Benefit from being a 4-H host family

Michigan families are encouraged to host exchange delegates from Japan during the summer of 2012. The Japanese youth will live with their host families July 22 to August 18, 2012.

This summer, the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program is again coordinating the placement of 50 youth from Japan with families throughout Michigan for a four week homestay program. The Japanese youth are placed with families who have a child of the same gender. Families with children between the ages of nine and 16 can apply to host one of the Japanese youth delegates. Pictures and profiles of the Japanese delegates still in need of a host family for the 2012 exchange are available to view online. Application instructions and forms for families interested in hosting a Japanese youth are also available online.

While there are numerous benefits of acting as a host family, here are five to consider:

Develop new friendships

The Frost family, from Skandia, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, has hosted two Japanese students through the exchange program: Rinka in 2010 and Masa in 2011. Through their host family experience, the Frost family has developed long-lasting friendships with Rinka, Masa and the families of their delegates.

“Our family was not just affected for the months that we were hosting students, the friendships have carried on. Aria [my daughter] continues to write letters with Rinka and has even started learning how to write in Japanese. I have also developed a friendship with Rinka’s mom, and we write letters to each other regularly as well,” explained Kim Frost (host mom).

In addition to forming new friendships, hosting an international delegate also helps children and parents to develop stronger relationships with other members of their own family.

Grow stronger family relationships

Hosting Masa in 2011 provided the Frost family with many opportunities to strengthen the relationships between family members. Frost explains that “as a family, we really pulled together and worked as a family to make sure that Masa felt welcomed, happy and loved.” Host families work together during the exchange to make sure that they understand and meet their delegate’s needs. Through this process, families are able to develop valuable communication skills as they work to overcome challenges that arise because of language and cultural differences.

Learn about another culture

The youth delegates from Japan come to Michigan excited to learn about the customs, foods and cultures of the United States. They are also excited to share Japanese customs, foods and culture with their American host families. Prior to learning from their delegate during the exchange, host families often spend time preparing for the exchange by learning about Japan and its people. This is an opportunity for the entire family to participate in a shared learning experience and to help each other learn about another culture by utilizing a variety of education and information resources.

Explore opportunities for international travel

Michigan youth whose families host a youth from Japan are not required to travel to Japan, but many choose to do so following their hosting experience. Each year, Michigan 4-H Youth Development coordinates a delegation of Michigan youth who visit Japan during the summer. The Michigan youth stay with a host family in Japan for 4 or 8 weeks. By participating in an exchange as a host sibling, Michigan youth are able to learn about another culture and develop the ability to form friendships with people from other cultures. Michigan youth who have participated in the exchange program as a host sibling may also have the opportunity to stay with their Japanese delegate and their family when they travel to Japan.

Improve international relationships

According to the States’ 4-H International Exchange Program, since its beginnings in 1972, the Japanese exchange program has been organized with the purpose of “guiding the young people of the world towards broadened understandings, lasting friendships and a future of peace.” Host mom Frost agrees that the effects of the program are even greater than the relationships that are formed during and after the hosting period. She believes “this program is huge for promoting world peace, cultural understanding and international relationships. Participating in this program has helped out family to become a truly international family.”

Families with questions about the exchange program, or who would like to receive an application packet, can contact Michigan State University Extension educator .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), the coordinator of the 2012 exchange program.

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by email or by calling 906-475-5731.

To learn about other global and cultural educational opportunities offered by Michigan 4-H, please visit the Global and Cultural Education webpage.

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