed most about the workshop was meeting other people.

Not surprisingly, she donated the $50 she received upon completion of the workshop to the Help Fill a Dream Foundation.

parrais@timescolonist.com