A Chinese teacher who came to Northern Ireland in 2008 as the British Council’s first ever Chinese Language Assistant here has donated a parcel of face masks to his friends in Northern Ireland.
Mei Jinde, who lives in Zhejiang Province, has stayed in touch with the British Council’s Northern Ireland team since his placement – exchanging family updates and sending decorations for Chinese New Year.
In 2008 he worked at the then Portora Royal School Enniskillen (now Enniskillen Royal Grammar School), where he kept up the connection in subsequent years – bringing groups of students to visit Northern Ireland and hosting students from Enniskillen at his own Lishui High School.
As Mei Jinde and his family emerged from a period of Covid-19 restrictions in China, he decided to send a hundred of their extra masks to his friends in Northern Ireland. They took over seven weeks to arrive by post and have now been donated to a local care home.
Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland, said: ““We are grateful to Mei Jinde for his kind support from China during the current pandemic. It’s great to see how international connections built through education programmes in our schools can lead to such strong and enduring people-to-people friendships and relationships.”
The thoughtful gift is testament to the enduring connections that are formed by international exchange programmes like Modern Language Assistants, which brings speakers of French, Spanish, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese and Irish from 14 partner countries across the world to UK schools.
Language Assistants make a significant impact on attainment and learning outcomes, while also helping to make students more socially conscious by bringing knowledge of their culture into the classroom.
Applications for the Modern Language Assistants programme 2020-21 are now open, and schools in Northern Ireland can sign up to bring Chinese language and culture to life in the classroom with qualified native speakers who can help to support Mandarin provision or introduce it for the first time.