School District 27 is looking for several families in the Williams Lake area to open their hearts and doors for Chinese students coming for the second annual Winter Camp.
Dean Coder, director of instruction for secondary, spearheaded this effort since its inception last year. Its goal is to give lakecity youth at Columneetza a taste of Chinese culture as well as a chance to experience a Canadian winter for a group of middle school-aged students, who have basic understanding of English, from the city of Chengdu, China.
“We’re looking for a family willing to house one or two students, we prefer two because then they are connected with each other, to offer them some Cariboo-Chilcotin hospitality,” Coder said.
Families would billet the students or teachers for 10 days and ideally be willing to provide breakfast and supper, with the school providing lunch. Those who do house them will receive a $250 stipend from SD27, Coder confirmed.
Currently, SD27 is looking for seven host homes to help billet 14 of the 22 students and three host homes for the six teachers and chaperones accompanying them. Preferably they hope each student could have their own bedroom, though the details of the arrangement can be worked out in the application.
Those families interested in hosting a student are asked to contact program facilitator Shannon Augustine at 250-398-3804 or Shannon.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The families who are selected to house the students are expected to meet them when they land at Williams Lake Airport on Jan. 22 and drop them off when they leave. Last year Coder said this was the hardest part of the visit as there were a lot of tears and goodbyes to share.
The only one of SD 27’s international programs, Coder said Winter Camp brings a unique opportunity for students from both Williams Lake and Chengdu to learn about one another’s culture and schooling methods. For those SD27 students who haven’t left Canada, it will give them an opportunity to get a sense of what life is really like for kids their age outside of Canada.
“This is our second year for the winter camp and last year the students arrived around the same time (mid-January). That was the time of the big blizzard last year so it was pretty exciting for these kids who come from a tropical city, who have never really seen snow, to a plethora of snow here in Williams Lake,” Coder related. “I think it was very exciting for them.”
Coder said he felt the group got a good experience of winter life in the Cariboo-Chilcotin last year, as they went out for sleigh rides, hikes and ski trips, in addition to just living in a winter wonderland.
While here on their Winter Camp students also attend school at Columneetza alongside SD27 students.
As a high-quality education is a big priority for Chinese parents, Coder believes the high standards B.C. holds its students to encourage Chinese schools to form partnerships like the one with SD27.
“They had such a great time last year and they connected with the students here.
The social media of choice in China is WeChat and lots of our students stayed in touch so I think the students here have really enjoyed meeting students from a different culture,” Coder remarked. “A culture where school can start at 7 a.m. and go into the evening at 8 p.m.”
The radical differences made for immediate discussion and curiosity on both sides, in his opinion, and allowed the students to form quick bonds with one another.
The current tensions between Canada and China over the detainment of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou is simply a government-to-government matter, in his opinion. Coder said that by bringing people from the two countries together, SD27 is doing its own small part to sooth the tensions between the nations.
“When you bring people together and when you connect people and give them a deeper understanding of each other’s culture, you diminish that tension,” Corder mused. “You understand what each other’s worlds are like. I do think we have a little bump in the road between nation to nation discussion but I would suggest the best way forward is for us to connect with people, especially with our kids.”
Coder hopes in fact that once relationships have warmed between the two countries, Williams Lake students can embark on their own version of Winter Camp with SD27 students in Chengdu. Having visited the city himself, he says it’s beautiful and he feels lakecity youth would benefit a lot from experiencing another culture firsthand.
After all, if the experience the kids from Chengdu enjoy are anything to go by, there’s lot of potential for learning and growth over there.