Duncan Christian School receiving donations of masks from Chinese families

International students’ parents shipping package after package

Duncan Christian School principal Jeremy Tinsley displays some of the masks his school has received from families of international students in China. (Submitted)

Families of international students at Duncan Christian School have been generously shipping box after box of surgical masks to the school, which DCS has been handing over to healthcare workers on the frontlines.

The families from China have sent the masks by the hundreds, including about 300 from just one family.

“It’s unbelievable,” DCS principal Jeremy Tinsley said. “Almost every day we are receiving packages of surgical masks. It’s been crazy, there’s a different package at the door, day after day.”

It’s not just current students, either, as families of recent DCS graduates have also been sending packages.

“It’s an unexpected blessing,” Tinsley said.

The school has been able to donate about 1,000 masks to local physicians and another 1,000 to Island Health. They have also provided masks to nurses who provide in-home care.

Almost all of Duncan Christian’s international students are riding out the pandemic here, staying with host families or, in one case, other relatives in B.C. Only one international student has gone home.

The families in China say they can “see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Tinsley reported.

“Their advice is to stay the course, it will get better, hang in there,” he said. “It provides a lot of hope, how people have stepped up to get through this challenging and unique time.”

DCS attracts international students, Tinsley explained, because it is a small school, offers a great environment for kids, and because the teachers and staff know the students well. It provides an opportunity to build close relationships and is a safe place.

“We don’t have a huge program; we’ve got about 13 or 14 — a fraction of what other schools have,” Tinsley said. “That’s kind of where we’d like to be. It adds a lot of flavour to our school, and cultural diversity.”

The international students and their generous families are not the school’s only connection to China and the COVID-19 outbreak. DCS teachers Tom and Sandy Veenstra lived in Wuhan, where the virus was first detected, and taught at Maple Leaf International School for two years between 2008 and 2010. Their oldest son, Boaz, graduated there, and their youngest son, Reuben, later went back to China to continue his education. The Veenstras were shocked to see images of the city after it was locked down.

“It’s very, very busy all of the time,” Tom said. “There’s lots of people around all of the time.”

Another staff member, IT teacher Yi Zeng, is a Canadian citizen who moved to Duncan from Ottawa last year, but he is originally from Wuhan and still has family there.

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