Three weeks ago, Barnet contacted schools in the borough to ask if we could welcome within 10 days, even for an hour, 10 Chinese students, coming from the province of Yunnan who were visiting the UK, thanks to the fantastic work of the Anglo-China Education Foundation. It is a non-profit association led with passion by Jing Aarons and her husband Graeme Aarons, dedicated at sharing culture and language through educational programmes and events between the UK and China.
Saint Michael’s Catholic Grammar School said yes enthusiastically! We wanted them to feel welcomed in their first trip to Europe and welcomed and valued in a Catholic school with students very similar to them. They were high achievers like our students but coming from very humble backgrounds in the deep mountains of China. We thought that this shared experience would be beneficial for both communities and yes it was! On the 29th November, our community received them for a full day with enthusiasm, respect and curiosity and the entire school worked together to offer them a taste of St Michaels. Our guests were welcomed in the morning by Mr Stimpson, our Headteacher at St Michael’s, myself, Mrs Gray, Head of Languages, our Mandarin speakers and students with Chinese heritage. They spent the entire day shadowing our students in Maths, Science, Art, Drama and Music. Our Mayor, Reuben Thompstone gave us the honour of his visit, greeting them and attending a wonderful special assembly where the two cultures met. The outstanding St Michael’s orchestra and Jazz band led by Daniel Daly, Director of Music gave it all while our guests honoured us with mesmerising traditional dances and music. It validated our intuition at St Michael’s, that while we can believe in this interconnected world that we have access to everything, everyone, everywhere, real communication and interaction truly happens in its simplest and deepest form through a smile, a piece of music or simple gestures and the recognition in someone’s eyes that we are all the same, children of God, expressing through our culture and language the genius of human creativity.