Big Walnut area families host Japanese students
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
Ohio 4-H International Exchange Programs are among the largest and most successful in the country, with more than 3,000 participants annually. According to this year’s Delaware County 4-H/Japanese Exchange Co-Coordinator Walter Morton, approximately 1,000 Japanese youth visited the United States and Canada this summer as part of the Japanese Labo International Exchange Program, 85 of them stayed with Ohio families. Six Japanese youth and two adult chaperones stayed with Delaware County families.
Japanese Labo Youth is a one-month exchange from mid-July through mid-August. The young student guests range in age from 12 to 18 years. While there are few restrictions on the makeup of host families, the one-month Labo Youth Exchange Program does require that the host family have a child in the home of the same gender and the approximate same age as the visiting youth.
Two Japanese youth and one adult Labo International Exchange Foundation Staff Coordinator were guests of Big Walnut area families.
Lanelle and Chris Weaver and their daughter Hannah, a Big Walnut Middle School seventh grader, hosted 13-year-old Kaho Murayama, who is in her second year of the three-year Japanese junior high school system.
Tracy and Jeffrey Chesney and their son Eli, a home schooled student, hosted 13-year-old Yohei Yamazaki, who is in his first year of junior high school.
Labo International Exchange Foundation Staff Coordinator Yuji Doi stayed with the Mortons, Walter and Donna. In addition to Donna being active for many years as a Galena Homemakers 4-H Club Advisor and Walter serving as Delaware County 4-H/Japanese Exchange Co-Coordinator, the Mortons have hosted international exchange students since 1981.
Hannah Weaver said hosting was fun.
“It was a good experience and I learned a lot,” Hannah said. “I made a new friendship, and we plan to keep in touch through e-mail and on Facebook.”
As a keepsake, Hannah created a scrapbook of summer activities with the Weaver family for Kaho to take home to Japan. Included in the scrapbook were photographs of a visit to the Ohio State Fair, swimming at Alum Creek State Park, bowling at Delaware Lanes, and beekeeping, horseback riding, baking and cake decorating.
The Weavers also have a history of hosting exchange students. In 1985, when she was a teenager, Lanelle hosted a Labo summer exchange student.
“Watching Hannah and Kaho was great,” Lanelle said. “It reminded me a lot of hosting when I was a teenager. I think my children learned a lot. I wish it was longer.”
The Chesneys treated Yohei to a day at the Ohio State Fair, and added visits to Hocking Hills, Tecumseh, Mid-Ohio Kart races and kayaking. They also spent a day at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Eli Chesney also said hosting a Labo exchange student was a learning experience.
“I wish it was longer,” Eli said. “Yohei is a great kid. We had a lot of fun together.”
Both the Weavers and the Chesneys admitted that there was a language barrier – summer Labo students are not required to have strong English language skills; but they said it made their children pay more attention to their guests and made them more compassionate.
Language barriers aside, Eli’s father said it was neat to watch Yohei experience new things.
Labo International also offers a one-year student exchange program. Both Labo guests said they would enjoy returning to Ohio for a one-year stay. Kaho said if her parents would allow it; and Yohei said he would need to learn better English language skills before attempting a year in an American high school.
For general information on all 4-H International Exchange Programs, go to < ohio4h.org >, on the 4-H For Youth drop-down menu click Programs, and then click International. As always, for local 4-H information, go to < Delaware.osu.edu > and click on 4-H Youth Development.
For additional information about the Labo International Exchange Foundation go to < labo-exchange.com >.