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Sierra Home Stay Seeks Hosts For Cultural Exchange

OAKHURST – One night this summer, a group of welcoming “parents” will be picking up tired kids who’ve just arrived in America from China via San Francisco.

For many on both sides of the arrangement, it represents the opportunity of a lifetime.

Will you be one of these “parents?”

Sierra Home Stay (SHS) is currently seeking accommodations for approximately 35 young Chinese students during their two-week in-home visit to Oakhurst and surrounding areas, beginning Saturday, July 19 through Friday, Aug. 1. The cultural exchange organization was founded by teacher coordinator Sheila Adams and cohort Lori Howard. This is their 7th year working home stays with China.

Sierra Homestay - 2011 - girls singing at the shopping center - Courtesy Kellie Flanagan“We’re looking for host people who are interested in being a host family for two weeks for one or two teenage school kids from China, who are coming to America to taste American culture,” explains Sheila Adams, who many know from her work with nonprofit arts program extraordinaire, Vision Academy.

Adams says that past relationships show that Chinese parents send their children to American home stays as a stepping-stone toward the kids finishing high school or attending college in the United States. Many students from previous summer SHS programs have returned for further American education.

Host families are asked to provide a private, furnished room, along with meals and transportation. There is no monetary compensation for hosting, but enormous fun is almost guaranteed.

“We emphasize that this is not a camp, but since it’s a very short summer break, in China they consider it a camp, because they get to go away from home and be with a different family,” says Adams. “We have daily classes where we talk about differences in Chinese culture and American ways.”

The kids, in turn, are expected to live as American families do.

Sierra Homestay - final performance 2011 - Photo Courtesy Sierra Homestay“The host families basically become mom and dad to these kids for two weeks,” says Adams. “It is totally voluntary. We are not able to pay the host families, it’s just a cultural exchange on a volunteer basis, though a small stipend is offered to the host families in the form of a gift card.”

Adams reports that 90% of participating American families have volunteered to host Chinese students a second time, or more. Most host families have kids of their own, in which case, the children are welcome to join in every aspect of the Chinese students’ experience. Adams says it enhances the program when they do.

“The Chinese kids love to sing, they have iPhones and such, and they are plugged in electronically almost constantly. Like American kids sometimes, we have to tell them to unplug,” says Adams, adding, “we take an all day trip each week, including a day trip to Yosemite. American families are invited to be part of those activities. If you are interested and want more information call me!”

Sheila Adams can be reached at 559/642-4329, or you can check out SHS on Facebook.

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