Our lives forever changed when we answered an email from our high school principal several years back. It was an invitation to host a Rotary foreign exchange student for the upcoming school year. I've always loved opening my home to others, so when this opportunity presented itself, I knew it was something I wanted to do. My family agreed and we quickly replied that we would be a host family. We had no idea who would be coming and never in my dreams did I imagine the impact Rotary Youth Exchange would have on our family. Three months later, we welcomed Sana, a 16 year-old girl from Pune, India into our home. We fell in love with her immediately. Since then, we've hosted students from Spain, Germany, Turkey and South Korea. Each girl has had a positive impact on our family. Because of our experience hosting, our daughter Annie, lived in Spain for a month and then spent last school year in Turkey. Our family has grown to include so many people we never would have met if we hadn't said yes to that simple request 4 years ago.
Today I celebrate this wonderful group of people including all of the volunteers who work with the kids here in the US. Many of them are now our friends. They give hours and hours of their time to ensure that the kids who come to the US and those who leave the US for their own exchange experience are successful.
I celebrate the kids. The bond they form is like no other. They become each other's forever brothers and sisters. Moving to a foreign country, navigating a new culture, and learning a new language provides an experience that not many can relate to. These kids get each other, no matter where they come from.
|Sana, our daughter from India.|
I celebrate friends - old friends and new. Today, we had lunch with my best friend from high school, her husband, daughter, and their Rotary Youth Exchange student, Siengpin from Thailand. Every December, students from the Ohio-Erie region take a trip to Disney World in Florida. This area includes exchange students who live within a several state radius and includes parts of Canada. Marlene (who is a first time host mom) lives a few hours away. Since they needed to drive Seingpin to Columbus, I invited them to lunch. Chanju, our student from South Korea, was going on the same trip. We were going to have an international lunch before the girls headed out.
|From the left going clockwise: Chanju, Marlene, her husband Chris, my husband Keith, me, Seingpin, and Abigail, Marlene and Chris' daughter.|
I celebrate the weaving of cultures and families that span the world. I celebrate friends - new and old - who touch our lives and leave us better people.