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Volunteer Corner: Thanks to our wonderful hosts!

May 27, 2010

Kim Hope Athay is IRIS’s volunteer coordinator. She is in charge of working with volunteers and coordinating short-term host families for various programs.  Kim also works with the YES program.

Serbia participants and hosts

Participants of the Community Connections: Serbia project (May '10) and their Iowa hosts

The process of finding host families for any of our short-term projects is always a challenge. It’s hard to pick up the phone, make the call and ask someone to open their homes up to complete strangers.

And it’s not over after a host says they will do it — In a group of ten hosts, you will always have one who finds out at the last minute that they are unable to help out after all; you’ll have to change another one’s schedule around, and still someone else might have a conflict come up midway through the hosting time, and you’ll have to scramble to find someone else to finish the hosting.

With all of that being said, I’m always overjoyed by how many people answer the call. Whether you’ve hosted for IRIS many times before or it is your first time hosting, the work you do is invaluable.

IRIS loves putting on programs for international guests. There are always people from around the world that want to come here to visit, and there is a constant supply of volunteers around the state of Iowa who are willing to share their expertise and open their schools and businesses to our guests — but without host families to welcome those guests home each evening and share their lives over the weekends, our programs would be unable to survive.

I always appreciate the flexibility, patience, kindness, generosity, openness, humility and humor that I find within each of our outstanding host families. Opening up your home for a night or a week or a month or a year isn’t always an easy decision to make, and the hosting experience can have cultural and logistical challenges. However, each host family finds ways not only to make their guests feel like they are at home, but somehow you transform your guests into an extended family. I am in awe each time I hear stories from participants about the love they found under your roofs.

There is no word in the English language I know of that can accurately account for heaviness of gratitude we at IRIS have for our host families. Thank you all.

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