CHEK Upside: Island school districts in search of homestay families


Inside Cowichan Secondary School, the international student program office provides a meeting place for students from around the world.

The School District 79 program sees hundreds of students come to the Cowichan Valley each year to experience schooling in Canada as well as Canadian culture.

“It’s just so exciting to live in a new country not only as a tourist, but to really live here and to see another school system,” says German international student Jakob Hebeda.

“I’ve always loved Canada and I’ve always wanted to come here and I just love [experiencing] new cultures and meeting new people,” says fellow German international student Clara Astheimer.

“When I first came here I felt just amazing and I am so proud being a part of Cowichan Secondary School,” says Chinese international student Tony Wong.

An integral part of the program are the homestay host families, who provide a home away from home to each student.

“It taught me a lot about the culture and about opening up my eyes to different ways,” says homestay host Lelean Macfarlane. “It just filled my heart, it made me very very happy.”

This year school districts across the island were experiencing a decrease in homestay families, so they’ve banded together to create an advertising campaign to encourage islanders to participate.

“We certainly have a healthy amount of interest from students all over the world,” says Alison Keple, the district principal for SD79’s international student program.

“The days are getting longer and the COVID restrictions are lessening and so we’re hoping people will want to open their homes to international students.”

It’s a small way of giving back and an experience that will be remembered for a lifetime.

“Take the plunge for sure, because you will receive back tenfold what you put out there,” says Macfarlane.

To find out how to get involved with your local school district, visit the link on the CHEK News website.

Cole SorensonCole Sorenson

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