If you a welcoming home in the Wetaskiwin area and would love to learn more about Japan, you’re in luck.
The Wetaskiwin-Ashoro Friendship Society is looking for host homes for their high school exchange next fall.
Vice chair of the WOFS Jackie Ouellette said the society is about 30 years old and works to facilitate the sister city relationship between Wetaskiwin and Ashoro, a of about 7,000 people located in northern Japan. The cities were twinned in 1990.
She noted the society makes the relationship more exciting by making well-laid plans for visits both ways. Ashoro actually sends an entire Grade 10 class to Wetaskiwin every year.
Ouellette explains rural Japanese high schools like the one in Ashoro have seen declining enrollment; to reverse this trend, the incentive of a trip to Wetaskiwin is offered. “So it’s having the desired effect,” said Ouellette by phone Apr. 12.
She said the trip is greatly prized by the Japanese students. “Just to have hands-on English experience,” said Ouellette. “They want to learn the English language.
“They’re excited to come and hear it.” Having the guests stay in a hotel, for example, would not be as great an experience with English as actually staying in a local home for a few days.
The upcoming Japanese group will number 60 students and six adults, including teachers and chaperones. Ouellette said local accommodations are needed for the guests. “That’s my job,” said Ouellette. “I get to try to find families where they can stay.”
She explained that organizers like to have two students stay at each home, so the Ashoro students have someone nearby they can speak to in their own language. Of course, the students would need an individual sleeping spot.
The teachers and chaperones would ideally be hosted on their own. So in total Ouellette said the WOFS is looking for 30 homes to take students and six homes to take adults.
The Ashoro students will be in Wetaskiwin for only a few days, Sept. 21 to 25. “It’s a very, very quick visit,” said Ouellette. She explained a welcoming celebration and farewell dinner will both be held, so the Japanese guests will only need supper for two nights and breakfast for three to four mornings.
The guests will be spending time at local schools, but will also have the Saturday free for activities.
Those interested in billeting students or adults can contact Ouellette through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 780-361-0211.