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Connections across continents and culinary explorations

Our International Education program draws in students from far and wide who want to come to New Westminster to experience the Canadian way of life … all while improving their English and continuing their journey towards graduation.

While academic development is obviously one of the core focuses of our International Education program, students also come with the hopes of making an authentic connection to this city and the community. It鈥檚 a beautiful opportunity for everyone to learn about a range of cultures, while supporting diversity in our schools.

One of the ways our International students do this is through volunteering in afterschool programs around our community. For example, some of this year’s International Education students have been sharing their expertise in the art of origami with elementary school students, while other students like Andrea, who is joining us from Italy, have been busy sharing a passion for food with students at Fraser River Middle.

Andrea is currently completing his grade 12 year at NWSS. He has been volunteering for the past few weeks with Super Cooks: a 6-week afterschool program for students between grades 5 and 7, run in partnership with Family Services of Greater Vancouver.

Over 6 weeks, the students start with learning some basic recipes and skills, as they work their way up to intermediate-level options: chopping vegetables, preparing sauces and practicing all their cooking techniques along the way.

Andrea helps in multiple ways during the class, including by passing out ingredients, cleaning and washing utensils, and providing extra hands-on support to students with diverse needs. It’s help he loves giving, and it’s making the program a greater success for all.

In each class, the students make one savory dish and one sweet one, like the聽 Korean Lentil Stir-fry and No-Bake Chocolate Cookies made on the week we visited. And let us tell you, this is not just a feel-good story we’re sharing today, it’s a smells-good, tastes-good one too!

The senses in the room are all heightened, as the smells and flavours waft in the kitchen throughout the duration of the lesson, building anticipation for the delicious food they’re making. By the end, appetites have grown, and the students, volunteers, and staff all share their meal together, reflecting on the recipes and the new skills learned. It鈥檚 a melting pot of personal and cultural experiences, as everyone enthusiastically discusses what they enjoyed about the day’s creations … relating them often to the meals they tend to eat at home.

Andrea says this is the reason he enjoys volunteering with the kids. Not only is it an opportunity to form roots in this community, but he also has a genuine passion for food and cooking and likes to share that with all the students. He has also created a particularly special bond with some of the students, building on his ability to reach kids who need a little extra support. And that’s made this experience for him all the more meaningful.

Both by being a volunteer and a part of the New Westminster community, Andrea says he’s grown and developed as an human being. And the students clearly appreciate his presence, given the level of connection that can be seen as everyone dances around the kitchen together.

It’s a great reminder that a simple meal is sometimes the best way to bring people together.