Teacher Participants' Testimony


Adrienne Gnidec, Education Officer, BC Ministry of Education  

I can never thank Canada ALPHA enough for accepting me to be a part of such an incredible study tour. Words cannot adequately convey the tremendous impact of this experience and how much I learned, saw, and felt about the historical events that occurred in Asia during WWII. My knowledge has increased a hundredfold, and this period in history has created an incredible personal desire to delve more deeply and to learn more. My aim is to inform and ‘educate’ my colleagues, peers, family, and friends about the Asian “holocaust”, and that they, in turn, will do the same.

Louise Gonsalvez, Sparwood Secondary School  

The 2007, Canada Association for Learning & Preserving the History of WWII teachers’ study tour, to China, was a life altering experience. I learned about chapters of history I was previously unaware; this has challenged my thinking and motivated me to more fervently pursue my passion for social justice. The oral testimonies of victims, such as the “comfort women”, have found a place in my heart. The historical sites that we visited are now visual memories of stories that must be told. I will always feel connected to ALPHA, as they seek political redress on behalf of victims and they aim to prevent such history from repeating itself. The organization of the tour was exemplary. Meaningful intense times were interjected with opportunities to explore tourist sites and develop friendships. I would highly recommend this study tour to anyone but especially to secondary teachers of the humanities and social justice. The personal lesson I learned is that political issues are often very personal. I will always remember the faces I saw and the stories I heard.

Maureen Manning, Burnsview Secondary School  

For me the summer of 2007 presented a life altering experience. Being chosen to participate in this years’ Teachers Peace and Reconciliation Tour to China to meet with survivors of World War II in the Asia Pacific was a great honour.  

Meeting survivors from one of the most gruesome chapters in the history of war was an experience I shall not soon forget. One cannot explain the resiliency, tenacity or fortitude that these noble men and women possess and yet one cannot be left uninspired by it. The “Comfort Women”, the forced labourers and the survivors of chemical and biological testing are all a testament to the strength and will of mankind to not just survive, but to endure, overcome and succeed. These men and women have led very hard lives under extenuating circumstances that many of us cannot begin to imagine yet they continue their lives with a dignity and honour many can only hope for. The stories that were shared by the individuals we met and the work that is being done on their behalf to garner an apology from the Japanese Diet left me overwhelmed.   

In the words of philosopher George Santayana, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Thank you Alpha Canada for the work you do on behalf of the victims of war and for allowing me the opportunity to become a part of this process.

Rickie Lee, Queen Alexandra Elementary  

As a Grade 6/7 teacher, I feel that it is important that students at this age learn about atrocities that have happened in the world, and therefore, it is important that they learn about China’s recent past.  By teaching the students about what happened in China pre, during, and post WWII, in conjunction with other historic events around the world (ie. Germany and Africa), the students will be taught cultural diversity, social responsibility, and empathy for others.  

A friend, who was very interested in China’s history, introduced me to ALPHA.  I went on the tour with an open mind, not really knowing any 20th century history of China.  During the tour, I learned a lot.  It was an emotional roller coaster that took me for a different ride each day.  I was overwhelmed with feelings that I would not be able to get from a television, a book, or a lecture.  I was exposed to people, and places in a way that the average person would never get to experience.  The tour gave me a different outlook on life, and how I will be teaching the up coming school year. 

Gail MacKinnon, Newton Learning Centre, Surrey School District #36

I cannot say enough about this trip of a life time. I had always wanted to visit China, walk the Great Wall, explore the Forbidden City, and permeate the culture. This Study Tour was a wonderful blend of a learning experience: listening to the survivors of the Japanese Imperial invasion, the role China played in World War II, seeing the historical sites of World War II and the sites of dynasties.  

For teachers starting with a small or a large amount of knowledge it was extremely informative. The survivors were able to transport you into actual events and history of the time. The professors in China were able to give you the background information leading and including the plight of China during this tragic period. To be able to stand in the actual spot where these events occurred was a very powerful moment. The dialogue between teachers was informative and an essential portion to the learning outcome. The fact that the information could be carried over to the present day situation with Japan not willing to come to grip with the damage that nation inflicted on the lives of the survivors made this whole educational experience more pertinent.

The balance between the academic and tourist events was extremely well done. The tour guides were very informative and the site seeing events covered areas that I would have never thought to include if I had organized this trip myself. The cruise on the Huangpu River to view the life of this river city, reminded me of Venice and the adventures of Marco Polo. The Shanghai Circus with its feats of magic and acrobatic performance all immersed in the Chinese culture brought the visions of the Orient to life. The rickshaw ride through the Hutong alley along the canal with the drivers trying to pass each other and weaving in and out of traffic made this escapade a thrill. Hunting for the exotic souvenirs and bartering with the locals all made this trip extraordinary. Adventures in eating brought new and interesting tastes. The extravagance of dining in a botanical garden, an embroidery art gallery, and a taste of the splendour of Old China with opera and entertainment created unforgettable memories.  

Thank you Alpha Canada for enriching my life with the experiences of the survivors and the importance of the past in which China was engaged in World War II Generally this is a forgotten chapter of history to those in the West. I am forever in your debt for educating me in this area so that I can in turn pass this knowledge on to my future students.

Cory Ziebarth, North Delta Secondary School  

I feel extremely fortunate to have been selected as a member of the ALPHA Peace and Reconciliation Tour 2007.  The experience has been something that is difficult to describe in words because of how deeply it affected me.  I have seen, heard, and met with some of the most respected and widely known historians, educators and most importantly, survivors of atrocities against humanity.  Because of this, I have a heightened sense of awareness of this chapter of history, and a deep respect for those that have dedicated their lives to ensuring this time is never forgotten.  I was moved by the generosity of all involved, and cannot thank ALPHA enough for giving me the opportunity to evolve and grow as a person.  I will always remember those I have met on the tour, and will have the deepest, sincere regard for those who entrusted me with so much knowledge and their own, personal experience.  I am proud to hear those people label themselves as ‘survivors,’ rather than victims.