Two Hutton Settlement teens recently went to Thailand to learn about another culture and help out students in need.
Tonya Lewis and Jasmine LaVoie, both juniors at West Valley High School, visited Chiang Rai in Thailand in February, along with David Milliken, campus director of Hutton, and house parents Bert and Susie Price.
Milliken said the idea came from the Prices, who had been to Thailand in the past and wanted to return. Milliken wanted to do some sort of service project for a children’s home in Thailand.
Milliken, who owns a coffee roaster, said he raised $10,000 selling coffee at the Millwood Farmers Market and used to funds to buy a thousand coffee trees to plant at that children’s home. He consulted experts in the region to discuss pest control and fertilization and he and the two girls spent days in the coffee fields planting and fertilizing.
“I thought it was a life-changing experience,” Lewis said. She came home and wrote an essay about the people she met. She said they don’t rely on possessions like people do in America.
“They had nothing but were way happier than we were,” she said. “I feel like I need to get rid of stuff.”
“It was definitely life-changing,” LaVoie agreed. “They work for everything they have.”
LaVoie said they grew their own crops and raised their own livestock.
Along with working with the children’s home, LaVoie and Lewis had the opportunity to meet with a tribe of people who live in the hills outside of Chiang Rai. There, they learned to make jewelry, which was sold at a local marketplace. The two are now making jewelry to sell at the Millwood Farmers Market and send the proceeds back to the children’s home in Thailand.
They’ve also talked to other Hutton kids and staff members about their trip and have collected more money to send back to help the friends they made.
The two worked in the Hutton Settlement’s Christmas tree farm to raise money for their trip. For both, it was their first trip outside of the United States. The two were excited when, on the trip over to Thailand, the plane had trouble with its restrooms. The plane was rerouted to Alaska, and while other passengers were discouraged by this, Lewis and LaVoie were excited to see Alaska.
LaVoie talked about the similarities of life in Thailand and America. While she had an impression before she visited that there would be a lot of poverty, she found that wasn’t the case when she arrived. She said there were different cultural rules and the food was different, but “they were so much like us,” she said.
“You have to see it to believe it,” Lewis added. They noted there was a lot of Western influence propped up next to Eastern tradition.
But most of all, they learned the importance of community service to others.
“We all need to do our part to help people,” Milliken said.