Month-long program has unexpected benefits for students, families
London Christian Elementary School (LCES) hosted its first winter-camp for international students who want to learn English in January. The camp ended up bringing some unforeseen benefits for the international and LCES students and their families.
The month-long program was arranged in conjunction with an agent through YBM, a large language institute in Korea. The agent contacted LCES about bringing students from Korea to spend a month in London and attend the school.
Eleven students, aged 10 through 13, came from Korea for the camp. They lived with LCES host families.
All of the international students attended regular classes at LCES as well as received additional instruction in English as a second language through the school’s resource teacher.
Principal Mary Haven says the program injected energy into the school and brought LCES host families together.
The host families set up a group e-mail and checked in with each other daily to talk about how things were going, and how to address language barriers, as well as share suggestions on meals. They organized swimming parties and celebrated the Korean students’ birthdays together.
“It was just a marvelous experience,” says Haven.
The program offered the international students a Christian family experience when they were likely expecting nothing more than a business transaction, the principal adds.
“That sums up the wonderful part of it,” she says.
When the students were to leave they gathered with their host families in the school foyer for last good-byes. Haven says there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.
“The kids really bonded with their families,” she says.
A host-family, the Bekkers, found the experience life-changing according to Caroline Bekkers, a mother of three children who attend LCES.
She says it was a wonderful opportunity for her children to learn firsthand about another culture. Bekkers says she’s always looking for ways to expand the horizons of her children and help them realize there’s more to life than what is most familiar to them.
The parent also says that hosting two students from Korea was a chance for the family to share what it is like to be a family in Canada.
She notes that in Korea students typically attend school six days a week. There school days are also much longer in Korea and they have very little time for recreation. The family took the students shopping, bowling and sledding and got them involved in various other recreational activities.
They also were able to live out their Christian faith with the international students, who said they were not Christian believers.
“We thought it was wonderful opportunity for us to be Christ to these girls,” says Bekkers.
While LCES’ year-long international program requires students to be of the Christian faith, Haven says an exception has been made with the camp and it is being considered both a cultural experience and outreach.
She notes that several faith-related conversations took place with the Korean students, which was very encouraging.
Bekkers concludes that the camp ended up being more beneficial for her family than it may have been for the students.
“It’s something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives,” she says. “It’s one of those moments in time that will always be there. We’ll always remember the month the Korean girls were with us.”
Learning English is a top priority for families in Korea, many of whom send their children for year-long programs to various English-speaking countries, including Canada, United States and Australia.