What We Learned From Host Housing the Matsiko Kids


Last year my husband and I volunteered to be a host family when the Matsiko kids came back to Washington at the end of their tour.  I had wanted to volunteer when they first arrived, but I'm basically a coward.  I fear going into the unknown, and I like to know exactly what to expect every moment of the time I'm involved in something new.  I can also be lazy when it comes to taking on new tasks.  

I was only going to volunteer for 3 days initially.  I figured that anyone can live through 3 days of misery if it might benefit someone else.  As it turned out, my husband and I ended up asking to host the children for many more days than 3.  They were SO FUN! 


Here were some of my specific fears before housing the children: 

  • How am I going to entertain several kids during their free time? 

  • I'm an introvert...in order to stay sane, I need time to myself.  What will I do without that alone time? 

  • What if their behavior is horrible, and I constantly have to watch them?  

  • How am I going to explain things to them if they don't speak Enlish and I don't speak their language?  


What I learned from the experience:

  • Kids are kids!  It doesn't matter what country or culture they come from.  They behave like any other kids of the same age that you would see on any US playground.  The kids loved playing with the toys we had at the house.  (Borrow toys from neighbors or family if you don't have kids living with you.)  Remember these are kids who aren't used to having toys.  From what I heard from others who had their own kids in the house - the old kids and the new kids got along GREAT and enjoyed playing together even if their ages didn't line up.  Wouldn't this be a great experience for your own kids?  


  • As for free time - we didn't have any.  When the kids got home at 5 or 6 in the evening they were tired.  Pat and I would fix dinner, the kids would play with toys.  After dinner we would play a game - Uno's good.  We limited TV, but usually before bedtime they would watch one age appropriate, non-violent show and I would get some alone time.  I'm hoping that this time we'll have more time to show them all around Seattle.


  • Yes, it did take more of my time to fix their meals and drive the kids back and forth to practice.  However, these kids love to help with things.  It took Luis 1 & 1/2 mornings to totally memorize my morning routine.  From then on Luis told me what still needed to be done and could make the lunches faster than I could.  All the kids, but especially Solomon, loved our dog, a German Shepherd.  I didn't have to walk Maggie, feed her or give her affection.  Solomon was all over her.


  • There weren't any behavior problems.  These kids want to please you.  They're the ones in a strange new land dependent on strange new people.  Sure, you may still have morning where you find yourself saying, "Hurry, hurry, we're running late.  You can finish that in the car."  At bedtime I had evenings where after repeated reminders about it being time for bed, I would need to say, "Bedtime!  Now!"  But I figure any child who always goes to bed on time isn't very intelligent.  


  • Last time when we were visiting with the boys they were at the end of their tour and spoke excellent English, far better than I would have spoken of their language if I had been learning their language during that same period of time.  This time will be different because it will be at the beginning of the tour and they don't speak English.  But I figure how hard will it be to say "light switch on" and turn on the light switch. Or, show them how a toy works.  And a hug is appreciated in any language.  


  • The most important thing I got out of having the boys live with us was a new look or understanding of our world.  Those children who lived with us for a very short time last year weren't statistics that I could keep safely in my head and ignore. They were real and alive.  They were growing up in poverty, most without parents to guide and protect them. Yet they laughed, had goals, and were intelligent enough to succeed in college.  The hardest thing that I am still trying to figure out (I'm 70) is what am I supposed to be doing here?  Solomon, Hitender, Luis and Georgrita are trying to answer that same question, but with far fewer helpers along the way.  


Just before Solomon went back to Liberia last year, I told him that he had made a difference in my life.  As I explained how he had made that difference in me, tears came to his eyes and streamed down his cheeks.  He sais, "that's all I want, is to make a difference in people's live and to make things easier for the kids in my country."  


You really MUST meet these kids and invite them into your home.  I can't wait for them to arrive!


- Sharon and her husband Pat attend Real Life Church in Covington, WA 



International Children's Network

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