Through our own personal and working relationships in the community of Atenas, we began several years ago with a few high quality and trustworthy families. It has been from this core group that we have incorporated additional families eager to share and learn from the hosting experience.
Both IACR executive directors go to the house of the family to review the following: security of the home, the participant’s room, bed, place for clothes, lamp, reasons why the family wants to host a student, any prior experience they have had with hosting or interactions with foreign students, willingness to share the culture and help with any initial culture shock, and skills of open communication.
We review our host family policies, outlined in contract form, which the family must agree to and sign. Policy agreements include: no drugs, responsible alcohol use complying with appropriate drinking age and/or policy of the academic institution or organization, no romantic involvements with family members and participant, no discrimination of religion, race, ethnicity, handicap, learning differences, respect and adaptations to any dietary or medical conditions, no unaccompanied night time activities, understanding of the procedures in case of illness or injury, etc.
Before program participants arrive, we invite all the host families to our Center to review the policies, program schedule, and share experiences. We discuss cultural exchange experiences and address any other topics. Every family is given a guide of basic English phrases to use with students. Most of our families have a member who is proficient at some level in English to help communication.
IACR staff has cell phones that are available 24 hours, 7 days a week. IACR staff communicates with the host families every 2-3 days and are in daily communication with the participants about their homestay. We give each student a wallet size emergency card when they arrive with all of our cell phone numbers, host family numbers, directions to the house in Spanish, the local health clinic number and address, and emergency number of 911.