Hello, My name is Mandi Hutcheson and I am a 19 year old student in Orangeville, Ontario. I was involved with the Asia Connects Conference at the Toronto site. My involvement with the conference was quite different than the other delegates, for I myself have had the opportunity to live and work in Asia. My final year of high school, I was involved in an International Co-op program through AFS Intercultural Canada. The objective of the program is to spend 4 months in another country to be involved in volunteer work and learn about the culture and the country.

I had the opportunity to live in Thailand from Febuary to June 1997. I lived in Chaing Rai, which is the most northren part of Thailand. I lived with my host family and for 1 month I taught English to grades 5 and 6 at the government school in my city. For 3 months I worked at a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Development and Education Program for Daughters and Communities. The site is located in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai and the center is based upon the prevention of Child Prostitution and Child Labour. I did my co-op placement there and my job was to interact with all the daughters who are sponsored by the center to either continue school or are part of a group called the Youth Leadership program. This program works with girls to build their leadership qualities and self-esteem with the objective that they will go back into their communities to become a community leader and positive role model. So they learned about me and I learned about them and their past and future, and I also taught them English. These girls that are involved with the center have all been at risk of entering the prostitution trade or child labour, because most of them come from hill tribe villages and/or very poor families.

So I attended Asia Connects to learn more about other parts of Asia, but also to share my experience with the other delegates. The conference allowed me to express my feelings to people who were interested in hearing them and to recieve something valuable from them. For the second week, I was the support person for the two delegates from Thailand as well as the Philippines and Cambodia at TG Magazine and The Students Commission. I feel very privileged to be here this week and to be interacting with such a wide variety of intelligent and intriguing students. Everything I keep learning is only enriching my view on topics concerning child exploitation as well as culture and people.

TG Magazine / The Students Commission
© 1997 le magazine TG / la Commission des étudiants