hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

Letters

August 9, 2012

Poor Tom’s Almanac: From Russia With Love

As a regional coordinator of Cultural Homestay International, Irena Anthony is one busy and fulfilled woman. Her job is running the agency’s internship/training program.

Over the years, she has placed a number of foreign students into area homes, including Haverhill and Bradford where she resides.

Just recently, the city hosted 34 Chinese exchange students, volunteering at various non-profits like Career Resources, Emmaus and Little Sprouts.

The students, along with teachers and host families, joined together for an outing at the home of Lois Anthony abutting Country Pond in Kingston, N.H. In all, some 55 guests celebrated a memorable afternoon.

Nobody was more pleased than Irena and her husband, Ken, who’ve opened their doors and encouraged others to follow their example as reliable host families. In many cases, host families have made the trip abroad to attend weddings and other special occasions.

“It’s a reality check for a lot of these kids,” says Irena. “They come to realize that the average American family doesn’t live in a Santa Monica-type mansion but a small home in Groveland or Haverhill, working as a school bus driver. They’ve experienced different worlds, all of which have been appealing.”

Irena came to Haverhill by way of Siberia, moving here in 1995 after meeting her husband. Armed with a degree in English and German, she acted as an interpreter with the Boy Scouts of Russia. Three years later, she joined CHI in 1998 as a group program coordinator for 20 young Russians.

The non-profit educational organization was founded in 1980 to promote international understanding and goodwill through people-to-people exchanges.

Like their colleagues, the Anthonys believe that the best way to build bridges of friendship and trust is to experience each other’s customs, values and languages. To live, study and work together leads to an experience of acceptance and genuine affection.

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