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Exchange Student Needs a Gluten-Free Home

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Amy Leger

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This fall you heard about my family's adventures with hosting an exchange student with celiac disease. Ida is now half way through her stay here and I believe she’s having a great time. She’s had some adjustments to make with her diet here. For example: we still haven’t found a regular bun recipe that has met my expectations. Until she came here, she was used to good gluten-free hamburger buns in Norway. So for now she’s eating hamburgers without buns.

As for Ida at school, she loved going to high school football games last fall and checked out a high school hockey game for the first time last night. Her time here has brought a lot of new experiences. She celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years here. But she’s also traveled. Ida has seen Mt. Rushmore, Lake Superior, the Rocky Mountains, Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam. Next she’s going to Hawaii in February. She is definitely fitting a lot in – in a very short amount of time.

Host Family needed for celiac student

But now another young lady with celiac disease hopes to have a similar experience. I have just been informed about a student who is hoping to come here for the 2009-2010 school year.

While I cannot give out a ton of information about her in this forum, I wanted to do what I could to help out the Youth for Understanding organization by reaching out to the celiac community with the goal of finding a host family for her.

The prospective exchange student’s name is Emma and she is a teenager who has celiac disease. I can tell you that she loves children. So if you have younger kids, like I do, you should still feel free to express an interest. For more information, you can email Betsy at bkiefer@yfu.org. She helps place students through the YFU program.

Hosting a celiac exchange student

As for hosting a teenager with celiac disease, I’ve learned many things from Ida – like my cooking doesn’t entirely stink! My soon-to-be 10-year-old, Emma, doesn’t like a lot of things, including lasagna, spaghetti sauce, and bread that isn’t baked by Mom. But Ida really goes with the flow on these things. I have been hoping this would rub off on Emma, but so far, she hasn’t been too adventurous.

If you choose to become a host family, another thing you’ll learn about -- different words from their country. For example, when we were in Pahrump (about 40 minutes from Las Vegas) last week, one of my daughters said the word – Pahrump. Ida started laughing – uncontrollably. We asked her what was so funny? She said Pahrump sounds exactly like the Norwegian word for fart!! The Norwegian version is spelled promp, but has nearly the same pronunciation as Pahrump. So the girls were saying it in the car all evening back to the house. My in-laws who live there got a real kick out of it too when we told them about it. That will be a memory that will no doubt stick with us forever!

If you would like to see where an experience like this will take you, send Betsy an email. It wouldn’t surprise me if this young lady has been warned like Ida was – that people with food allergies and other health issues can be very difficult to place in a home. That ended up not really being the case with Ida, let’s hope it’s not the case with Emma the exchange student, as well. Good luck!


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Guest Marjo Makkonen

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Hello. I'm Marjo from Finland. I am a mother of 4 teenagers, of which one is celiac. I found this article when looking for contacts within the worldwide gluten-free society. I have signed into different web sites like Lingoo (www.lingoo.eu) and Couch Surfing in order to get to know families with celiac teenagers who could give a young kid the possibility for an exchange experience without risking the diet. I hope anyone interested in gluten-free exchange would spread the word and that together we could make many celiac teens' dream come true.

 

Also, I wish many many more families able to offer a safe gluten-free diet would register on Lingoo. It's a very well known and strictly controlled site getting together families mostly in Europe but hopefully soon in other parts of the world, too!

 

Please feel free to contact me either via Lingoo (member 22055) or by email: makkonen.hyvinkaa(a)gmail.com.

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