What is a Host Family?
Host Family Meaning
What is a host family? A host family is a family that provides housing and food to someone, often a student or volunteer. AMIGOS host families are interested in opening their home to a volunteer and welcoming them into their family. A homestay, especially abroad, is a wonderful way to improve your language skills, get a window into another culture, and build meaningful relationships.
Typically, host families provide three meals per day and a bedroom for the student or volunteer they are hosting. Homestays can last anywhere from a few days to over a year. AMIGOS has a wide variety of programs with a homestay component. Some projects have an introductory host family experience that lasts around a week, whereas our Gap Year Program matches volunteers with a family for the whole nine months!
Finding a host family for students is an important part of AMIGOS programs. Since we have long histories working in many of our host communities, lots of AMIGOS host families have hosted students before. New families may find out about the opportunity to host AMIGOS volunteers because another family recommended the experience to them. Others may be involved with our local partner organizations and find out about AMIGOS through their work with them. In any case, they are people who show interest in sharing their lives and their culture with a student.
Because we work with young people, properly vetting host families is crucial. Our staff teams conduct interviews with interested families and visit their homes to ensure the situation is suitable and that the family is a good match. Then, once host families are selected, our staff and local partner agency put on a training to make sure they are prepared to welcome a young person into their home. During the project itself, AMIGOS staff members have regular check-ins with volunteers and families to address any issues that arise and make sure they all feel safe and well-cared-for.
It’s common advice to bring a small gift to your host family. A good gift for a host family is something that isn’t very expensive that represents you or your home culture. Small food items are great for this! Local chocolates or candies, jam made in your area, or condiments like syrup or hot sauce are all good options. If there are children in your host family, games are a fun gift as well as a way to bond! In our experience, volunteers and their families enjoy the card game UNO because it’s something everyone can play together.
Living with a host family is a truly unique experience. It is an excellent way to immerse yourself in another culture, practice a different language, and make real connections that can last a lifetime. On AMIGOS programs, volunteers typically wake up in the morning and have breakfast with their family before heading out of the house to do community service projects. They often return for lunch (which in many of our host communities is the largest and most important meal of the day). After lunch, volunteers may go to a local school or community space and lead after school activities for kids. Then, they return home for dinner and spend time with their family chatting, listening to music, and playing games before bedtime.