In a wave of tears, host families, pupils and staff from London Christian Elementary School (LCES) said goodbye last week to 10 Korean pupils who became part of the school under the month-long Keystone Leadership Institute leadership training program.
According to LCES principal Mary Haven, the program is designed to train future leaders of Korea to one day change and enhance Korean culture. Her school follows the foundations of the program in Ontario laid by fellow OACS (OACS) schools in Strathroy and Woodstock.
The success of the initiative is evident, she says, when one considers its expansion through OACS schools. This year’s experience, she says, was a successful experiment and one she hopes will carry on in the future.
The visitors, many of whom have participated in similar programs across the globe, inspired her students to consider the world as one large community, says Haven.
“God’s world is a small world,” she says, “and this helps our students and our staff to see this — it stretches everybody to accommodate everybody and understand each other’s cultures.”
“It’s pretty profound for our students.”
She says a number of them have said they’ll visit Korea one day to continue to strengthen the bonds created through this program.
“Strong bonds were formed,” says Haven, “and these kids became like siblings and children in the home-stay families.”
They also demonstrated a sense of discipline and commitment to academic improvement that Canadian children don’t always display, she says. LCES students were fortunate to see these traits in their visiting peers.
Likewise, the Keystone students admired certain aspects of their Canadian peers’ lives and Haven said many were sad about leaving their newfound friends to return to a more regimented lifestyle at home in Korea.
“They really enjoyed this lifestyle here,” she says. LCES students could sense their friends’ appreciation for the Canadian way of life and they learned how important it is to take nothing for granted in their lives under God.