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Utah Host Families Urgently Needed For Japanese Youth

WOODS CROSS – The Jensens may seem like any other Utah family, but they’re far from that to the Japanese youths they’ve hosted in their home over the years. It’s an experience that Rebecca grew up with, and has now passed on to her own children.

“Every summer, we hosted and we made a lot of friends,” Rebecca said of her childhood. “(We) learned a lot about Japan, and just really liked the experience.”

Her teenage daughter, Lauren has made a lot of friends through the experience.

“I follow them all on Instagram, and we have Snapchat group messages, we talk on it and stuff, so it’s really fun,” Lauren said.

Rebecca and Lauren Jensen

Families like the Jensens, host kids from Japan, three weeks at a time, through the Mountain West Cultural Exchange. The organization’s president, Maresa Manzione says it’s different from other exchange programs, because the youth are there to spend time with their host families throughout each day.

“These kids are coming to Utah to be a part of your family,” Manzione said. “They’re not a guest. They’re not out on activities, hanging with other exchange students during the day. They’re here to be part of your family and learn your culture, learn our culture, and likewise we learn theirs.”

This year however, the cultural exchange is short about sixteen families, as Manzione says happens from time to time. The organization is looking to fill 16 slots, in time for the youth to arrive, on July 25th. Adult Chaperones arrive with the group, who help with the language, and make sure the kids adjust. The experience culminates in the final week, with a group camp, where Lauren Jensen recently served as a youth counselor.

“It’s sad when the kids don’t have like a family, so they can’t come over and experience it,” Lauren said.

“It’s a really positive experience. I’ve loved it,” Rebecca added.

People interested in hosting, can find more information here:

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