Local families play host to Japanese visitors
AUSTINTOWN — Families in Mahoning, Trumbull, Ashtabula, and Summit counties spent part of their summer hosting young visitors from Japan in their homes for three weeks as part of the LABO International Exchange program, which brings youth from a distant land to the United States each summer.
Gary Reel, local coordinator with the LABO program for more than 30 years, said the purpose of the program is to immerse the students in an English-speaking culture as a way to reinforce their learning and create a friendship among nations that can last a long time.
Reel said hosting this year are the Piper family of Boardman, Kadilak family from Canfield, Snyder family from New Springfield, and the Shank family from Berlin Center. In Trumbull County, the Imhoff family from Bristolville are hosting, while the Kemmerle family from Ashtabula County are doing this for a second year. Finally, the Kline family from Summit County are opening the family home.
The students arrived in late July and are leaving this week to return to their homes to start the school year again.
Reel said the visiting students during their three weeks have been to a variety of places and seen Niagara Falls, a Mahoning Valley Scrappers game, parks and fire stations.
“They experience what an American family is like. They are learning English from the families they have spent time with. They get the reinforcement of speaking English while being here. This is a brand new experience for many of them.,” Reel said.
Reel said it is important to show the students what a real American family is like and not what they may see on television or in movies.
He said for many of the visitors speaking English can be at times confusing.
“Some come here and can adapt very well and love the food and eat as much as they can since they do not have that food at their home. Others have difficulty adapting.” Reel said.
He said one thing he and the host families noticed about the visiting students is they take a lot of naps, which is common in Japan when they travel from place to place.
Reel said the program is affiliated with Ohio 4-H and is one of many states nationwide who have been involved with this effort for over 50 years. Information is available at www.ohio4h /youth/international