Bringing The Children of the World Together [Archives:1999/04/Reportage]

January 25 1999

Would you please introduce yourself?
My name is Alan Patterson, I am the principal of a large Co-Educational independent, private school in Melbourne Australia, I have 1100 students age 5-18 years.
What is the idea of your coming to Yemen?
The idea of me coming to Yemen was to see if I could have an arrangement between my school in Australia called Mowbray College and a school somewhere in Yemen and we found a school in Jibla. We visited the school and talked to the headmaster, staff, and the local education supervisor and we promised to come back in one year to have a look on the idea of forming a relationship between the two schools. This is our second trip and it’s about finalizing the project and we are planning to come back in October next year.
Why are you coming back?
We will come back in October next year with a party of fifteen students, we will live in Jibla, in the houses of the local people and they have agreed to that. We will also do some work in the school like some painting, repairs, build a garden and improve toilet facilities. We will be going to Australia to raise some money for these works.
What else does your project offer?
We also offer a travel scholarship to a student from Jibla, to come to my school in Australia for three months to learn English, we will try to find a family in Jibla to have one of my students stay with them too, and we help in International cultural programs.
Are there any other schools taking part in this program?
We are committed to nationalism, we belong to about 35 schools around the world called Round Square Conference(RSC), they are in five continents and each one of those schools must have a project each year in a foreign country. We have a very large International program and we have exchange students program with 40 countries around the world, and we send exchange students out to those 40 countries also.
Why Jibla?
When Penny was here last time, she liked Jibla and she met someone whose family she was helping, so we went to Jibla because she wanted to meet that man and his family again. While she was there I went into a school, I just walked into a school and introduced myself and said that I wanted to form a relationship between my school and a school in Yemen. You see we had to start somewhere so it was Jibla.
What are you trying to achieve through this project?
We help students from different countries to meet and make friends. Youths are the future and when they become the decision-makers this kind of project will help them to understand each other better and make a difference. This is what we believe in RSC.
Ms. Penny Smithis a tour guide who fell in love with Yemen in general and Jibla in particular. Because of the lovely people she met there she wanted to give this heavenly village something in return.
Are you part of the project?
No, Alan and I are friends for the last 45 years. Alan came with me on a tour and it was a perfect one. He could see that there was a good opportunity to develop and enhance the relations between the children of the two countries, people in Australia know nothing about Yemen and this kind of project helps in bridging the gap. I have a special relationship with Jibla and I could see that there were opportunities to help in a small way to put something back for all the pleasure that I have had.
Two of Mr. Alan’s students accompanied him on this trip.
Alona is 17 years old, a 12th standard student who says, “I like Yemen and I would like to come back again, I would like to have Yemeni friends come over to visit my country”.
Gery, a 16 year-old says, “Yemeni people are a lot different from the people in Australia, they are a lot more friendly and they will go out of their way to welcome you.”
It was no surprise to us when we saw the enthusiasm of these two young Australian students, who had come all the way looking for friends and a genuine friendship. When we asked them how they felt about this project, they said, “We are quite sure it is going to work out in bringing us together”
By- Dr. Salah Haddash
Managing editor
Yemen Times.