Local Lions Club host foreign exchange students

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One of the International Lions Club’s favorite programs is hosting and sending of foreign exchange students. For a few weeks each summer, students from around the world come to the cities of various Lions Clubs to spend time with host families. This year, students from Brazil, Germany, France and Belgium have been welcomed into host families of the local Lions Clubs of La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Spring Valley.

The program, which began in 1961, gives youth a unique cultural experience.

One of the International Lions Club’s favorite programs is hosting and sending of foreign exchange students. For a few weeks each summer, students from around the world come to the cities of various Lions Clubs to spend time with host families. This year, students from Brazil, Germany, France and Belgium have been welcomed into host families of the local Lions Clubs of La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Spring Valley.

The program, which began in 1961, gives youth a unique cultural experience.

“Living with a family is the best way to truly experience life in another country,” said La Mesa Lion David Shaw, who has also hosted students.

For more than fifty years, the La Mesa Lions Club has participated in this program. The club has both hosted and sent its own student to homes of other Lions Club families all over the world.

“We all learn about other cultures and make new friends,” Shaw said.

Lenora Wade of the Spring Valley Lions Club has found a family member in Barbara Martins, a student from Brazil, whom she has been hosting.

According to Wade, the purpose of the Lions Exchange program is for the student to become a part of the family.

“It is not meant to be a typical tourist adventure,” said Wade. “Barbara has been a joy to have and is easily entertained. We watch Jeopardy together. She has made herself a part of the family by helping me do the little things that make us a family.”

But going places and enjoying themselves have also been an important part of Martins’ time together with Wade’s family, which includes three granddaughters whom she looks after three days a week.

Together, they have visited Old Town, Cabrillo and the tide pools as well as 32nd Street, North Island and the Hotel del Coronado. Once, they visited the zoo during the day and again that same evening.

“I loved Old Town and seeing all the history there,” said Martins.

At the Lions Club meeting on July 31, Zoe De Bock of Belgium joined Nathan Dissaux from France and Kai Kersling from Germany, along with Martins. Club member Jennifer Mendoza, hosting Dissaux and Kersling, sat at their table as they all ate lunch.

“Good food, right?” Mendoza asked the boys, who nodded ‘yes’ as they ate busily.

When asked about their favorite food they have eaten here in San Diego, both the boys and De Bock said in unison, “Hamburgers.”

“Yes, the In and Out Burgers were absolutely the best I’ve ever had,” said Kersling.

Not all the cultural culinary options have been a hit.

“Mexican food? Too spicy,” said Martins, who has cooked Brazilian food for Wade a few times.

When asked what Belgians might eat for dinner, De Bock said a popular dish is French fries with mussels.

“We eat it with mayonnaise,” she said. “By the way, French fries didn’t come from France. They’re from Belgium.”

Someone asked Kersling if hamburgers came from Hamburg, Germany, his hometown, and he said he did not think so.

“It’s kind of a confusing story,” he said.             

After the club meeting, De Bock, Dissaux and Kersling went to the San Diego Zoo for the afternoon. Mindy Jarvis, hosting De Bock, suggested everyone take a bus tour first to find out what parts of the zoo they wanted to see first.

While standing in the long line waiting for the bus, Jarvis pulled De Bock in for a hug. “She is my daughter,” said Jarvis, as De Bock smiled.

Jarvis and her husband have hosted students a number of times.

“We always enjoy having girls with us,” she said.

Shaw said that the exchange program hits home for many Lions, himself included.

“This program has meant so much to my family and to me personally, so I want to do what I can to give back to these young students,” said Shaw.

After the exchange students’ time with the host families for two weeks, they go to a camp in Wrightwood for one week. When the students say good-bye to their host families, there will be many tears and hugs—and changed lives.

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