Youth Exchanges: Go International! Back »

This article was written by Suzy Geppert, former SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Partnerships Field Specialist, in collaboration with Alan Lambert, SD 4-H International Programs Coordinator.


Previously, we discussed 4-H Youth Exchange programs and why they were developed. Youth are given the opportunity to reach their full potential as future leaders in communities as well as workplaces. State and County Exchange programs are a series of learning experiences in which individuals from a club, community or county visit in the homes/communities of 4-H members in another geographical area, and are visited by them in return. Counties usually host a group one year and return to visit the homes/communities of their guests the following year.

Exchanges mobilize volunteers and communities to meet the needs of youth by creating non-formal, educational opportunities to help youth thrive in a complex and changing world; allowing them to problem solve and plan through various life skill development opportunities utilizing the 4-H Guiding Principles. These life skills can be developed even further by allowing our youth to advance their practices in an International Exchange.

Alan Lambert, SD 4-H International Programs Coordinator, manages the exchanges which include delegates travelling abroad, inbound exchangees and the host families needed for home stays. Lambert says host families are currently being sought for one month 4-H International Exchange Programs. He would like to remind us to “Open your mind to a new world and your heart to a new lifelong friend!”

One example is Seigi Bando. Seigi is a 14 year old boy from Tokushima, Japan who loves outdoor activities and participating in sports. He would like to enjoy the everyday life in a different culture and the interaction with a South Dakota family, while making many new friends. 

Seigi is one of 24 Japanese teenage girls and boys, ages 12-16, who will be staying with local families as part of a two-way exchange program sponsored through 4-H and the Japanese LABO organization. The Japanese youth come eager to live our everyday life and make friends that will last a lifetime. The exchangees will stay with their South Dakota host families from July 22 to August 18, 2013.

The program accepts host families with children of the same gender and within two years of age. Families without children in this age range are encouraged to host an adult chaperone for two weeks. Families do not need to be involved in 4-H to host, just a willingness to share your home and your world. There is no need to know the Japanese language. The students have been studying English, and are anxious to use it. Lambert says, "The program gives host families a chance to share their culture, friendship and family life with an exchange student, and at the same time learn about Japanese life. The home stays last only a month, but the effects last a lifetime.”

About The Japanese LABO Exchange

The Japanese LABO Exchange, in cooperation with 4-H International Exchange Programs, is one of the largest exchange programs involving North American and Japanese youth in the world. Since it began in 1972, more than 40,000 students have stayed with families in 39 states including South Dakota, and more than 6,300 youth have lived with host families in Japan.

Become a Host

Information and host family applications about the program are available by contacting a local 4-H leader, county extension office or through the SD 4-H Leaders website. They can provide additional information and direct those interested to: Alan Lambert, SD 4-H International Programs Coordinator (605) 366-6107.

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