No need to traveling to New York City to catch a glimpse of how the world turns.
Haverhill has its very own version of a mini-United Nations right here on Hamilton Avenue.
Just visit the home of Dave and Debbie Dyer and you’ll get a clear picture. The Dyers have been hosting students from abroad ever since I can recall and there’s no intent to stop anytime soon, even in their grandparenting years.
Yes, this is the same Dave Dyer who’s been writing local sports for The Eagle-Tribune and Haverhill Gazette for an eon. You may be familiar with that role since it’s become more conspicuous over time.
Beneath the veneer is a host parent who, together with his wife, Debbie, have opened their doors to students from international waters. They started their mission as newlyweds in Illinois when their love for travel and meeting new people took a firm grip .Since it became fairly expensive to hop a plane at every urge, the Dyers decided to bring the world to them.
Over the years, they’ve welcomed 15 students to their door from places like the Philippines, Japan, China, Germany, Palestine and Belgium. The experience proved memorable not only for themselves, but for their three biological children and Nico, an adopted child who came to the Dyers from the Ukraine in 2002.
After raising their own children to adulthood, sending them off to college, attending a wedding or two, the Dyers decided it was so gratifying that off they went to the Ukraine and started parenting all over again.Young Nico has been in his glory the past few years with the arrival of several Ukrainian students, reconnecting him with his culture and heritage. The family has even taken measures to learn the language and visit the Ukraine with their adopted son. While in transit, they’ve visited some of the same students who remained with them while attending Haverhill High School.
For the most part, the Dyers have become surrogate parents, enjoying their athletic accomplishments and scholastic merits. Rules of the house apply to one and all here.
Dave wouldn’t have it any other way, despite a tight work schedule which knows no boundaries and the daily demands of staying on top of the news. Somehow, it’s been a juggling act and occasionally a ball will drop, only to be retrieved.
Next year they’ll be hosting their first Russian teen. He happens to be from Siberia and lives next to Lake Baikal — the deepest lake in the world.
“We felt it was a great experience for our younger kids to have older children who are motivated and can be good role models,” Dave said. “We’ve loved every one of them and have maintained some great friendships.
“The Dyers took one trip to Germany during which they were hosted by two former students and their families. To say they were treated “royally” might be an understatement.
“The food was always abundant and the hospitality unprecedented,” said Dave. “It’s their custom.”
A visit to the Ukraine last year not only rekindled a rash of memories provided by five host students but served another valid purpose. They got to meet another Ukrainian student who is staying with them this year.
So what happens to these students once they leave the Dyers and return to their native lands? Ted Reyes, their first student from the Philippines, is now a doctor living in Washington, DC. The Dyers conjured up a visit two summers ago.
A German student, Steffen Mueller, revisited the Dyers twice over the past two years. Together, they climbed Mount Washington with Paul Bilodeau, another Tribune staffer.
Another named Pasha Smityukh has a standing offer to join a barbershop in downtown Haverhill when he graduates from barber school in Kiev.
The Dyers have also hosted Chinese scholars (when in Illinois), a Spanish student in summer, and this year will welcome a French student for three weeks while also hosting an 11-year-old Ukrainian boy for seven weeks.
“We just love the thought of meeting new youngsters and know that Nico gets a lot out of it, too,” said Dave. “He’s gotten along with all of them and always looks forward to the next one. We plan on continuing for years to come. It also helps keep us young.”
I’ve had the privilege of becoming part of their international world to some extent. Each summer, I get the fishing tackle ready, prepare the bait, fire up the grill, and on they come — the Dyers with Nico and the students they host each year.
My scrapbooks are laden with photos of them catching bass from my lake. I’ve watched Nico grow from a toddler to a well-groomed child who adores his surroundings and the love he receives at home. If there’s a panacea for our ills, the Dyers have found it.
Photographer and reporter Tom Vartabedian is retired from The Haverhill Gazette. He contributes this regular column.