IVEP participant, For a year Saykham Thipphasone (left) is living with host family, Rebecca and Vinh Huynh and their children, Lien, 7, Tai, 3 and Mai-Anh, 5. Previously the Huynhs have hosted students from six other countries.
MCC photo/ Joanie Peters

IVEP participant, For a year Saykham Thipphasone (left) is living with host family, Rebecca and Vinh Huynh and their children, Lien, 7, Tai, 3 and Mai-Anh, 5. Previously the Huynhs have hosted students from six other countries.

Photo albums in Rebecca and Vinh Huynh’s home are filled with images of their children interacting with people from other countries.

Each year, the couple and their three children, Lien, 7, Mai-Anh, 5, and Tai, 3, share their home and lives with a participant from Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) International Volunteer Exchange Program (IVEP).

"Does one measure richness by the content of our bank account or the quality of our relationships? We choose the latter," says Vinh, principal of a middle school.

For more than 60 years, MCC has been connecting IVEP participants with host families and vocational placements in Canada and the United States. Each year around 50 young adults from more than 25 countries participate in the program.

This year the Huynh family has welcomed Saykham Thipphasone, 29, from Vientiane, Laos into their home. In previous years they hosted volunteers from Zambia, Indonesia, Germany, Korea, Egypt and two volunteers from Brazil.

Looking at photographs, Lien recalls the name of each international volunteer who has lived with them and shares her own special memories or stories she heard from her parents. 

She was five months old when Leco Marinho, from Brazil, lived with them. One of her favorite photographs shows Lien and Leco pretending to be rock stars. “Both Leco and I liked rock music. When I couldn’t sleep, she played rock music and I fell asleep,” recalls Lien.

Rebecca and Vinh met through their involvement in a program that supports international students. They want their home to be a welcoming place not only for the IVEP participant they are hosting but also for friends of the IVEPer, other IVEP participants and IVEP host families. 

"We like to think of our house as a place of hospitality where our kids can make friends with people from all over the world," says Rebecca. "I tell the kids that they can travel the world and see people who have a connection with them even if the kids don't remember them." 

The couple’s primary motivation for sharing their home and lives with others is rooted in their commitment to put their faith into action.

“We are not just supporting a program,” explains Vinh. “It is our heart commitment to live out the two greatest commandments—to love God and others.

“Being a host family is not just about your home, it is about the gift of yourself.  We are called to live in relationship. We are called to share God’s love with others because He loved us.”

At ivep.mcc.org/stories, read about the  IVEP experience from the volunteers' perspective.