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Cultural Journey – Jamaica visit

jamaica_stream_water_221749Last month I had the amazing opportunity to visit our offices in the country of Jamaica. This was the first time that I had been to Jamaica, so I took everything in as I arrived. After a layover in Miami, I was on my way and landed on the ground in pitch black. I headed through immigration, customs and then waiting for my ride to my hotel, I confirmed with our offices our meeting for the next day. I was so excited to see the island and to meet with all of our prospective au pairs at the office in Mandeville.

The next morning, I had a driver pick me up to drive me from Montego Bay to Mandeville. The drive was beautiful and I feel as though I was able to see the real Jamaica as I rode in the passenger seat (on the left side of the car) through the windy, hilly roads which were not always paved. Jamaica is very tropical and when the big storms surge through, they raise havoc on the road, creating very large potholes. As the country is full of poverty, you often see individuals filling in the holes in the road in hopes of making some extra money for doing the hard labor. This was my first introduction into how hard working the Jamaican jamaicapeople are and how much pride they have for their country and culture. The drive was beautiful and I couldn’t help but marvel at everything I saw. So many fruit and vegetable stands on the side of the road, people walking to school with their kids, dogs and sheep running around and people just enjoying their lives. I had all of the various trees pointed out to me and also the beautiful birds. We were in a hurry to get to the meeting and it took over two hours to actually arrive to the center of the island for the meetings.

When I arrived at the offices of our partner, I was introduced to all of the staff and had a tour of the facilities. The most impressive feature being the classroom where they offer various development courses for all of the individuals. The office helps the residents, from 18 to 80, in professional development in order to assist them in finding employment. They have a partnership with the Katrinauniversity, as well as the government, to provide these options to encourage all to continue to improve themselves. Every single person I encountered was courteous and kind, even given the fact that they are not used to seeing someone like me (a tall, very American woman) walking around their town.

Our wonderful partner meets with all prospective au pair candidates one on one and advises them on their opportunities, how to improve their background to make them a better candidate and screening them thoroughly for accuracy in their application. All applicants are advised on what it means to be an au pair in the USA, how to work with a host family and also go through a complete First Aid/CPR training program before they leave. Now, after discussions with the offices, they will even be educating the drivers on driving in the USA to better prepare them for what it is like to drive in our country once matched with a family.

After seeing the offices, meeting the crew and seeing how the operations works, the next thing on the itinerary was to meet some of the applicants, both current and prospective, in the classroom in order to talk more about the program, what to expect, what American families are looking for and what our agency represents. All I can say about this is WOW! I was so impressed with each and every one of the applicants. They were kind and courteous and had wonderful questions for me about the program. I actually made some notes for girls that I thought would be fabulous applicants for my own family in a few months, if they are still available! The biggest questions seemed to be what the families were like, what types of things they could do with the kids, how they could be classthe best au pair, etc. Now, normally when I meet a group of prospective au pairs, the questions are “where does the family live”, “how much time will I get off”, in addition to the normal questions about the families, but I didn’t get these questions at all from this wonderful group of ladies! They really were most concerned with having the opportunity to come to the USA, take care of children and experience the life. The energy that they gave off with their excitement and smiles was contagious! I walked away from the meeting truly feeling positive that we decided to start offering candidates from Jamaica.

We finalized the meeting and then I was treated to a delicious lunch with the staff of the office who could break away from helping their candidates and chatted more about how we could continue to improve. The staff of the Mandeville office is really interested in continuing to build the program, support the candidates and make sure that they are well prepared to offer the best to our host families. Again, making me more sure that we made a great choice by chosing Jamaica as one of our source countries for applicants.

20131003_144703Well, lunch was finished and a quick pop-in the offices to say good-bye to the crew and I was back in the car for my long journey back to Montego Bay. Again, I cannot even express in words how magnificent this drive was for me. I love to travel and getting to see the country from the road was a real treat. I did not have the opportunity for any photos, as the driver was keeping time, so no side trips or pulling over to the side of the road! Back at the hotel and I couldn’t stop thinking about everyone I met and saw on my one-day trip to Mandeville and back. I feel so fortunate that I consistently get to visit new places and meet the wonderful participants of our program and partner offices and this was a trip that I would always remember. I spent the next day on the beautiful beach, snorkeling and really getting to know some of the locals who worked at and around the hotel. I loved learning more about the cultural and the people of Jamaica, what a determined and hardworking nation of people!

This posting was written by Katrina Vanderhulst, Director of International Programs for Au Pair International.

API has some amazing applicants from Jamaica currently. Please take a moment to review their profiles and consider interviewing a candidate to be your next au pair so that you can also share in the learning of the Jamaican culture, teach them about American culture AND have a reason to visit Jamaica after their program year is complete! Ya mon!

Bonus: Match with an au pair from Jamaica by the end of 2013 and save an additional $100 off of your program fees!

StaceyAnnHougarth2

Stacey-Ann H.

“I am 24, have 7300 childcare hours, and love to make people smile!”

SammiJoeHarrow1

Sammijoe H.

“I have nearly 15,000 childcare hours and know First Aid!”

AvaGayeGames1

Ava-Gaye J.

“I have 3500 childcare hours and want to be a nurse!”

CharnelleWolliston2Charnelle W.

“I am a teacher with 60,000 childcare hours and First Aid certifications!”

ShanekeRicketts2Shaneke R.

“I have 6000 childcare hours and plan to become a Pastor!”

Or check out our other au pairs from Jamaica on our website.

Host Family Questions

HF Q’s – Can I take my au pair on vacations with me?

tropical-84537_640 (1)Absolutely!  Who hasn’t been on vacation and wished that there was someone who could take the kids for a few hours?  Many families bring their au pairs along with them on vacation and have a fabulous time.  When preparing to go on vacation, please keep the following things in mind.

1) If you are requiring your au pair to accompany you need to provide for her expenses.

2) You will need to give your au pair a schedule of on and off-duty time so she can plan her free time.

3) You still need to remain within the regulations, meaning no more than 10 on-duty hours per day and 45 hours per week.

4) During vacation, you can have your au pair sleep in the same room as your children, but most au pairs are uncomfortable sleeping in the same room as the host parents.

5) Be sure to make your au pair aware of any additional hazards that she or your children might not be aware of.

6) If you are traveling outside the US, your au pair will need to get a travel verification signed by Au Pair International and she might also need a visa for the country you are visiting.

 

Do you have more vacation questions?  Feel free to ask them here or any other questions about the Au Pair Program or Au Pair International.

Amazing Au Pairs, Candidates, Learning is Fun

May 9th is Europe Day

What is Europe Day?

“Europe Day (9 May) celebrates peace and unity in Europe. The date marks the anniversary of the historical ‘Schuman declaration‘. At a speech in Paris in 1950, the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, set out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable.

His vision was to create a European institution that would pool and manage coal and steel production. A treaty creating such a body was signed just under a year later. Schuman’s proposal is considered to be the beginning of what is now the European Union.” Source Europa.eu

The original founding nations were Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany.  Now the EU has 27 members: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Teach kids more about Europe day and the European Union:

Play an online matching game with all the flags of the EU.

Learn more about the European Union with this fun quiz.

Collect Euros in the fun online game.

In honor of Europe Day we are highlighting some of our Au Pairs from the countries that make up the EU.

Andreja from Slovenia

AndrejaCrnic3After a successful first year with a family of four children, Andreja is looking forward to spending more time in the USA. She is confident driving on US roads and has a 7 year driving record in Slovenia. Before becoming an au pair, She has excellent English, is knowledgeable in First Aid, CPR, and Water Safety. She also holds a degree as a swimming instructor.

 

 

Soraya from Spain:

SorayaOrtega3Soraya is 26 years of age with 5300 childcare hours.  She has 3100 hours from caring for children under the age of 2.  Soraya gained her childcare abilities from babysitting several children over the years.  In addition, she has experience teaching dance to children after school.  Soraya is an excellent swimmer and certified in CPR and First Aid.  Check out her video.

Interested in a Spanish au pair?  See the others we have available.

 

Carolin from Germany:

CarolinHCarolin has 2000 hours of childcare experience and has been driving for a period of 3.5 years.  She gained her childcare knowledge from working in a daycare center caring for children ages 2-6. Carolin has experience with children that have minor physical and learning disabilities and is currently studying to become a nursery nurse.  She describes herself to be a responsible, warm and creative caregiver.

See our other German candidates.

 

Ieva from Latvia:

Slide 1Ieva is 23 years old with 5300 childcare hours, 1600 of which are from caring for children under the age of 2.  She gained her childcare experience from being a nanny, volunteering in daycare centers, and working as an au pair in Greece. Ieva is fluent in three languages and has excellent English.

 

 

Jessica from Italy:

Name:  Jessica Tiziani                              Age: 25Jessica is 25 years of age with 1600 hours of childcare experience from babysitting and being an au pair.  Jessica has very good English and has been driving for 5 years.  She describes herself to be a patient and responsible caregiver who is knowledgeable in First Aid.  Jessica is willing to care for children with both physical and learning disabilities.

 

Stephanie from the Netherlands:

StephanieMentink3Stephanie is a Professional Au Pair with over 8000 childcare hours, 4000 of which is from working with children under the age of 2.   Stephanie has excellent English and Swimming abilities and is knowledgeable in First Aid.  She loves to plan activities for children and get them excited to be involved!

Check out our other Dutch au pairs.

 

Lemonia from Greece:

LemoniaB1

Lemonia (Leni) gained her experience in childcare from working in a daycare center, babysitting, and caring for younger family members. She is 25 years old with very good English skills and a Master’s Degree in Biochemistry/Biotechnology.  Leni describes herself to be a patient and trustworthy multi-tasker.

Interested in Greek candidates?  Here are some others.

 

Julia from France:

JuliaFranceJulia has good English and speaks a total of 4 languages.  In addition, she is an excellent swimmer and has been driving for 2 years.  Her references describe her to be a patient and responsible caregiver that has many ideas to keep children occupied.  In addition, they say she has experience helping with homework and preparing meals for their children.

 

Rodica from Romania:

RodicaPaduraru1Rodica is 23 years of age and has been driving for a period of 5 years. Rodica has very good English and enjoys playing interactive games with the children she cares for.  She feels that the au pair program is a chance to combine two of her passions: travelling and childcare.

Check out our other Romanian candidates.

 

Jennifer from Sweden:

JenniferHiltunen1Jennifer has over 1000 hours of childcare experience from babysitting and interning in a primary school.  She describes herself to be a caring, sensitive, and creative caregiver that has a high capacity to manage stressful situations.  Jennifer is 23 years old with excellent English.

Fun Stuff

Mother’s Day Crafts

Mother’s Day is on Sunday and many Au Pairs like help their host kids make gifts for their moms.  Here are some great ideas for gifts for Mom.  The first two go along with our Theme of the Week about Rainbows.

Rainbow Roses

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Rainbow Stacked Hearts

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Buttony Spring Bouquet

flower-button

DYI Personalized Candles

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Family String Puppets

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Hand and Footprint Photo Card

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Garden Stepping Stone

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Handprint Flower Apron

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Photo Flowers

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Photo-to-Wood Transfer

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Want to learn more about getting an Au Pair?  Check out Au Pair Internationals’s website.

Theme of the Week

Theme of the Week – Rainbows

“April showers bring May flowers…”

Spring is in the air and with that comes rain and hopefully rainbows.  Rainbows are caused when sunlight hits water droplets in the air.  The water droplets act like tiny prisms and reflect the light back into the sky.

Interesting facts:  Did you know that the sun must be behind you in order to see a rainbow? And every person sees their own personal rainbow since the angle which you are viewing it is unique and each person sees color a little differently.  Learn more interesting facts here.

Learn more about Rainbows at these sites The National Center for Atmospheric ResearchHow Stuff WorksWeather Wiz Kids,

Or take a trip to you local library and check out these and other titles:

imagesCALIBEO2loverainbow

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what makes

Continue reading “Theme of the Week – Rainbows”

Au Pair Adventures

Au Pair Adventures – Paramore Concert

Guest Post from Dewald Botha, an au pair from South Africa who is matched with a family in Arizona.

400 E Washington St in Down Town Phoenix AZ is where it all went down Monday night April 29th. Walking up to the Comerica theatre you were greeted with city street lights shining bright and underneath them Paromore fans were starting to all come together. The lines were starting to pile up and the merchandise line was already jam packed and remained that way through out the night. Inside the theatre the atmosphere was filled with excited and nervous energy from die hard fans of all ages waiting for Miss Williams to hit her first note for Taylor York (guitarist) to play his first riff and for Jeremy Davis (bassist) to drop some bass into the mix.
The lights went out and all attention were on the members of KITTEN walking onto the stage. The band consist out of Chloe Chaidez,
Lukas Frank, Bryan DeLeon, Waylon Rector, Zach Bilson. From their first song they had everyone’s attention with mind blowing vocals by their front lady Chloe!

When it was time for Paramore the venue have filled up nicely. There was a buzz around the

BeFunky_SAM_0495.jpgtheatre and everyone were ready to be blown away. Hayley opened the show with a new song from their new album “NOW” called “Moving On” and followed it up with the all time favorite “Misery Business”. Right about now everyone was on their feet and the up beat sounds of Paramore kept it that way through out the show. I remember looking up at the sky and just seeing it rain confetti, I closed my eyes and it felt even better than a dream. As the band was waving goodbye to the crowed, Taylor (Guitarist) came up to the center of the stage and flicked his guitar pick straight at me. I remember seeing it hit the girl in front of me right between the eyes in slow motion. It was quite funny… At that very same moment I dropped down to the ground and with a huge amount of luck I found the guitar pick underneath all the confetti. I haven’t felt that lucky in a very long time and for the first time in my life I was at the right place at the right time.
Paramore.jpgThis was my first Paramore live concert experience and for many years back home in South Africa I could only dream of seeing one of my favorite bands live! I can honestly say the real deal is way better than all the You Tube videos I have seen. Haha. Seeing these – Rock and Roll Role models – people who have inspired so many young kids to make music in person was just mind blowing to me.

It was a night to remember and I can only hope that I’ll get the chance to give Miss Williams a High 5 someday in the near future.

Dewald Botha Jnr.
Proudly South African

See some of our profiles of other South African au pairs:

Crystal D.Armand B.Ntombifuthi B.Thandeka M.

Thinking about getting a male au pair?  Here are some reason why it might work for your family.

Au Pair Advice, Host Family Questions

Performing a Balancing Act: What it Means to Live Like a Member of the Family

AupairLiving like a member of the family… that’s easy, right?  It means spending time with them, but how much time, and when?  Is there a certain amount of time that is expected?  What if the family has plans?  Should the au pair go to?  What if the au pair doesn’t want to go?  Au pair’s aren’t supposed to do heavy housework, but wouldn’t a member of the family pitch in and help clean?

Obviously there isn’t an easy definition for the cultural exchange component of the au pair program where the au pair lives with the family like a member of the family.  Each family is unique and each match is unique so there is going to be a transitional period where host families and au pairs are feeling the situation out.  Here are some hints that might help that adjustment.

Personal Time vs. Family Time: Au pairs and host families are going to want to spend time together, but also time apart.   It is important for families to still have time together without their au pair, just like it is important for the au pair to have time to relax as well as explore the U.S.  No one can say for sure what the perfect balance is, but if the au pair is spending all of her/his time in their bedroom or out with friends, then that is not meeting the intent of the program.  On the other hand, if the au pair is spending all their free time with the family, then he/she is not getting out and experiencing all the opportunities that are around.

Housework:  Au pairs are not supposed to be doing housework that isn’t child-related (they are not maids) but they are also suppose to be pitching and helping out like a member of the family.  This is a hard balance to find, but it is important.  A good way to look at it is if the family is working, the au pair should be helping, too.  So if the host parents are making dinner, then the au pair should offer to help or entertain the kids.  She/he should also offer to make dinner sometime or clean-up after dinner.  Working together is a great way to feel closer to each other and learn about each other.

Vacations: One of the wonderful aspects of the au pair program is au pairs can travel with their host families and help them out.  It can also cause some confusion because schedules are off and roles are less defined.  If a family needs their au pair to travel with them, then they still have to provide them with room and board and a schedule for their on-duty and off-duty time.  It is a good idea to discuss the different needs that the family will have ahead of time so everyone understands what the expectations are.  If the family doesn’t need the au pair to come, then they need to provide provisions for him/her while they are gone.

Dining and Activities:  A great way to spend time together is for host families to invite their au pair to the different activities they have planned, whether it be a simple dinner out to something that is more of a special occasion (say a sporting event).  If they are inviting the au pair along, then they should be prepared to pay for her/him, like he/she is a member of their family.  If the family doesn’t want to bring the au pair, that is fine, but they need to make sure she has the resources to make her own meal at home.  On the other side of the coin, host families need to be sensitive to the fact that au pairs will sometime decline an invitation.  They might have plans or just want some time alone.  Like was mentioned before, the important thing is to find the right balance for each match.

Just like most relationships in life, communication is the key!  When host families and au pairs can be open and honest with each other, then they can find the right balance.

Want to learn more about the Au Pair Program?  Contact Au Pair International or view some profiles on our website.