Introduction

In September 2005 we took on the hosting of a Japanese girl (aged around 17) for an academic year. We did this through AFS. They provides intercultural learning and volunteer opportunities for students, young adults, teachers and families through international exchange.

AFS is one of the world’s largest not-for-profit volunteer based organizations. It offers international exchange programs in over 50 countries through local AFS organizations, each with a network of volunteers, a professionally staffed office, and headed up by a volunteer board. AFS International provides worldwide leadership, coordination, support, quality control and development of AFS organizations and programs.

We have a relatively large house in the Midlands’ region of the UK and have two daughters, aged around 12 and 14. For some time we have thought that it would be interesting and helpful to host an exchange student from the East. A few months ago, one of our local newspapers mentioned that AFS were having problems with hosting arrangements for a Thai girl. We got in touch but fortunately they had resolved the specific problem reported in the paper but needed hosters for other children.

Following discussion, relatively straightforward paperwork (and security checks of course) plus a home visit, we were commited to taking someone one. The organisation works hard to match children and families together on the basis of lifestyle and interests.

We reviewed details of several children before selecting a sporty girl from Japan. I shall call her Mutty on here. Information was exchanged, she decided she liked us and ultimately arrangements were made and we started to exchange emails.

The photo below shows Mutty with her Mother and Father at the airport in Japan shortly before she headed off to the UK. Sad, excited, and frightened all at the same time.

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