In 2008, five school divisions in Southwestern Manitoba formed a consortium with the intention of starting a program to actively recruit and welcome students from around the world to come to Southwestern Manitoba to study and learn about a new culture. Thus, Study Manitoba School Divisions was born. In the past 11 years, over 700 students from 23 countries have attended in schools in Beautiful Plains, Fort La Bosse, Rolling River, Southwest Horizon, and Turtle Mountain School Divisions.
Students in grades 9-12 come to improve their English skills, to have academic experiences and to learn about Canadian culture. For many, it is their first time away from home.
Attracting students to small town Manitoba was a challenge at first. There is a different way of life here. As our program has grown, so has our reputation for offering an experience that is different from that of large city programs. There are many unique opportunities in our small communities that students enjoy: playing on the school sports team, ice fishing, winter sports, harvest meals in the fields or welcoming newborn animals in the spring. Families also appreciate knowing that their children are coming to a community where they are safe.
Homestay families are a very important piece of the program. An amazing network of families have opened their hearts and homes to these young people. Students are matched with families based on profile information they provide. Active students are matched with active families, passionate music students with families who can support their passion, students who wish to continue on their religious practices with families who are like-minded, that kind of thing.
Hosting a young person from abroad is a life changing experience for both sides. Friendships are formed that can be maintained long after the departure date. Many families are still in contact years later and they tell us that now they have children all over the world that they can visit. Students promise to come back and visit their Canadian “Moms and Dads”.
Are the matches always successful? No, not always. In those cases, the Program Coordinator provides support to both students and families to find solutions. Communication and mediation of the issue is the first course of action. If a solution can’t be found, then other options are assessed.
Each year, new families are encouraged to join the homestay network. Homestay families come in many different forms: parents with children at home, single parents, empty nesters, retired couples. The program is seeking families who will support and encourage the student and treat them like a member of their family. A monthly stipend is provided to each homestay family to support additional expenses associated with hosting. Applicants must meet program qualifications, including record checks.
To learn more about the Study Manitoba School Divisions program, please visit: www.studymanitoba.ca To find out how to become a homestay family, please contact Danette Lockhart firstname.lastname@example.org