Celebrating 12 years of hosting

Homestay family encourages others to try it

Homes needed for international students

Every year around 75 international students come to Salt Spring Island to study at the Gulf
Islands Secondary School for a school term – a semester or a year. The Gulf Islands
International Program, together with the Canada Homestay Network, are always looking for
families that want to host a student from abroad.

Tami Wesley and her family started hosting international students in their Salt Spring home 12
years ago and have never looked back.  Tami Wesley and her husband Kris Plambeck started to host students in 2006 when one of their kids was still in preschool.

“We met the homestay manager at that time, and she told us that she was in need of host
families. We were a young family – our kids were four, six and eight – and when she asked if we
could host a student, I told her I would think about it,” said Wesley. “To be honest, we had
some doubts. We didn’t have any experience with teenagers, but we wanted to help out and
promised to do it for one year.”

And so this tall, blond 17-year old German boy made his appearance in their family.

“It was an amazing experience. He embraced our family life and he was an awesome big
brother to our kids. Another concern I had was that we would have to entertain this kid all the
time. We were both working, so we didn’t have the time nor the money to go on trips. But he
blended perfectly into our family and had his own group of friends, so he did not wait for us to
take him places.”

Their first experience was so good that they decided to continue hosting.

“In the past 12 years, we had 24 kids staying with us from Chile, China, Japan, Brazil, Mexico
and all over Europe. We’ve learned so much about different cultures. The students made these
incredible dishes for us from back home and they told us about their countries and traditions. It
brought the world to our front door.”

Ninety-nine per cent of the experiences the Wesley-Plambecks had with their international
students were great.

“We also had students that did not totally blend into our family, but we fell in love with most of
them. How could you not? They are a part of your family for months and they give back so
much.   It sounds probably super cheesy, but I cry like they’re my own when they leave.”

Wesley and her family kept in touch with most of their students.

“Our daughter Maddie went on a trip to Europe last summer and our first student drove all the
way through Germany to pick her up form the airport and let her stay with her for a week. She
also met up with two other students when she was there.  And when Kris and I got married in
2017 we invited all of our former students. Twelve of them showed up, some with their partners
and kids, and spent a week with us. It was our 10-year reunion of hosting and it was so special
to have them back.”

In the past years, a lot of their friends have been hosting too.  “Some just for five or 10 months, others for a few years. I would encourage everyone to give it a try. It has enriched our lives so much.”

The Gulf Islands International Program and the Canada Homestay Network (CHN) are always in
need of families that can host an international student (for three, five or 10 months) and can
provide a supporting and welcoming environment. CHN is a family-run, non-profit society that
for nearly 25 years has helped thousands of Canadian families welcome students from more
than 70 countries. Canada Homestay Network manages programs in over forty communities
across Canada. Yearly more that 75 students from 21 different countries come to Salt Spring
Island to attend the Gulf Islands Secondary School.

Potential hosts have to have a private bedroom with a desk and a closet, provide three
nutritious meals every day and a patient, caring and friendly home atmosphere. Hosts get 24/7
support and an allowance to offset expenses.

If you are interested in hosting a student – for three months or longer – please contact the Salt Spring Island International Program via email
at sd64@canadahomestaynetwork.ca

BY MARCIA JANSEN
DRIFTWOOD CONTRIBUTOR
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14 2018