For Havergal’s international students, the school community is an especially vital component of their education. Many students and their families are not only navigating a new school, but also adjusting to life in Canada for the first time. The support and friendship offered by the Havergal community to parents, like Helen Feng, is invaluable in helping make the transition smooth.
Helen is adept at bridging cultures and communities. She first arrived in Canada 20 years ago from China to enroll her son Eddie, now 26, at Crescent School. Havergal was a natural choice for her daughter Alice, who started in Junior Kindergarten and is now in Grade 6.
“When she was three and we toured the campus for the first time, Alice said ‘Mummy, I like it here,’” Helen says. “She already felt like it was the right place for her.”
As a Junior School grade representative with the Havergal College Parents Association, Feng helps international families who are new to Canada process the information they receive at the beginning of the school year, translating school emails for Chinese parents and answering questions over a WeChat messaging group.
“Whether we are organizing their first Celebration Saturday in September helping them find a math tutor or locate ballet lessons, all of the parents help one another,” Helen says. “It means a lot to new parents that we can guide them along the way.”
Within her circle of grade parents from around the world, there is a strong support network always ready to lend a hand for any family in need, whether it be a shared meal or last-minute babysitting. Even with social distancing measures in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, the spirit of togetherness has stayed strong within the school community.
“The community is so close and we look after one another,” Helen says. “It is like having a bigger family around you.”
Helen’s choice to give to the Limitless Campaign is a reflection of the pride her daughter feels in being a Havergal girl, and the kinship both Alice and Helen have found at the school. “I still remember one moment at the beginning of Junior Kindergarten seeing the Grade 5 girls in Alice’s House holding the little girls’ hands in Prayers,” Helen says. “Whenever Alice and I saw them throughout the year, they would greet me and say hi—they recognized me too.”
The family’s gift will go towards the dedication of the new Junior School Music Classroom, as a reflection of Alice’s passion for music. A talented violinist who has won scholarships at numerous music competitions, Alice is a member of the Havergal Model Orchestra and also plays piano and clarinet. The family hopes the new classroom’s flexible configuration, improved storage and enhanced acoustics will help future generations of young students discover the joy of music.
As Alice prepares to attend Grade 7 at the Upper School next year, Helen has also dedicated a meeting room in the Upper School Library. “The more involved I become, the more I want to give back,” she says. “Everyone here cares about my daughter too, and I feel it is important to do my part to benefit the whole community.”