Gina Douglas and her family have been sitting on pins and needles ever since they were selected by the States’ 4-H International Exchange Program as a host family. And the day has finally come.
"We have been so excited. We couldn't sleep,” said Douglas. “I think I went to sleep around 1 a.m. She's been up since 4,” she said, pointing at her daughter. “So, we're just very excited. I think this is a fabulous opportunity."
Host families were selected after applying for the exchange program and passing background checks. They will house Japanese students ages 12 through 16 for one month. The costs are covered through federal funding.
"4-H does a really wonderful program, and this is nationwide, so I think it's neat that you get to learn about their culture and they get to learn about us and who we are,” said Ed Douglas. “So, I think we can really kind of be ambassadors to some of these other countries.”
According to organizers, the program is a way to promote peace between countries while benefiting local communities.
"I'm very proud of the host families that we have selected in the Wiregrass region. We have families from Florida, Georgia as well as the Wiregrass to participate in this program,” said State Program Coordinator Rosalind James, who works for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
The students put on a few shows for the families before they all headed to their summer homes. Lots of activities are planned over the next several weeks, starting with watermelon tasting at Landmark Park this weekend, along with future 4-H projects.
Organizers say the students are looking forward to trips to the beach during their stay. They'll also present a play on August 5th as part of the States' 4-H International Talent Showcase, along with other groups.