“WELCOME” in bold signs and sounds was the message proclaimed by the ISSofBC contingent at this year’s Chinatown Spring Festival parade. Around 150 ISSofBC staff, students and volunteers from diverse cultural backgrounds carried placards with the word “Welcome” in 14 languages, shouting out each one in unison as they made their way through the 1.3-km parade route January 29 in Vancouver.
The message resonated with the thousands of spectators who braved the cold and rain to watch the annual parade, which is Vancouver’s largest community event, many greeting the ISSofBC team with waves and smiles.
“This is a concrete display of what ISSofBC stands for,” said ISSofBC Communications Division Manager Lily Lim.
The placards were part of a joint initiative between ISSofBC LINC students and volunteer ESL mentors who were matched before the event to use the parade as an opportunity for the language students to practise their English and build their social networks. In the process, these students — in addition to all participants in the ISSofBC parade team — learned how to say “welcome” in Farsi, Arab, Afrikaan, Chinese, Tagalog, German, French, Spanish, Turkish, Korean, Japanese, Hindi, and Italian.
“What we did today meant a lot to me,” said one of the rain-soaked students at the end of the parade.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, BC Premier Christy Clark, and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson — all sporting traditional Chinese celebration attire — attended the parade this year.