International students in Manchester are broadening the horizons of children from the age of five thanks to the International Society’s work in the local community. Their One Love School projects range from introducing secondary schoolchildren to refugees and migrants to international students teaching primary pupils about their home countries. From the feedback received by teachers, pupils and parents it is clear that international students are making a lasting impact in their community.
We spoke to Sam Harris, Acting Director of the International Society who explained about the role of their international student volunteers in primary schools:
“Introducing our international student volunteers has a huge impact in changing perceptions of different cultures and countries. Pupils are excited to hear about new places and amazed to see the giant EarthBall we bring along. It is created with NASA satellite imagery and shows our planet as it is seen from outer space – with no borders.
"By sharing stories of other countries and showing them how big the world really is, we hope to open young children’s minds and get them excited about possibilities and opportunities.
"We hear feedback from teachers about how they go home and talk to their parents about what they learned, broadening the minds of others in the local community.”
More than 18,000 children have taken part in International Society projects, supported by The University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Salford and funded by HSBC, The Oglesby Charitable Trust and Rotary clubs. These projects give young people positive experiences with people from other countries at an early age and help tackle prejudice, racism and hate crime.
“Some of these schoolchildren have never left the country, or in some cases never left their home town, so introducing them to different cultures at a young age is extremely important. Building friendships across countries and cultures is how we encourage peace across the world.”
Over 1,500 international student volunteers from around the word have visited schools in Manchester bringing their home countries to pupils across the city. The activities are varied to keep children entertained and curious about broadening their horizons. It can range from bringing in their local dress to show the children, or teaching them a few phrases of their own language.
One primary school pupil said:
“This has most definitely been a once in a life time mission: to make the world spin again. I enjoyed learning about countries that I never knew existed up to now.”
This initiative also changes the lives of the international students taking part. Chen, a Chinese volunteer said:
“I really enjoyed this valuable volunteer experience and this will definitely become my special memory of my life in UK. The kids are so cute and friendly, they also bring the energy and happiness to me. In the end, a little girl came to me, and said "Thank you" in a gentle voice. Through her crystal eyes, I knew what I had done may mean a lot in the future, and I accomplished the mission of bringing Chinese culture to different parts of the world.”
If you’re interested in running a similar programme within your university, school or college do get in touch with Sam Harris, he’s keen to share advice and tips to help others develop similar initiatives.