Delaware County’s 4-H International county coordinator Walter Morton says he wants to remind local families that it’s never too early to think about next summer if they want to host a Japanese student for a month-long visit — by participating in the Ohio 4-H International exchange program.
Ohio 4-H International exchange programs are among the largest and most successful in the country, with more than 3,000 participants annually, he said. What many don’t know is that a family does not have to be active in 4-H to participate in most of its exchange programs. In fact, according to Morton, “Host families automatically become 4-H members just by participating.”
Morton also said host families come in a variety of shapes and sizes — traditional families, single parent, dual-career, childless, rural, and urban. There are three separate 4-H/Japanese exchange programs seeking host families for 2016. The largest program is the Japanese Labo Youth, a one-month exchange from July 23 through Aug. 18.
Labo is an informal educational organization that provides an integrated program of youth development, language learning and cultural exploration for Japanese children and their families.
These young students range in age from 12 to 18 years. While there are few restrictions on the make-up of host families, the one-month Labo Youth Exchange program does require that the host family have a child in the home of the same gender and the approximate same age as the visiting youth.
“As part of the informal Labo program, the young Japanese students have been learning about America since they were very young,” Morton said, adding that a good host family match makes for a more successful exchange experience. “Their parents have been saving money for the planned trip for many years, so this is very important to them.”
Morton also said host families are being sought for two to four weeks visits by Japanese Labo Older Youth ages 19 to 22; and for Japanese Labo Adults ages 30 to 55.
After they arrive at Port Columbus, the Japanese youth will spend their first two days at Ohio State University undergoing an orientation program and adjusting to the time change. On the third day after their arrival, they will travel to the homes of their host families where they will experience one month of typical American family life.
Morton stressed that the month-long Japanese Labo Youth Exchange Program is well organized and administered through the Ohio State 4-H Foreign Exchange Department at OSU. Adult Japanese chaperones monitor the youth during the home stay and are available for counseling if necessary during the visit.
Morton added that many of the exchange visits result in relationships that continue for years, occasionally with members of the American host family traveling to Japan to be a guest of the family of the Japanese youth they hosted.
If you have questions about what a hosting experience is like, ask Walter and Donna Morton. Over the years they have served as a host family to several girls from the Japanese Labo Youth Program. One girl, Nami Fujii from Kobe, Japan, remained with the Mortons for an extra year to become a Big Walnut High School 1996 graduate. They have also hosted three girls as part of the International 4-H Youth Exchange, one each from Sweden, Finland and Norway.
Call Morton at 740-965-2770 for more information or for an application; or email Morton at email@example.com. For general information about the Labo program, go to labo-exchange.com.
Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.