By Kanika Rana, Host Mother of Joan Ribaudi from Spain

“Sometime in April, an email pops up in my inbox, seems to catch my eye, stays on my mind. The mail speaks about being a host family to an exchange student. I am not too sure about what I really understood but it just stayed with me for the next few hours.

Honey, I have something to share with you, can we become host parents to a teenager from some other country? Well sounds to be a good. It will be a lovely experience as this is a way to give back to the society.

I speak to the contact at my workplace  to understand more about the program from AFS. I also set up a call with their office in Delhi to speak to someone who can give me a little more insight about the intercultural program.

(Photo Above: With family)

Finally, we decided to enroll ourselves for this beautiful experience. The girl we picked to be a part of our family, was taken up by another host family. We were destined to meet with Joan as he was the only one left to be placed in Mumbai.

We had a first call with him while he was in Spain; he came across as a sweet boy. He had a question such as if he will be allowed to listen to music, walk on the streets and get to eat good food. Pre-arrival preparations got on way, making up space to welcome him into our space.

2nd July, we welcomed Joan, as a part of our family. We were very excited, guess a bit nervous too, on how would he fit into the family. Each day since then has been a learning experience not only for him but for us too.

Joan has taught us a lot about his culture and we have been sharing our own. It has widened our perspective of life & how other cultures think & operate. My son & he enjoy a lot of boy’s time together whether its playing or fighting up for small things.

Joan got unwell with a virus which was rare in India, but not even once did he miss his family as we were his pillars of support. This further strengthened the bond between him & us.

AFS has been there as always to support in good times as well as testing ones. Each day is beautiful to see him learn our culture, habits and the language. He attempts to speak Hindi, travels on his own & drinks his coconut water (his favorite) every day.

This volunteering experience has been amazing. It has been so beautiful to share our culture with him. We are not even half way there yet, but also looking forward to the rest of our journey with him.

Remember, the more we give, the happier we feel. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. God bless.”