AUSTINTOWN - The LABO International Exchange Foundation provides an opportunity each summer for Japanese and American youths to learn about one another's cultures.
Each summer, Japanese youths age 12 to 14 spend time in the United States with a host family that has a child of the same age and gender. They are provided an opportunity to learn English and experience day-to-day life in America.
Gary Reel, local senior manager and program coordinator, said there are eight Japanese students in Mahoning, Trumbull and Portage counties in the area through this weekend.
Reel said the program pairs Japanese youths with American families for the summer as a way to improve their English and find out how Americans really live. Each is matched with an American youth of the same interests as part of the 4-H International program, which has facilitated this program for the past 40 years, he said.
"We tell them our families may not necessarily be what they see of the families on TV. Some of our visitors don't always understand our language," Reel said.
Reel said the program stresses showing the visitors American customs, and they in turn share Japanese customs.
In addition to the students, an adult interpreter / chaperone also accompanies the youths. Chaperones are stationed in homes throughout the state to assist in emergencies and ease the pain of homesickness and cultural differences.
Randy and Beverly Lytle of Mecca have 13-year-old Royta Kimura staying with them.
Randy said this is the first time they have hosted a boy, having hosted girls from Japan in past years.
Kimura is the same age as their son, Jason Lytle.
The family has taken Kimura to Deer Park, the Middlefield Amish area and the Youngstown Air Force Reserve Station in Vienna.
Randy said a friend of the family has horses, so the family went horseback riding with Kimura.
"He has never done that before," Randy said.
Randy said the program shows how American children live, so they do whatever the family's child does, such as help cut the lawn, help weed the flower beds, and take out trash.
"He said he wanted to go fishing so we have gone fishing several times at Mosquito Lake. He didn't catch anything," Randy said.
Randy said he showed Kimura where he works at Ajax to show him what he does there.
"He couldn't believe the size of the factory," he said.
Randy said Kimura is surprised at the size of the farms and barns where corn and soybeans are grown.
Jason, who will be in ninth grade, said, "It is very interesting to have him here. I am home-schooled and don't have that many kids my age to interact with," Jason said.
Kimura said he enjoyed fishing and horseback riding.
Beverly said Kimura never saw a turkey before and was surprised when he saw one at Deer Park. She said the family plans to be at the Mecca corn roast this Saturday.
Reel said while the families do individual activities, they try to get together for group events.