Campus Life

Award winner Kopp eager to make difference

For Alexandria (Ally) Kopp, travel has been a consistent theme throughout her entire life.

At just three-months old, her parents took her on her first international excursion to Hawaii. In Grade 4, the family spent a month in Mexico and shortly thereafter, toured across Canada with a Boler trailer in tow. When she was 12, they backpacked around Costa Rica, and just last year, Kopp spent two months globetrotting in Europe.

Although the sites she's visited are vast, the lessons she's gained have a common thread.

"Since I was little, my parents helped me realize how fortunate I am in my life," says Kopp. "Since then, I have sought the opportunity to travel and help others."

Ally Kopp
Nursing student Ally Kopp, pictured with Malawi student Seleman, was a recipient of the YMCA Peace Medal.

In her third year as a nursing student in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Kopp was one of 18 students selected to go on a month-long field study to Malawi with the goal of conducting culturally relevant health promotion activities related to blood pressure, malaria and HIV/AIDS.

While there, she met 19-year-old Seleman at the Chowe School near Mangochi, Malawi.

"At first I noticed how shy and soft-spoken he was. He also had a disability impeding his ability to walk," she recalls. "When I had the chance to talk one-on-one with him, I realized he was very smart and determined. He was fluent in English and dedicated to learning."

Through conversation, Kopp discovered that Seleman had cut his foot and after a resulting infection, could no longer walk. The story resonated with her, and she offered to do whatever she could to help Seleman regain mobility. Word quickly spread about her commitment, and Kopp was able to arrange a visit for Seleman to see a specialist in a hospital more than an hour away.

Unfortunately, nothing medically could be done to help Seleman, but Kopp remained committed to her promise. After returning to Canada, she and her parents wired money to a trusted contact in Malawi for the purchase of a hand-powered wheelchair for Seleman.

In November 2012, Kopp received the Lethbridge YMCA Peace Medal for her work in Malawi, an award that recognizes contributions to peace, understanding and making the world a better place.

"In Malawi, I learned that one individual can have a great impact," says Kopp. "If I could help Seleman have just a little bit better quality of life, then I felt that was something I should do. This trip reaffirmed feelings and beliefs I had before, making me more dedicated and interested in actively seeking further humanitarian-aid opportunities."

This story first appeared in the January 2013 edition of the Legend. To view the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.