Media Coverage
BlueStar's summer camp goes global
Source: China Daily Date: 2012-08-13

Remi Aillot, a child from France attending the BlueStar summer camp, asks questions during a class in Beijing. About 120 children, aged between 8 and 15, joined the camp this year. Fifty-four of them were from 10 countries, including the UK, Australia and the US. More than 40 teachers specialized in foreign languages and psychology worked together in the camp. Provided to China Daily

 

More than 100 children join the program, some are from the UK, Australia and US
What kind of summer camp would make a British man come all along from his native country to China on his 20th wedding anniversary?
The answer is a summer camp in China organized by a company for the children of its employees.
Darren Burrows, quality technician at BlueStar Fibers Co based in the United Kingdom, told China Daily that it was a pity that he could not celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife back home. But he added that he also felt glad to be able to participate in the camp as a volunteer to teach local kids.
The BlueStar summer camp is organized since 1992 by China National BlueStar (Group) Co, a subsidiary of China National Chemical Corporation, one of the top chemical products manufacturers in the country.
This year's summer camp, the 23th edition, was held under the theme of equality, friendship, harmony and improvement, said the summer camp's representative Li Huili, who is also a company employee.
"Twenty-three years is a long-time commitment for the company and its China National BlueStar's President Ren Jianxin," said Burrows, who visited China for the first time. "I enjoyed every minute of it and I would love to come back on my 25th wedding anniversary with my wife."
He said he was busy as a volunteer, but that it was also very rewarding.
A few minutes before the interview, Burrows shared information and funny stories with the kids about the Olympic Games, which were held in his London hometown this year.
The children, the offspring of China National BlueStar's Chinese and overseas employees, listened to him attentively and answered his questions with enthusiasm.
Li, who worked every summer in the camp since 2007, said that 120 children between 8 and 15 joined the camp in Beijing this year, and 54 of them were from 10 countries, including the UK, Australia and the United States.
Up to 40 teachers, including volunteers like Burrows and professionals specialized on foreign languages and psychology, worked together in the camp.
Many overseas employees enjoy participating in the camp and they usually come back after their first experience, Li said.
Alain Bisson, a French engineer at China National BlueStar's French venture, said that this was his second time in the camp.
"The camp gave me the chance to visit a lot of interesting places with great architecture in Beijing. I was impressed with the kindness of Chinese people in 2009, so I came back," he said. "The camp has tightened the relationship between Chinese kids and their overseas peers."
Many former campers from the 90s are now college students or grown-ups because the camp has been held for more than 20 years.
Some of them wanted to give back because they enjoyed their experience when they were young.
Chai Jing, 20, a sophomore student in Beijing, is one of them. She said she joined the camp every year when she was in primary school and that it was an activity that she looked forward to every summer.
She volunteered to work as a translator in the camp this year.
Founded 23 years ago for children of China National BlueStar's employees, the camp was organized originally to help the company staff with childcare during the summer holiday. But later the annual 20-day event became an important traditional and educational activity, providing a chance for youngsters to learn martial arts, sports and even the company's philosophy.
The first camp in July 1989 was a seven-day tour of Gansu province. As the company became bigger and more international, the camp also became more professional, with a growing number of children participating.
In 1999, the company invited experts from the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education to draw up a curriculum for the camp. It also employed university students as teaching assistants and brought in doctors to give healthcare support.
Meanwhile, the company has gone global. As a large-scale State-owned enterprise, China National BlueStar has 45 factories and 17 scientific research institutes all over the world.
China National BlueStar also bought a number of overseas businesses, including its 2006 takeovers of two French companies - Adisseo and Rhodia - and its acquisition of Qenos in Australia. In 2007, it also acquired a UK subsidiary.
Amid this background, the camp became international in 2009 with the participation of the children of foreign employees.
"We aim to give children the opportunities to explore a new world and help them to understand their parents better by letting them know the company that they work for," said Li. "The camp's development has been a reflection of the company's development."
The company spent 70 million yuan ($11 million) in the past years to organize the camp. All the campers enjoy the activities for free.
But as the camp gets better known all over the country, an increasing number of people are inquiring if they can pay for their kids to join it. However, Li said that it likely won't happen in the near future because the camp is a benefit for staff and not a for-profit activity. 

By Du Juan (China Daily 08/13/2012 page22)


 

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