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Children arrive on first Korean/Kiwi primary school exchange

14 February 2003

Twenty five Korean children from Se Ryun School, Songpa-Gu arrive in Christchurch this Monday 17 February for a four day visit at Merrin School - their New Zealand sister school.

This is the first stage of a school exchange, which will involve 23 children from Merrin School visiting Songpa-Gu in April. As far as organisers are aware, this is the first primary school exchange to be arranged between New Zealand and Korea.

“The initiative came from Merrin School teachers, after watching many Korean children excel in the classroom. We were very interested in the society that these children had come from,” says Mary Jonker, a Merrin School teacher and organiser of the exchange.

Merrin also has strong links with the local Korean community. “About 15 per cent of the school’s population is Korean and there are few children at our school who do not have at least one Korean friend,” Mary says.

“Parents and teachers felt that visiting our sister school in Songpa-Gu would provide an excellent opportunity for some New Zealand children to see at first hand, where their friends had come from. We thought it would also provide an excellent opportunity for some Korean children from Merrin School to share their background and culture with their Kiwi friends.”

While they are at Merrin School, the children from Se Ryun will attend classes, join in a top team competition, be treated to a performance by the school’s Korean cultural group and participate in a pot luck dinner.

They will also be taken sightseeing including a tram ride; a barbecue at Corsair Bay; and visits to the Antarctic Centre, the Canterbury Museum and Willowbank.

Throughout their visit the children will be supported by their school principal, two teachers and two parents who will travel with them from Korea. After they are farewelled from Merrin School, the Se Ryun party will spend a few days travelling in the South Island.

Parents from Merrin and Se Ryun have raised their own funds for the exchange, with students being home-hosted with families in both locations.

So far, the Merrin School fundraising committee has raised $40,000 for 23 children, six teachers and 9 accompanying adults to travel from Christchurch to Songpa-Gu. This includes $2,000 from the Christchurch-Songpa-Gu Sister City Committee; a $2,500 donation from the Asia 2000 Foundation and a return ticket to Korea for one child from New Avonhead Travel.

Photograph Opportunities:
Tuesday 18 February, 9am – Official welcome at Merrin School Hall including a performance by the school’s Korean cultural group.
Tuesday 18 February, 11am – Top Team Competition at Merrin School involving children from Merrin and Se Ryun Schools.
Thursday 20 February, 10.55am – Tram ride for Se Ryun children. Meet at Cathedral Square tram stop.

Media Contact
Mary Jonker, Merrin School/ Se Ryun School exchange organiser, Ph 358 8369.
Sue McFarlane, Christchurch City Council , International Relations, Ph 941 8959

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