Community & Current Events

Me to We Winner: Lola Flomen

Photography by Julie Durocher Image by: Photography by Julie Durocher Author: Canadian Living

Community & Current Events

Me to We Winner: Lola Flomen

For 16-year-old Lola Flomen, who describes her heroes as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, the "inciting incident" was not exactly what you'd expect: an ear infection.

An inspiring sick day
She was at home sick."I was lying in bed, flipping through the channels, looking for cartoons," she says, when she came across an ad for a charitable organization, "with those images of destitute families." It hit her with epiphanic force: The Montreal youth needed to do something to help those less fortunate – and so she began performing random acts of kindness.

At age seven, she sponsored a child in Malawi. At eight, she made "welcome boxes" for children at a battered women's home. She cut off a foot of her hair for an organization called Locks of Love, which provides hairpieces to disadvantaged children with long-term illnesses. She became a Big Sister for a time. I'm exhausted just listing the things she did before her bat mitzvah at age 13 (at which she asked for donations to the Jewish General Hospital in lieu of gifts, raising $35,000). Her mother says she can't pass a homeless person on the street without giving a kind word, some pocket change or a piece of pizza.

Her acts of kindness
"It's all about doing the mitzvah," Lola says. "No act of kindness is too small, even if it's just helping an old lady across the street." Her inspiration to take her compassionate activities to an even higher level came from a person some might perceive as an unlikely source: Conrad Black. "I met him at a party," she says. "He said to me: ‘You can't save people one at a time. It's better to do it in batches.'"

Those words struck a chord with Lola, and she decided to take it up a notch: battling HIV, poverty and racism in South Africa; doing volunteer work in Costa Rica; helping special needs kids in Montreal; and organizing garage sales to raise funds for a local hospital. This past  summer, she headed off to Thailand and then to Kenya with Me to We.

Oh, and did I mention that earlier this year she travelled to the Dominican Republic to help establish a water sanitation program? (I went to the Dominican Republic a couple of years ago to help build a school from the ground up.) But Lola doesn't see her accomplishments as unusual. "It's a lifestyle for me, a hobby," she says. "Some people like to horseback ride; I like to help people."

And not just one at a time, either.

This story was originally titled "Me to We Award Winners" in the October 2013 issue.

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Me to We Winner: Lola Flomen