A local association known for establishing long-standing friendly relationships with Chinese students is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
The Victoria Canada-China Friendship Association was formed in 1965 as a way to improve Canada’s relationship with China.
As part of the program through its sister association in China, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, members befriend students from China who were studying at the University of Victoria and Pearson or Camosun colleges, take them on tours, entertain them or introduce them to the city.
It began with only a few students, but since its inception, the association has befriended hundreds of Chinese students. Members also conducted tours to China in the past and used the money raised to donate to disaster relief, small rural schools, and dental and eye care in China.
Locally, funds were donated to the Victoria Chinese Hospital, the Victoria Conservatory of Music and the Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver.
Gloria MacLeod, former president, said the association is free from political influence and allows members to discover more about Chinese culture.
“It’s been the most rewarding, most enriching, most interesting experience of my life apart from my work and my family. It’s very fascinating,” said MacLeod, who has been involved with the association for 25 years.
“When I’m explaining our society and way of life to other people, you have to become more knowledgeable about your own community and about our values and way of life, as well as learning a great deal about China.”
Frances Chapman, also a former president, conducted three tours to China in the ’80s. She said the friendship allows the local community to understand more about the city’s Chinese population as well.
“Their achievements in science, astronomy — they were really quite an advanced civilization,” she said. “It seems that there’s always a need for it (friendship) and a desire. The Chinese seem to appreciate it. It’s the interest in people and the culture, that’s what it’s about and it has been since the beginning.”
As part of its 50th anniversary, the association is hosting a dinner this Sunday with delegates from the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.
MacLeod said they expect to see more than 200 people at the celebration.
The dinner is at Golden City Restaurant (721 Fisgard St.) Tickets are $40. For more information visit vccfa.net or call 250-885-0791.