Ten years ago my husband and I met a young lady from Thailand whom we now consider our sixth child.

June came to us through the American Field Service program in which students travel the world to live with new families and experience cultures they might never even have an opportunity to visit if it were not for such programs.

June was 18 when she arrived at a Maryland college campus with a large group of other students from around the world, each to go their separate ways to a new home for the next 11 months.

Unlike many of the other students, who were away from their families and native lands for the very first time, June had traveled to many other places in the world. Her parents had seen to that.

She also spoke some English though it wasn’t her preference to do so, especially since another Thai student was also visiting in Mineral County as part of the AFS program. They would hold occasional lengthy telephone conversations over the next year in Thai.

I think that was their reality check and as much as we encouraged them both to speak English, I recognized it was a respite they both needed from the pressures of being an American teen-ager for a year.

Nong lived with the Hamiltons and attended Frankfort High School, while June lived with us in Keyser and attended Keyser High School.

In their homeland their backgrounds were not at all similar and they might never have met had it not been for AFS. Nong grew up in a rural part of the country while June and her family lived in Bangkok.

It was quite a shock for June to find that there were no large cities anywhere near Keyser, but she dreamed of seeing her first snow and going ice skating.

Wouldn’t you know it, that year the winter was very mild and it was only in January that she got to experience any real snow and then it only amounted to a couple of inches at a time.

The next year I sent her pictures of the three-foot drifts in front of our house so she would know it really does snow here.

June arrived on Aug. 10, 1996, and on her first day she came with us to a picnic with some of husband’s coworkers and their families.

I soon discovered that in Thailand, June’s life had been very structured. She had attended school each day and came home with loads of homework. After her homework was finished she would attend classes in music or dance or some other activity. She had little time that was not planned for her.

She also had many friends at her school and they were very close, more like sisters.

Unlike many AFS families, we had no children at home, though we often visited with our grandchildren and strove to provide opportunities and time for her to be with other students and classmates.

She had met the daughter of a friend of my husband, who was her age and also attended Frankfort with Nong. She was in the band and when the band went to Florida in the spring of 1997 to play at Disney World we were invited to go along.

I think that’s when I discovered I was really too old to be the parent of a teen-ager. The youngest of our five children was already 22 and on her own and the others were several years older yet with children of their own.

June really enjoyed the grandchildren and they liked spending time with her as well.

We had been approached by AFS to host a child by friends from Rotary and at the time we liked the idea but didn’t think it would be practical given that we both worked and didn’t think we’d have the time to devote to her needs.

It was June 1996 and we were getting ready to go on a long awaited three-week vacation that would take us to Canada and points north and west before returning. After about three days of considering, we decided to take the plunge. We have never regretted it.

After graduation at Keyser, June went back to Thailand and obtained her bachelor’s degree in economics, then went on for a master’s, some of the course work she did in Redding, England, for a year. She now works in an international bank in Bangkok and is responsible for working with corporate loan accounts.

She has been able to come back to visit us once and we have hoped to be able to visit her and meet her family with whom we have kept in touch all these years. She still calls us Mom and Dad.

It is that time of year again when AFS is frantically searching for host families, I urge you to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity and while I recommend you have children of your own to share the experience, we have had many single parent host families or others without children.

There are ups and downs as with any parent/child relationship but it is well worth it. The search for peace in the world happens with understanding one person at a time.

Mona Ridder can be reached at mridder@times-news.com.

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