It won’t be long now before the delegation of visitors from Lake Cowichan’s sister city, Ohtaki, Japan, are arriving, and town officials are seeking locals who can welcome children into their homes for the duration of their visit.
“We’re looking for home stays. There are already some started but there are still spots available,” explained Kari McKinlay, coordinator of this year’s delegation.
There will be 13 students (12 to 13 years old), six adults and one travel agent coming from Japan, arriving on Thursday, Oct. 6, and leaving Monday, Oct. 10 — which happens to be Thanksgiving weekend.
McKinlay said part of the reason they haven’t been able to fill all the home stays placements yet is because many families who typically host are unavailable due to pre-existing holiday commitments.
The town is still looking for homes for five students, and possibly two adults.
The primary responsibility of host families is to provide housing, but also transportation to (and ideally participation in) some of the events that the town has lined up.
“We have an itinerary for what’s going on. It’s not set in stone, so I can’t give it to you, but when they arrive we will have a welcome barbecue, and there they would meet their host families [who would] bring them home,” said McKinlay.
The visiting students typically spend an afternoon at Lake Cowichan School which plans some activities for them there. The town organizes a pizza party, a trip to the bowling alley in Duncan and also a walking tour of the totem poles there. McKinlay hopes to take the group to the BC Forest Discovery Centre.
The town is also going to host a Thanksgiving-themed banquet at the arena and offer the kids an opportunity to carve pumpkins.
“And Sunday is a free day they have with their home stay families,” said McKinlay. “Some families get together and plan something together. It’s really all up to you. Some families go to Victoria. But it is Thanksgiving so there might be a family dinner with them as well. And then Monday they leave.”
Prospective hosts do not need to have children of their own in order to host visiting students, and more than one student can stay with a given family.
“You can have more than one and it kind of makes it easier because then they can converse in their own language a little bit when it’s awkward and they don’t know what to do,” said McKinlay.
All hosts must complete a criminal record check and fill out a family profile form, which is available on the town’s website or at the town office.
McKinlay said hosting visiting students is a great experience and offers and number of benefits.
“You’re introduced to another culture,” she said. “And you get to showcase our town too. It’s an honour for the kids to come over on these delegations. They’re really thrilled to come over because most times they haven’t gone out of Japan before.”