Thursday, June 16, 2016

Host families needed for exchange students; end of June deadline, says coordinator Lily Gardner Jonsek

Lily Gardner Jonsek, Shreveport

Lily Gardner Jonsek is the Shreveport-Bossier coordinator for host families.

I work primarily with exchange scholarship programs administered by the Department of State, says Jonsek, with the explicit focus of combating xenophobia on both sides of the exchange. I'm passionate about this, and I want these programs to have a greater presence in our area. Of course, when the students are active in the community and people get the chance to meet them, that will increase interest. To get them here, we have to have host families first.

I remember the tension of the Cold War. I was born on a military base during the Vietnam War. The international scene wasn’t exactly rosy during my childhood, yet there was still an innocence that served to buffer us. I’m not sure my son will have that benefit. It’s a different world now. It’s harder to hide atrocities, but it’s harder to protect against danger as well. For my son’s sake, I feel an urgency to act, to reach out and form those bonds of common humanity that will bridge the gap between where we are and the world that he, and all other children across our globe, deserves.

I answer that call by bringing exchange students into our home and community. I work with scholarship programs that offer the life-changing opportunity to spend a year in the United States to teens in countries where opportunities are limited and the potential for conflict between our countries is all too real.

I believe these programs benefit our community. We become more grateful for the rights and privileges we, unlike millions around the world, enjoy every day. We become more aware of and compassionate about the challenges so many face. We come to know ourselves in a deeper way, and find new solutions to our own problems in the process. We also have lots of fun, discovering the same old places through the eyes of a youngster newly arrived on our shores. We gain brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

We need more people to join our ranks and become host families. There are teens who have won scholarships but are waiting to hear from a family willing to take them in before the end of June deadline. New friends are waiting to be made.

For more information, please contact me at 415-359-6833 or

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