Bushfire fundraiser from French exchange students

Lycée Darchicourt teachers and students presenting a cheque to Zoos Victoria.

It was an emotional day for Lilydale High School students as they bid farewell to French exchange students, who they had hosted for over two weeks.

The French students from Lycee Darchicourt in Henin-Beaumont and their Lilydale High School hosts attended an assembly on Wednesday 26 February to say their final goodbyes before jetting back home.

Prior to the trip to Australia, the French students came up with the idea to create a fundraiser for Zoos Victoria’s Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund, upon learning of the devastating bushfires that hit the country.

An online fundraiser set up by the French students and teachers raised $2300.

Lycee Darchicourt English teacher Karine Fontaine told the Mail, “When we learned about the bushfires we were really moved and saddened, so we decided to act and create a fundraiser for Zoos Victoria.

She said that spending a day at Healesville Sanctuary was a highlight of the trip for her students.

Lilydale High School’s Acting Head of Languages, Kelly Farrell said the fundraiser became an unexpected feature of the trip.

“Once you’ve hosted international visitors you watch how wondrous it is for them to see all these native animals that we take for granted. I think that has prompted them because they see the kangaroos, wombats and koalas as symbols of Australia.”

Zoos Victoria relationship manager Lori Kravos, accepted the fundraising cheque and thanked the students for their efforts.

“We’re so touched by the support Zoos Victoria has received from around the world. It’s heart-warming to see these students, who are only in Australia for a short time, have wanted to do something to help.”

Ms Farrell said she previously worked at Lycee Darchicourt in the 90s, which helped forge the relationship between the two schools. She hopes experiences like this help to open the eyes of her students to other cultures.

“I enjoyed giving my students an authentic experience of talking to another young person. It’s the idea that young people are young people from around the world; they listen to the same music and will have similar interests.

“With language learning, if you’re doing it in a classroom, you can feel a bit disconnected. Your teacher is an adult and they are not experiencing the same thing that you are experiencing.”

While the students said goodbye, it won’t be a for long for some as several Lilydale High students will travel to Henin-Beaumont in March to get a taste for France.

As the area is in close proximity to the Belgium border, the Lilydale High students will be diving into some historical war teachings along the Western Front.

“We really can’t wait for the Australian students to come over, so we can do our job to show them around and continue this friendship,” Ms Fontaine said.

“I think creating a link between Australia and France is so great. They are creating friendships for life.”