A journey of mutual enrichment and community support

Reflections on a learning experience from a current IVEP host

Daisy Toews, Cadence Miller, Keilana Miller, Rod Miller and Melanie Miller visit Niagara Falls.

After wanting to host through an international program for some time, this year felt right when there was an opportunity to host Daisy, “our” IVEPer from Paraguay. I also was intrigued with hosting Daisy when I learned that her (Toews) and my (Friesen) ancestral heritages were the same. It has been such a positive experience for our family: my husband Rod and me and our 14-year-old and 10-year-old children, Cadence and Keilana. This experience is mutually beneficial, as it helps our children see beyond what they are familiar with and become exposed to others’ customs, foods and languages, while also exposing Daisy to different experiences, cultures and ways of doing things.  

The transition has been surprisingly easy, and as we think on this, we recognize that several aspects of it were not planned but have had a positive impact on the transition. One of the big things is that there has been little language difficulty because Daisy speaks and understands English very well and is free to ask when uncertain. Another is that we live a mile from her work and small-town shopping. With the sidewalks along the route, she is able to walk or bike there, which gives her greater independence. In addition, the time zone when she arrived was the same in Ohio as in Paraguay which provided ease for her to maintain communication with family.

There are several ways that we have worked at helping us all adjust to the additional family member. One is eating our evening meals together as a family as much as possible. This is the time in the day when we are all together and can all talk about what we did that day. We get to know Daisy better, and she gets to know us better. When I make a run to the store, I usually check if she would like to come along, as this also expands her world. We have also had her make some Paraguayan meals and snacks. Other simple ways that we have welcomed her are by showing her where the various cooking items and staples are, and asking her if there are certain foods that she would like us to stock (yogurt, for instance, and staples that she uses in Paraguay). 

With Rod and I both working full time and transporting our kids to their after-school activities, weekends are the primary times for outings. Some of these outings are all-day events while others are local. They have included hiking a national park near us, going to a minor league baseball game, attending the local fair and scheduling our family’s planned Niagara Falls trip so that Daisy could come along. 

In response to her recognizing that her volunteer job, our family nucleus, and Sunday morning services are not enough social life for a young adult, there has been a community effort of helping her attend various college- and career-aged Bible studies and midweek social events at our church as well as other churches in the community. When we cannot provide transportation, the young adults or group leaders from the different groups are very willing to pick her up and drop her off after the events. Even getting to and from her volunteer job has been a community effort, as the people she works with pick her up on days that we cannot or when the weather is not conducive to biking. So, while we have been hosting and providing a level of exposure to the area, this has been a “village effort” to help Daisy experience and build lasting relationships through the IVEP program.