Wanted: caring homes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 September, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 September, 1997, 12:00am

Hong Kong families are being encouraged to host foreign exchange students during this academic year.

Students aged between 16 and 18, from 15 countries as diverse as Turkey, Spain, New Zealand and Brazil, will spend time in the SAR as part of American Field Service (AFS) Intercultural Exchange programmes.

The youths will get the opportunity to learn about Hong Kong life and Chinese culture, enhancing their ability to relate to people from different backgrounds.

They will attend local schools, which will allow them to indulge their interest in things like music, computer science, Chinese history, calligraphy and tai chi.

They must be committed to adapting to local culture and even learning Cantonese. The best environment for this is in a family home.

'Anyone willing to open their hearts and homes to these youths will enjoy some of the wonderful things to be gained through getting involved in a foreign exchange programme,' said an AFS spokesman.

'In short, it's a lot of fun,' he added.

A large home is not necessary - what is important is 'the love and support that teenagers anywhere in the world need'.

Host families provide meals and accommodation, while AFS pays for school fees, books and transportation to school.

'Basically, a student becomes a member of your family,' the spokesman said.

Volunteers are assigned to students and families for guidance and support.

Families unable to host someone for an entire year can become what is known as a 'welcome family', providing a temporary home when necessary.

The organisation also seeks host families for six-month periods.

AFS, based in New York, is a non-profit, volunteer-based group which now operates in 56 countries.

Its mission is to help young people, families and communities develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world - through international student exchanges.

Founded in 1947, AFS has sent about 250,000 students on intercultural exchanges almost everywhere in the world.

The Hong Kong office, which opened in 1982, has sent almost 1,000 Hong Kong students on AFS programmes and placed more than 150 foreign students in local families.

Those wishing to act as hosts or get more information should contact hosting co-ordinator Nancy Leung or communications co-ordinator Haymann Lau - telephone 2802-0383 or fax 2802-4181.

You can write to: AFS Intercultural Exchanges, 8/F, Shun Feng International Centre, 182 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai.