Choyce was both appalled and proud when my daughter Sunyata burst into the bedroom at 5 AM to announce that she was “Miss Hot Legs Halifax 1999.” Since then those legs have carried her around the globe, going to universities in Ireland and Scotland, volunteering to teach English in Costa Rica, feeding orphans in South Africa, assisting orphanages gather supplies and resources in the Dominican Republic and now helping other volunteers get supplies to projects in need around the world. Now I’m definitely just proud.Sunyata Choyce has always been passionate about animals, and has spent years volunteering at The Eastern Shore Animal Wildlife Rehabilitation and Rescue Centre, raising raccoons, cleaning the cougar’s cage, and doing promotional work to bring in needed money and supplies. In the winter of 2004 she went to South Africato fulfill her childhood dream of working with monkeys. The owners of Monkey Land took one look at her and said she would be giving tours to the tourists, not feeding and caring for the primates as she was promised. Exit Sunyata. Alone, on the bus in South Africa, she met a young woman from Germany who was volunteering at an orphanage in George, South Africa. It was a bus ride that would change the lives of many people. Sunyata joined Anke, and together they created Project Colors. The 55 Aids Orphanages at the children home had only two toothbrushes to share. They each had one pair of underwear. Most of these children had seen their parents die from Aids, and a few of them now had Aids. One little guy, 18 months old, had lesions on his head which the other kids kept picking. He was not getting any medical care. All Sunyata could do was get him a hat to cover the sores, and to hold him and give him some human kindness. For him, that was a lot.
Most of these kids went to school, they were fed, and they had adequate housing. But they had no extras. Anke and Sunyata decided to get them some. So the Children’s Overseas Learning Opportunities and Resources Project (COLORS) was born. In one month they received $7,000 in donations from friends, relatives and strangers who heard about what they were doing. The children at St. Mary’s Home for Aids Orphans got basic medical attention, needed clothes,
school supplies, and toys. With the extra funds Sunyata and Anke created a multi-purpose room at the orphanage complete with music,a keyboard, a craft and book corner. The kids got to see their first movie, ironically, Cheaper by the Dozen. Sunyata was also able to buy things for people at the Aids hospice next door, and for street kids in Cape Town.
When Sunyata came back to Canada, she kept up her volunteer work to keep Project Colors alive. People continued to donate supplies and money. She was able to send resource materials to 15 developing countries with over 25 Nova Scotians who were also off to help those in need. She gives talks at schools, churches, radio and TV showing others how one person can make a difference. She had help creating a website: www.projectcolors.com . Her goal is to help people all over the world, one person at a time; to give them what they need or want in small, but meaningful ways. Whether it is shampoo for head lice or a pillow for a wheel chair or a pencil to write with, she wants people to feel special and cared for. In a recent CBC interview she was asked if she gets overwhelmed with the enormity of the problems. She replied that she takes one step at a time. She can’t worry about how big the problems are. She can just do one little thing for one person, and that often makes a big difference. No matter who we are or what we do, small steps towards kindness and love DO make a difference.
Sunyata is now helping at two orphanages in the Dominican Republic. The challenges there are huge. The life-stories of the children are heart-breaking. One 12 year old girl, Claudia, is very disabled mentally and physically. She was recently found lying in her own excrement because her only care-giver was her 5 year old brother. He could feed her, but not move her. Now both children are being helped, and Claudia has a wheelchair, so at last she can be mobile.
Through COLORS Sunyata was able to start ESL classes, help pay or teachers wages, buy purified water for a year, plus take the kids on weekly excursions. There is so much to be done, one child at a time, one step at a time. Sunyata’s legs will take her far.