Western students Beichen Gao, Soheil Milani, Aaron Joshua Pinto, Jonathan Vollett and Hattie Zhou are among 30 Canadian students who will travel to Panama and Colombia from July 12-28 as a part of Junior Team Canada.
The trade mission, which follows Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent attendance at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena de Indias, is organized by Global Vision, a national non-profit organization founded in 1991 by former London-Middlesex MP Terry Clifford. Global Vision has led missions to more than 20 countries, with the most recent being to Indonesia in August 2011. The program engages enterprising young Canadians, ages 16-25, through education and hands-on experience to develop as leaders who make a difference in their communities, Canada and the world.
Western’s delegates come from a variety of backgrounds:
- Beichen Gao, a fourth-year double major in Physiology and Pharmacology, has worked for the Middlesex-London Health Unit for three years, where he created and ran campaigns for youth on the topics of tobacco prevention and healthy living. At Western, he has been a Soph for the past two years (and is heading back for a third). He was recently elected as a youth counsellor on the London Youth Advisory Council;
- Soheil Milani, a third-year Political Science major, has served as Delaware Hall president, where he spearhead a constitutional change among all Western residences to replace the election of council members with a selection process. He was also responsible for organizing and hosting last year’s University of Western Ontario High School Debate Tournament, which brought students from across Ontario to Western’s campus. He was recently elected as a youth counsellor on the London Youth Advisory Council;
- Aaron Joshua Pinto, an International Relations and French student, is a well-rounded member of the student body, involved in the University Students’ Council as well as lobbying for postsecondary policies at Canada-wide undergraduate conferences. He worked with women and children in South Africa, teaching English in District Six, a post-Apartheid township in Cape Town, and producing disease-fighting probiotic yogurt for poverty-stricken communities, such as Kayamandi. During his stay, he also had the opportunity to speak with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu about HIV/AIDs awareness in the region;
- Jonathan Vollett, a second-year Kinesiology student, is a passionate member of the Western community. In first-year, he took an active role in Western Investment, Smart Solutions and Entrepreneurs Club, in addition to his engagement with Global Vision. Vollett also travelled south with Western’s Alternative Spring Break program in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, to build houses as part of the post-Hurricane Katrina rebuilding effort in New Orleans;
- Hattie Zhou, a second-year Economics major, is an aspiring businesswoman, who has been involved in several business clubs on campus, as well as different business initiatives in the community. She has also worked with various youth organizations in the community to help students take advantage of opportunities outside of school. She ran an election awareness campaign in high schools across Toronto, and has organized many other events that connect youth to community organizations.
Junior Team Canada delegates were selected through a process that started with attending the Global Leader’s conference, followed by completing a lengthy application. Western’s group is comprised of five of 100 young Canadians selected to attend the National Youth Ambassador Caucus on Parliament Hill in Ottawa at the beginning of June, hosted in conjunction with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Global Vision. The Panama and Colombia initiative was then awarded to 30 youth.