What makes our Leaven programs so special is that we do more than just teach reading and math; we also offer young boys and girls the opportunity to engage in new experiences and learn about opportunities beyond what they already know. This past month our Leaven kids got the chance to learn about a new culture and make new friends when they were invited to join a Chinese New Year celebration at the Vacaville Homestay Program.
The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is one of the most important holidays of the year within the Chinese culture. Its timing is determined by the Chinese Lunar calendar, starting at the full moon of the 12th month and ending at the full moon of the 1st month. It originally served as a time of rest and preparation before the spring farming season, but is now seen as a time of relaxation for busy workers.
Our students were delighted to meet several Chinese International High School students at the event, and spent the afternoon learning about this important holiday. They had the opportunity to make paper lanterns, a Chinese New Year tradition, and learned how to use chopsticks for the first time – even turning it into a competition by the end of the afternoon.
The students loved learning about Chinese culture, but also learned they have much more in common with these International students then they first thought. Many of our students do not speak English as their first language, having learned Spanish at home first. As they got to know the International students, they were able to bond over this common trait, and share stories about the difficulties of learning a second language, as well as laugh over some of the mistakes they made when they were first learning this new skill.
They even spent time teaching each other words in their native languages, writing words in English, Spanish and Chinese. Even the location of this event was an exciting opportunity for our students as many of them had never been inside a hotel before. They loved experiencing so many new things, and getting to share a cultural experience with new friends. Even weeks later, they are still talking about all the fun they had at this exciting event.
Opportunities like this are incredibly important in the development of these children. Not only do they learn new things, and learn to appreciate a different culture, but it also teaches them that, although we may be very different from someone else, deep down we probably have a lot more in common than we first thought. It’s just one more way we’re helping kids and communities rise.