Sunday, April 3, 2011
5 things to know before hosting an international volunteer
“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” - Robert Frost quotes. There are many people out there who love meeting new friends and making connections. They don’t get satisfied with meeting only people of their area and sometimes they choose to broaden their horizons by making international friends. Becoming a host of a home stay is a one of the ways for him/her to meet people from different cultures. A home stay is a form of tourism or study abroad program whereby the host offers a bedroom(s) to foreigners who want to learn the local culture and languages. Most hosts are paid directly or indirectly by the international volunteer. Although in others, the host offers their home for free. There is a slim profit margin to be made in hosting a volunteer as such many hosts due it not to make money but to expose themselves to new cultures. The main benefits of hosting international volunteers or students are: meeting new people; experiencing and exchanging cultures; broadening world views; long term friendships and tax cuts (in the USA). Before hosting a volunteer here are a couple of things the hosts should consider:
Most international students and volunteers expect to get a bed, table light and an electric terminal. During the winter and summer season, the volunteer will expect air conditions and room heaters. Some volunteers do not mind sharing a room with another person. The number of volunteers should be two per room. If the room is large enough to accommodate more without interfering the comfort of the volunteers, then more could share it. Some hosts go the extra mile to provide free internet, a small fridge and a television. Other amenities that could be thrown in are mosquito nets, beddings and laundry services.
Some hosts get intimidated by hosting foreigners and they try to make food that the international volunteers are used to. The host should cook food that they normally eat with or without the volunteer. They could make the effort of going the extra mile of cooking local delicacies that are only found in that area. However, the dietary requirements of the volunteers should be considered. There are volunteers who are vegetarians, vegans and some who don’t eat certain kinds of foods (Muslims avoid pork). They would eat the food so as not to offend the host but they will not be comfortable. From the first day, the volunteers should be made aware of what times to expect meals.
Safety and security are the cornerstones of homestays. When volunteers signup for a homestay they expect to be put in a safe home and they don’t want to feel insecure. Some volunteers carry expensive items with them, for example cameras, laptops, money and clothes. They would expect their belongings would be safe when they leave them in the home. As a host, s/he could provide a lockable drawer or somebody to watch over their belongings. If the host lives in high risk areas (in terms of security) they should give advice to the volunteers on how to behave so as not to compromise their safety.
While living with foreigners the hosts would be exposed to different cultures. They will learn how the volunteers cook, live and how they carry themselves. The volunteers too will learn the same things also from the host. The hosts’ lifestyle is what the volunteers are coming to observe and appreciate. With students and volunteers who have come to learn the language, the host should be patient and help in teaching them the language.
Being a host is good experience all in all. But being a host, one is exposing him /herself to some risks that they are not used to. This is especially true if the host has children and they get a volunteer who is immoral. There are also cases where the volunteer would have some habits that the hosts are not comfortable with for example drinking, smoking, drug abuse etc. to avoid these situations they have terms and conditions that the volunteers should abide too. Also before welcoming somebody to their home they should properly vet them.