A delegation from Grampians region disability teachers and workers have completed a ten day tour of China.
Tour co-ordinator, Clyde Humphries on behalf of Skene Street School in Stawell, took the group through the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang as well as Shanghai, visiting two special schools and tea orientated tourist venues.
Many of the group had never visited China before and reported having their eyes opened at the contrast between farming areas and the mighty skyscrapers of Shanghai.
All agreed how friendly the Chinese people were and willing to say hello or wave to them, especially the children and some adults wanting to practice their English.
The delegates were warmly welcomed at both the special schools where they watched teaching demonstrations, pupil performances and tours of the various facilities.
At Yiwu Xingguang Experimental School, Skene Street's Sister School, they were also treated to lunch in the school canteen with many finding it difficult to finish the generous servings.
Teachers Lois Humphries and Sandi Slocombe from Skene Street School said they were impressed by the high quality of teaching, but also the resources of both staff and equipment allocated to specialist areas such as physiotherapy, speech therapy, autism, music as well as Montessori teaching methods in one school.
Members of the delegation also took art classes at both schools based on Aboriginal dot art templates that Mr Humphries had pre-arranged with the Foreign Affairs and Education departments of both towns.
Clyde Humphries said Tom Fleming, a Skene Street pupil and his mother Heather, reported having had a wonderful experience by being part of the tour, with Tom being the focal point at both schools because of his height (six feet or 183cm) dwarfing nearly all the teachers and students.
Tom also acted as Skene Street School ambassador by handing out small gifts such as clip on koalas and Australian chocolates to the pupils at both schools.
The Yiwu education department representative Mr Fang advised Mr Humphries that the school currently has an application before the central government for a delegation to visit Stawell in November, which will hopefully include one or two students as well.
Mr Humphries said he assured principal, Yi Ping Wang that they will be well taken care of during their proposed visit and that the Grampians region has a strong Chinese heritage as well as magnificent scenic and aboriginal cultural spots which delegates would be proud to show them.
Mr Humphries also advised that he has been asked by the Huzhou Yishangjie School to find a sister special school for them which would complement their school and he has promised to do so in the near future.
This will make it the third such link that Mr Humphries has brokered over the past few years between Chinese and Australian special schools, with the Taishan Special Education Centre and the Horsham Special School being a more recent one along with initial agreement between Yiwu and Stawell's special schools.
In summarising the trip Mr Humphries said that it achieved several goals on various levels with the main ones being meeting new friends and contacts in the special education area as well as renewing and further building friendship and trust with the Yiwu sister school.