Ask this question first! How comfortable would you be to host a perfect stranger for a month in your family?
Anita and Jack Bevans in Reno, popularly known as biggest little city in the world, in Nevada believe and lives by the age old principle & philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which means “the world is one family”. They have been opening their hearts and their two spare bedrooms for last 14 years hosting hundreds of youths from around the globe. Till now, they have hosted more than 200 youths from all across the globe at her home.
She is not alone, there are growing number of families in Reno who are opening up their homes to host youths from different cultural, social and economical background. They are volunteers with the Northern Nevada International Center, part of University of Nevada. They bring in visitors from around the world, often times to meet with local experts who are leading the way in their given fields.
And all these host families have stories of warmth and long lasting relationship to share on this unique experience.
Anita, a host in Reno, says,
“May all who enter as guests leave as friends. I believe that is really what it’s all about, just meeting new friends.”.
Her smile and exuberance to life is contagious.
Charlotte Cox, a home host in Reno, says,
“We read a lot on women safety issues in India and that was getting reported in TV and newspaper as these are the only channels through which we get information about the other countries. I always believed that there is more to the country than these stories of crime alone. Hosting a guest from India does breaks a lot of stereotypes”
“There can be nothing better than understanding each other culture while having dinner on the same table in comfort of the home. This is the best way to build connection face to face, it does bridges a lot of cultural gaps.”
Cox, a former university professor, hosted the author as part of Legislative fellowship programme as part of US state department and World Learning, a NGO based at Washington DC.
Nazakat Ali, a fellow from Pakistan who is staying with Anita, says,
“It is an overwhelming experience. It is simply home away from home. Words are not enough to describe the hospitality and warmth of the family showered to us in last 15 days of my stay with them,”
“These cultural exchanges have broken a lot many stereotypes and assumptions, about each other culture,” adds he.
This citizen diplomacy is a unique opportunity to combat stereotypes in the world where it is becoming common to make enemies without knowing them.
Nadia Ali from Pakistan is hosted by Patricia Lynch, Reno Justice of the Peace. She says,
“Patricia and Drew have not only welcomed me into their home but also made me part of their lives in all respects. Their generosity, warmth and trust in a complete stranger provides a glimpse into this high-trust society and sensibilities of its people that are beyond religion and ethnicity. The past few weeks have busted so many stereotypes that I carried with myself about this country. “
The host families chart out the plans for culture exposure, taking them to local events, introducing and connecting them to experts working in similar field of interest as the fellows for knowledge sharing.
Food and music proved to big connectors between the host family and the fellows staying with them. Indrajit Sinha, a fellow from Assam in Reno says, “Cooking a dinner for the host family in a traditional Indian way was a great ice breaker. Food connected us. “
Experiencing an American lifestyle by living it is altogether a different experience, Jill Taratarian in her 60s, a host in Reno City,
“By hosting a fellow from other country can be the biggest cultural exchange one can have. It does melt all the differences and creates new lifelong bonds as humans”
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