When it comes to education, School District 47 board member Ashley Hull is a teacher, an accomplished student in her own right and an inspiration.
In 2016, Hull, who is currently a distance graduate student taking her masters in ESL through the University of Calgary, successfully applied for a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship.
“I was thrilled to be one of five potential candidates selected to have this opportunity to intern with Development Alternatives, a social development group that has been in operation in India since 1983,” said Ashley.
Going to India came as somewhat of a surprise to Ashley’s husband Matthew while the couple was driving from Victoria to Duncan on Vancouver Island last year at about 11:30 pm.
“I was on autopilot, and she said, 'So, I guess it's a no to India.' I said, 'What about India?'” said Matthew. “Apparently, over the Malahat, she'd mentioned that this scholarship opportunity in India had come in. I was ecstatic and said, 'Absolutely, you need to apply.'”
For the next three months, Hull will be in India on the Development Alternatives internship which, she said, is about bringing skills and talents cultivated over the years and providing a new lens to an issue or problem the locals may not have considered.
“I'll be working with the rural field team, researching the social impact their literacy program has on the local participants,” said Ashley.
Development Alternatives has developed a digital platform that makes women functionally literate in Hindi in just 56 days.
“I'll be going to build relationships with the locals and leaders to collect information regarding how their lives have improved since completing the program,” said Ashley.
The Queen Elizabeth Scholarships are meant to create lasting impacts at home and abroad through cross-cultural exchanges encompassing international education, discovery and inquiry, and professional experiences.
Hull said she believes her experiences will add value to education when she returns to Powell River.
“Though my passion is with women's education on a global scale, Development Alternatives’ specialty is in social enterprise and green initiatives,” she said.
While in the field, Hull said she’ll see enterprises and models used in patented technologies for creating bricks using local materials.
“This is where many residents feel our future as a city is," said Hull, "and I'm excited to learn as much as I can over these next few months."
While Hull is learning in India, Matthew is keeping things running smoothly at home. He is coordinator of information and communication technology for the school district. He’s also taking care of the couple's five children, ranging in age from four to 10 years old, while Ashley is away and said he’s getting lots of support from friends and family.
“A friend in town cooks a meal for us every Monday, which is incredibly helpful,” said Matthew. “My mom can help me with taking the kids on an occasional night and friends all around are offering help.”
Ashley said it’s clearer to her than ever that she has something very special in her community in Powell River and looks forward to a great reunion in three months. She’ll also be returning with a lesson.
“What I hope to show Powell River students is the power of lifelong learning and to never give up pursuing their passions, no matter their age or stage in life,” she said. “International scholarship highlights our unintended ignorances and benefits self, others and the community at large.”