InterExchange Au Pair USA is proud to celebrate its 25th anniversary this fall. During the coming year, we'll be highlighting Memories That Mean the World, with stories and anecdotes from people who've enjoyed the benefits of the program for years, creating long-term connections.
Since 1989, InterExchange Au Pair USA has connected thousands of caring au pairs with loving U.S. host families, creating global relationships that demonstrate the best aspects of cultural exchange. The au pair program is about more than child care. Many InterExchange Au Pair USA host families have children who have literally grown up with the program, and as they've grown, they've had an opportunity to meet au pairs from all over the world. Beyond the loving, dedicated, full-time child care, children also get exposure to different languages, cultural customs and incredible people whom they might never have met.
With the ongoing success and increased understanding of how au pairs contribute to a household, InterExchange Au Pair USA has seen regular growth each year and as of 2014, works with eight times as many au pairs and families as it did in 1989. The diversity and interest from countries across the world has increased as well, with au pairs visiting the U.S. from 66 countries.
These relationships have built Memories That Mean the World – from babies' first steps to high school graduation – for families like the Carithers, from Alexandria, Virginia.
"We feel so lucky to have gotten to know six lovely and educated women from around the world (Japan, Germany and Latvia) through InterExchange Au Pair USA who have become extended members of our family," says Ms. Carithers. "Each of these young women has brought energy and enthusiasm to the job and a fresh perspective. Each one has helped our children through various stages of their lives – they've lived through potty training with us, starting kindergarten, learning to tie shoes, learning to swim … all with a sense of humor and adventure. We really have been so happy."
"My wife and I are both physicians and need reliable child care help," says Dr. Lesnick. "We started in the au pair program when our first daughter was six weeks old. Staying at home for the first year and half really kept her healthy. We continued with au pairs through the birth of our second daughter. Since it's hard for us to drive afternoon carpool, we relied on our au pairs throughout their school years to get the kids to all their after-school programs. These included piano lessons, viola lessons, horseback riding and a variety of religious school activities. … This will likely be our 17th and final year with au pairs as our younger daughter starts driving in the spring on her own."
The Lemberg family, from Westfield, New Jersey, has hosted 12 au pairs from seven different countries since 2003.
"We joined the program 11 years ago when our three kids were small – ages two, two, and one. I couldn't manage on my own with three babies, and after several part-time local nannies were unsatisfactory and at the recommendation of our friends, we decided to try an au pair from InterExchange Au Pair USA," says Mr. Lemberg. "We have met some amazing young ladies from Germany, Belgium, England, Denmark and the Netherlands. Each brings something else to our family and we continue to keep in touch. In fact, we are having a triple b'nai mitzvah party for our kids in September, and at least five of our past au pairs are flying in for the celebration!"
InterExchange Au Pair USA au pairs have found the program to not only be a life-changing cultural experience that creates Memories That Mean the World, but a learning opportunity that au pairs can leverage for greater success once they've returned to their home countries with new skills.
Sophie Colesseberg, an au pair from France, lived with her host family in Westfield, New Jersey, for two years. She's now flying high as a cabin attendant for Qatar Airways.
"Living abroad in a host family helped me to become more confident, to take initiative and to feel responsible for others," says Colesseberg. "It helped improve my English and social skills. As an au pair, I learned patience and cultural awareness. For my job, I get to travel around the world and I soon will be going back to the U.S., I cannot wait for it! In the meantime, I enjoy going to all sorts of different countries and parts of the world I could only have dreamt about."
Claudia Quezada, an au pair from Mexico, lived for one year with her host family in Wantagh, New York.
"My experience as an au pair in New York has brought me many good things into my life," says Quezada. "Living with an American family gave me the experience of getting to know another culture, which is very different from mine. Right now I am studying software engineering in Canada, and I can tell you that my English has made it easier for me to interact with others."
Local Coordinators serve as the primary contact for host families and au pairs in their community and are an invaluable source of learning and support throughout the program. Their contributions are essential to making sure au pairs and families are having a successful experience.
"I love that part of my job is to bring au pairs from around the world together during monthly meetings and other fun activities we do together," says San Diego Local Coordinator Dina Nichols. "By guiding these groups of young people and introducing them to each other, I can connect an au pair from Germany with an au pair from Japan or Colombia or France. Some of these friendships last well beyond the time they're in the program. In my role with InterExchange Au Pair USA, I'm helping them form Memories That Mean the World."
InterExchange Au Pair USA's grassroots involvement in towns and cities across the United States also helps introduce new cultures and possibilities to local communities.
Northern New Jersey Local Coordinator Robin Winter-Bailey says "Part of my job is to make sure that au pairs get a well-rounded cultural exchange experience. Introducing them to the local community during our outings at the bowling alley or volunteering at a food pantry really helps them understand what the daily lifestyle of an American city is like. For community residents, meeting an au pair might be their only connection to people from other countries. Expanding people's world view is just one of the many ways the program helps create Memories That Mean the World. These introductions and the friendships that often result can inspire folks from New Jersey to consider heading overseas ourselves."
InterExchange Au Pair USA host families, au pairs and Local Coordinators agree: The one-of-a-kind cultural exchange experience that the au pair program provides creates unique Memories That Mean the World that enrich lives forever.