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Opening our Hearts and Homes- A Small Way to Make a Big Difference

Think global, act local. A simple act can make a big difference. Hosting an international exchange student is one of the best and most fun ways for your family to expand global awareness and peace.

As an alumnus of Rye High School and The University of Michigan I received a great education; but the most significant learning experiences of my life have come from traveling. During my junior year of college I studied abroad on the Semester at Sea program. We visited 10 countries around the world and for the first time I experienced the depths of poverty and struggle but also the endless beauty, compassion and generosity in this world. The experience changed my life and I've continued to travel extensively since. Volunteerism, eco-consciousness and global awareness have always been important to me but like everyone, life gets in the way and I haven't been able to contribute as much as I'd like. We all get caught up in our daily lives-- work, school, family, friends-- and it's hard to imagine we have any power to make a difference in the world without devoting time and energy we don't have. 

I had the opportunity to spend two months this winter in India and was reminded again of the true compassion, beauty and generosity that exists in this world. People with next to nothing sharing whatever they could. Everyone I met was so excited that I was American, in true admiration of our country. Of all the experiences I've had in my travels the most memorable have been the times I've been a part of a simple daily routine, whether sharing a meal with a family in China, playing on the beach with new friends in India, attending an enagement party in Amsterdam, or cooking dinner in a village in Africa. It's the simple things that truly made me realize how alike we are as human beings and how crazy it is to get caught up in the drama created by politicians and governments vying for power. 

When I returned from my trip I was looking for a way to create the same types of experiences that I'd had for people wanting to visit the U.S. I reached out to the Center for Cultural Interchange, a Chicago based company committed to spreading peace through cultural exchange and volunteerism. I'm now working as a local coordinator for Westchester and Fairfield counties to help place exchange students with local families for short term stays this summer.  This exchange experience benefits not only the teenagers traveling to the U.S. but makes a huge impact on the host families as well, especially teens and kids who are able to build their self confidence through expanded global awareness, making a friend in another country and improving foreign language skills. 

Those of us who live in Westchester and Fairfield have been so fortunate with the blessings and opportunities we've been given. So many people I know are looking for a significant way to give back and hosting an exchange student is one of the easiest, most powerful and fun ways to do so while also sharing our beautiful and culturally rich part of the world.

I'm working with three Spanish 18-19 year old girls who would like to spend 3-4 weeks with a family in Westchester or Fairfield from Late July to late August. They would like to be in a home with another teenager. Please contact me if interested in this once in a lifetime experience! (hosting opportunities available for families without teens as well).

Jamie McKeown~ jems1120@yahoo.com ~ 914-260-8641

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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