When Lizbeth first applied to Farther Foundation for an enrichment travel scholarship she was excited that a home stay with a local family would be part of her program because she would,
“learn more about the family’s culture by being a part of their daily lives.”
Lizbeth was awarded a scholarship and chose to participate in an American Field Service (AFS) program in Panama, where she would learn the local language and culture, provide service in the community and indeed live with a local family.
Our students, when thrust into new environments often meet unexpected experiences and emotions. Lizbeth certainly did as well, but her expectation about the value of a family experience in a new culture was all she expected and more:.
“I traveled thousands of miles from my home to La Chorrera, Panama. When my group arrived at San Francisco de Paula, the community service site, the whole community gave us a warm welcoming. As I was walking with the group, the AFS volunteer pulled me aside and introduced me to a woman who hugged me and shouted for joy. The AFS volunteer introduced the woman as my host mom.
I had four siblings and a host dad. My host mom worked, cleaned, cooked, and helped my host siblings with their homework. She was always putting her needs last and everyone else’s needs first. I recall one late Sunday night she was helping my younger host brother with his homework. I sat down at the table and saw they were working on English. My host mom looked puzzled and asked me if I could read and help my brother with his work because her eyesight was giving up. I was delighted to help my host brother. My host mom hugged and thanked me so much for helping out especially on a late Sunday night. She then sat down and began to tell me she was diagnosed with Colon cancer about a year ago. She started telling me about her treatments and how it has caused her to be very tired lately. I felt she accepted me as a member of her family, and I accepted her as my inspiration. Ever since, I started to see life in a completely new perspective.
This experience made me realize how beautiful life is and how grateful I am to have another day to live a healthy life alongside my family. This program made me realize my capabilities of helping others by listening to them and performing community service for them.”
There are many things our students learn when they challenge themselves to take a bold step beyond the familiar, but the most important lesson is that they can and will have an impact.
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Farther Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization providing scholarships to low-income students to inspire them to reach their highest aspirations through educational travel experiences.