Courage, selflessness, sacrifice: words to define a hero. They define a person who has a certain quality of mind that allows him or her to overcome adversity, a person who is willing to forfeit something valued for something of greater claim. A hero is someone noted for feats of courage and nobility of purpose. At Pymatuning Valley, Ami Turner fits that definition well.
The destination of our little hero: Harrissmith, South Africa, for a mission trip. The trip is sponsored and supervised by Thrive Africa, a religious but nondenominational group that provides gateways for 15 to 21 year olds interested in helping citizens of the world.
The cost of the trip is $4,000 for admission to the program. In addition, Turner needed to raise an extra $1,000 for immunizations, passport and luggage fees. She accomplished the financial task through fund-raisers and multiple donations, for which she says she is so grateful and feels so lucky to have so many people willing to help her to help others.
Turner’s flight time to Africa is between 28 and 40 hours, a part of the trip which she is not looking forward to.
“We haven’t booked the flight yet, but it is dependent on whether or not there are stops,” Turner said. “Still, I am really nervous – I have never been on a plane before, ever, in my whole life.”
Taking such a long journey on a plane by herself, to meet up with new people once she arrives in Africa would be daunting for just about anyone, but plucky Ami, all 5-foot, 3-inches of her, says that it will be totally worth it.
Once she arrives, Turner will be assigned to a group with an interpreter and four to six other young people from all around the United States. Each group is assigned to a different family every two days. During that time, their job is helping that family with their daily chores, and lending a hand in rebuilding and restoring the family’s home. When they leave each family, a “love garden” will be planted by one team member.
“The ‘love garden’ is planted to show that someone actually cares,” Turner said.
It represents the connection made with the family, and serves as a positive reinforcement of the Thrive Team for the family.
Turner said her inspiration came from multiple places. She has a personality that serves.
“I just want to help people,” she said. “We take so much for granted in our life and they (the families) have little or nothing. I just want to do the best I can.”
Andover Christian Church, where Turner attends, was very supportive through the entire process.
So what else is Turner looking forward to?
“Zebra meat. It will be a highlight of my trip,” she said with a smile.
She leaves for Africa on July 8 and returns on July 27. She knows that the trip will surely change her life. Whether it will be the zebra meat diet or the lasting relationships and feeling of achievement, it seems certain she will come home built of strength and filled with an endurance and enthusiasm for life.
“I really feel like I want to do this for the rest of my life,” Turner said. “Even though this is my first mission trip, I have found my niche and everything I want is coming together.”
Turner’s high spirits and selfless nature are sure to bring smiles and joy to the lives she touches in Africa. Facing her nervousness about the flight, seeing her enthusiasm for the new world she will encounter, and realizing her sincerity of purpose in beginning a lifelong commitment to service to better the world, one cannot help but be inspired by the pint-sized person with the giant heart. Pymatuning Valley High School sends off our representative to Africa with good wishes and high hopes.
Good luck Ami, we know you make a difference!
And as always, GOOOOOOOO LAKERS!