The Sunday Sessions: 6th Edition! DANY MENG Interviews with Inspiring Women IN and Around Leamington Essex County

Sometimes, ideas and inspirations get lodged way back behind all of the 'to dos' and the messes. Our souls need movement. For me, my ideas seem to come while on a walk, the pounding of my feet like a meditation of sorts numbing the day to day worries, allowing my daydreaming to take over. 

This summer, while on one of these meditative journeys, it dawned on me. I was frustrated with the status quo. My work with photography felt a little stuck, and the conversations with other creatives seemed to be on one of those hamster wheels. The same themes running their way through conversations about value and time and maybe sometimes feeling voiceless in our dreams for our work and our lives. 

This is how 'The Sunday Series' was born. It dawned on me that there could be a space created for sharing, a space created for inspiring and a space created for a change in this conversation. 

If you are like me, a creative, a dreamer, a seeker and maybe a little lost - this might me the inspirational conversation that brings a little shift to your week. The conversation that reminds you that anything is possible.


Have you ever met someone who you think, 'well, there's a nice person.' And then later, you find out that not only are they nice, but they are humble, too? 

The more you learn about them, the more you find out about the layers and layers of activities they are involved in or their talents and skills.  This is Dany.

Dany was great to meet on the phone, then via email exchanges and via her answers to my interview questions. But then - I met her at the local high school and started to talk with the teachers who are part of her day to day life at school - and all sorts of really neat things started to come to light!

 Dany isn't only an activist, she's an artist, she's an athlete, she's involved in school parliament, she's an excellent student and friend. Her coolest hidden talent? She plays the Ukulele!  

I'm sure there are many many more layers to this young woman - but she's only 16 and definitely on the right track to making a big impact on our world - and has already made a huge impact in our community! 

Meet Dany Meng! 

Tell us a little about yourself. 

I’m Dany Meng (or you might have seen my name around as Danny Meng, Dani Ming, Dany Mung, it’s often misspelled haha), a grade 11 student, 16, at Leamington District Secondary. I’m involved with my school in various ways. This includes being an executive member of student council; playing on sports teams, mainly badminton and volleyball; and representing our school at the Science Olympics (yes, that exists). I love chemistry and biology; they’re fascinating topics to learn about. But as much as I love my sciences, I also have a creative side, you could say. Being an art student, in my spare time I enjoy creating, whether that be sketching or painting. I may also learn a few chords on the ukulele as well. And of course, post-secondary education doesn’t pay for itself so I work part-time at Value Village.

*Dany has a piece currently on display in the newly renovated waiting area at our local hospital! Hers is the gorgeous image of a lotus flower. *

*You can see Dany standing with her art teacher Mrs Grossi in front of a mural she painted last summer as part of her art program. Stunning!

Recently you organized an event. Can you tell us a little about your project? Who was involved? What your overall goal was etc.

I recently organized a shoe drive for the organization Soles4Souls. Soles4Souls is a non-for-profit organization that works to end world poverty through the distribution of shoes and clothing. The donations they collect are either given directly to those in need, locally and globally, or sold to micro-enterprise partners in developing nations. The micro-entrepreneurs are provided with products that they can sell for a profit margin to earn money to support their family.

The drive initially started at my school, I received great support from my biology teacher, Lisa Jeffery, leadership teacher, Dan Braun and principal, Kyle Berard. Eventually word of the cause spread throughout Leamington and to other communities in Essex County as well. Elementary schools, local churches, thrifts shops, and even Value Village has contributed. Our goal was to collect 2000 pairs of shoes.

*Here's a link to the video created at the school about her campaign!* 

What drew you to this particular goal? What motivated you?
Mrs. Jeffery informed me about the opportunity. She is a strong believer in youth initiative and thought this project was something I could pull off. We saw it as a great way to pay it forward and make a difference in our community.
Throughout the process, I learned more about the organization and saw how much of an impact that we can make. Seeing all the shoes that we collected also showed me a different perspective. We don’t think much about it, but we have all these shoes lying around that we can just give away when there are families around the world that can’t even afford one. As we know, poverty is a reality in Windsor-Essex County too, not just in developing nations, so I wanted to do all that I could to help. I also travelled to elementary schools to speak to young students about the initiative. They were enthusiastic and really wanted to contribute. They believed in me to reach the goal and that further motivated me to accomplish it.

Soles4Souls has a scholarship program for students in Canada and the U.S., where if students collected 2000 pairs of shoes, they qualify for a $2000 scholarship. So as an added bonus, I was also taking advantage of a scholarship opportunity.

*When Dany came out of her home with her red ukulele I may have squealed a little. She was a little shy about playing for me while I took the images, but she looks so beautiful and relaxed I just kept on snapping away. Thank you, Dany!  

Did you have any roadblocks? Or struggles while planning and executing your shoe drive? ‎ We're you surprised with any of the challenges?

Just the amount that we had to collect was a challenge on its own, 2000 pairs of shoes is quite a lot considering that Leamington is a pretty small town. I was surprised and very proud that we were able to surpass our goal by so much! It was also quite a challenge transporting this amount of shoes! We had to count and bag the shoes (after getting over the smell of them), load them up in a trailer and drive them to Windsor where they were then shipped to the Soles4Souls warehouse.

How did it turn out? Did you reach your goals? 

I received an incredible amount of support. Students and staff from my school and from others, parents, my managers at Value Village and local volunteers all contributed their time and effort into this project. With everyone’s help, we were able to collect over 2500 pairs of shoes, surpassing our goal!

As for the scholarship, I did not get the $2000 scholarship. However, I will be receiving $1000.
Now that you have been involved in such a big undertaking - do you have other plans to organize other events? How has this experience impacted you and your life?
I currently do not have any events planned, but I am hoping to get involved with more opportunities to aid those in poverty. The experience has made me more aware of what goes on around me. We all know that issues such as poverty exists, but sometimes we aren’t aware that it can be right in our community.

The shoe drive also showed me that youth can make a difference. Most might doubt that youth care about the development of their community and even themselves but that is not true at all. Talking to the elementary school students has showed me that youth do want to make positive effects on their community. I think that youth, especially in this generation with the resources and technology provided, are very innovative and ambitious. They can accomplish anything if they set their mind to it.

 What advice can you give to other women of any age about taking on a big task, following your heart for a cause, going after a dream? 
Don’t doubt yourself. Others may doubt you but you just have to keep going. You are not too young, too old or too anything to do what you seek to do. Remember that any effort made towards a positive cause, no matter how small it may be, is not wasted effort. It can take more than one try but with enough devotion and determination, no goal is unreachable.

A big thank you to LDSS and its amazing teachers! Teachers who go out of their way to bring out the best in the students are many inside LDSS. 

I could have spent a whole day photographing Dany. She's easy to have a conversation with, and honestly, I'm looking forward to see where she goes with her life! Her mom must burst with joy seeing who her daughter is becoming. Congratulations on your successful campaign for Souls 4 Souls!  To find out more about this organization click HERE.

You can find the full list of Sunday Series interviews HERE.


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