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Ana Dodson

A giving heart

Ana was adopted when she was a little baby, but she always dreamed of returning to the country she was born in.  When she visited a Peruvian orphanage 4 years ago, she saw how the children were not as fortunate as she was and she decided to make it her mission to help them.  Read about her story, about her trip to Peru, and how she opened her heart to give back to the place she once called home.

How old are you?

I am 15 years old.

What grade are you in?

I am in 10th grade.

Where do you live?

I live in Colorado.

When did you first visit Peru and what made you decide to go?

I first went back to Peru when I was eleven years old. I had always wanted to go back ever since I was a little girl, but my parents wanted me to wait until I was older. But they found this great program called Peruvian Ties that brings back adopted children to their birth countries. I was told if I wanted to go, we would all go.  I said yes, of course, and that was the beginning!

Ana Dodson with childrenHow did that first visit affect you?

That first visit will affect me for the rest of my life. I was 11 years old at the time and when I was there, I saw a lot of poverty and it was very hard for me to process.  That first visit made me realize that I needed to do something to help the children in the orphanage there because I could have been one of them.  It is because of those children that I decided to start Peruvian Hearts and it has changed my life drastically.

What has your charity, Peruvian Hearts, accomplished since you started it?

Peruvian Hearts has accomplished many things!  We have a vitamin project that gives daily multi-vitamins to the children; a scholarship project that pays for school fees, uniforms and school equipment; a scholarship fund—named in honor of my birth mother, Maria—for girls to go to college; a lunch program that feeds children who walk several miles to school; a library project that sends children’s books in Spanish to Peru; and a tutoring program that brings a tutor to the orphanage to help the girls catch up on skills that they missed while not attending school. 

We also have plans to start health partnerships with medical missions that will provide screening and treatment for congenital heart problems, dental health, and other general health problems.

We have also helped build greenhouses at the orphanage, bought chickens (so the children could have eggs and meat), and this year we bought the orphanage solar water heaters so the children could have hot baths for the first time in their lives!

Ana Dodson with Peruvian childWhat is your favorite part about your service to the girls in Peru?

My favorite part about helping these children is knowing that I am making a difference in their lives. I want them to have the same opportunities that I have in mine. I also love getting to know them—their dreams, accomplishments, and hopes.

How big is Peruvian Hearts now?

Peruvian Hearts is getting larger. We now have people all around the world that are helping these children in Peru.

Tell us about the awards and recognition you’ve received in the past year.

This year CNN traveled to Peru with me and they did a “Hero Profile” on Peruvian Hearts.  I also am the Youth Ambassador for the Stop Child Poverty Campaign (sponsored by the New Zealand based Global Volunteer Network Foundation). Through this position, I have had the opportunity to speak to students in many places about following their dreams and holding on to the belief that they can change the world with small acts of kindness. Also, I got to speak with the Nobel Laureate Betty Williams at Peace Jam and I had the amazing opportunity to be a speaker at the United Nations on the International Day of Peace.

Ana Dodson working with childrenWhat keeps you motivated to work so hard?

The children of Peru—their faces, hopes, and dreams keep me motivated to work so hard. I could have been one of those children on the street or in an orphanage. I was blessed and adopted.  Now I live in America where I have an amazing life. I want these children to have some of the same opportunities.

I’m also motivated by helping kids in the United States realize they can make a difference in the world if they believe in themselves.

What kind of support have you received from your family?

I have received incredible support from my family. They are always there for me, always encouraging me and supporting me. Peruvian Hearts is a family-run organization. My whole family helps to run this charity and without them and my friends on our Peruvian Hearts board, it could have never succeeded.

What activities do you do in your free time to stay healthy?

I horseback ride, play golf, and snowboard in the winter.Ana Dodson with Peruvians

What are your plans after high school?

I plan to attend college after high school and continue following my passion for my charity and service work.

What advice would you give to girls who also want to make a difference in the world?

I would tell girls to follow their hearts and to not lose sight of what they are passionate about. If you follow your dream and take one small step at a time, great things will happen in your life.


Content last reviewed January 01, 2008
Page last updated January 01, 2008

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.