“Just DO IT” says Host Mom

by Laura and Gene, host parents; edited by Allison Graham, Outreach and Training Mgr

Laura and Gene have hosted a total of six high school exchange students in Wisconsin over the years. Their very first hosting experience was a rough start but they saw the greater benefits and chose to continue giving the gift of exchange. They are currently hosting Caya from Switzerland with CCI Greenheart. Laura also became a Local Coordinator in 2011 so that she could share the invaluable experience of hosting with others.  Laura and Gene have provided a snap-shot of their time with Caya and the reasons why they host.

Laura-HFThings we have learned from Caya. Hmm…well, Switzerland doesn’t have pop tarts, pumpkin, Monster trucks, or choir as a school class.  While each student teaches us about their country, they also teach us about the school they attend here in Racine.  Caya is very involved in the drama and music programs at school so that has given us new experiences attending concerts and plays.

We host for many reasons: to learn about different countries, to help a student reach their dream. But I think the main reason we host is because of the joy, laughter, and life that a student brings to our home each year.  Also hosting gives us a reason to go out and do things we probably wouldn’t do if it was just the two of us.  We look for activities and events that the students might not have a chance to do in their own country, like Monster trucks.  We took Caya to the recent Monster truck show in Milwaukee and she is now a Gravedigger fan!

The thing that surprised me the most about Laura and Gene was how much effort they put into me. They always try their hardest to make me happy and to make some special memories for me. When I arrived in Milwaukee at the airport and had no idea who my new parents were, I was welcomed with bright smiling faces, a stuffed frog, and a “Welcome to America” sign. I never thought I’d be so happy here as I am right now. — Caya, from Switzerland

We would really like people who have never tried hosting to acknowledge their fear and doubts, and then just DO IT.  We have no children living at home.  We have a very small house with one tiny bathroom.  I know the commitment can be intimidating. I know it’s difficult trying to figure out how to add one more person to your family, but the experience is so incredible and amazing that it’s all worth it.  We can’t imagine life without an exchange student anymore.  These students bring so much energy and joy into your home.  I have friends with teenagers who can’t imagine taking in someone else’s teenager, but really these students are just so happy and grateful to have this experience.  Not only will this change your student’s life, but it will change yours as well.

My experiences over the years as a host mom is what led me to become a Local Coordinator (LC). Because I am so passionate about sharing this experience with others, I took the next step and became a LC with CCI Greenheart.  It saddens me to see all the potentially great host families out there that aren’t ready to take a chance.  There’s so much these families are missing, and that’s what motivates me to keep trying.

Are you ready to acknowledge your fears and doubts to that you can learn more about hosting? Click here to read frequently asked questions.

Since 1985, CCI Greenheart has successfully placed over 20,000 international high school students with volunteer host families around the U.S. We are the only “green” exchange organization that connects people and planet by practicing sustainability and encouraging all participants to volunteer and give back to their community. www.ccigreenheart.org