Hosting students a source of pride for Chatham-based family

Chatham-based homestay host Anna Barker says hosting international students for the Lambton Kent District School Board (LKDSB) has been her family’s ticket to becoming global citizens.

“Hosting has been a fantastic experience for us all,” says Anna, adding it’s also a source of pride for her, her partner Paul Johnstone, and her 10-year-old son Nicolas.

“There’s something special about being able to share our home and community and make memories with people from all over the world.”

Since 2017, Anna’s family has hosted students from Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Taiwan. Nicolas was just five years old when their first student arrived.

“Nicolas is so comfortable now with meeting new people and builds rapport right away,” says Anna. “The students treat him like their little brother, they even give each other nicknames. When they find out he likes soccer, they seize on that. He’s got jerseys and balls from all over the world.”

Students also get the chance to see Canada “like a local,” experiencing the community by visiting places like the Thamesville Corn Maize, Greenview Aviaries Park and Zoo, and eating fries under Sarnia’s Bluewater Bridge.

But Anna says the most rewarding part is watching her students excel. One of her students won a province-wide math award, another won a valuable bursary to help fund her post-secondary studies. Every time their students pass an exam, win an award, or reach a milestone like graduation, Anna, Paul and Nicolas celebrate alongside them.

“Those are proud homestay-mom moments,” Anna says. “I’m like, ‘YES, that’s my student!’ They stayed in my home, with my family. We supported them and they did well. That’s when you know you’re doing things right.”

This year the LKDSB is welcoming more students from all over the world. Caring homestay hosts – like Anna – are needed URGENTLY for academic-year placements across the district, particularly in Sarnia and Chatham.

Hosts receive a generous allowance to offset expenses, 24/7 support, special health and safety training, and the opportunity to bring the world to their front door.

For more information about hosting international students, contact Canada Homestay Network at or 1-877-441-4443. To learn more and apply, visit