Written by Angela Valenzuela, Host Mom to Dana Kassymbayeva (2014-2015; Kazakhstan/California)
A coworker of mine, Margie Wilhelm, who is also a coordinator for World Link, happened to stop by my office and shared with me that she was looking for a host family for a bright young lady from Kazakhstan. This was approximately 1 month before school started. After meeting formally and getting questions answered about medical, legalities, etc. my then-boyfriend Jack and daughters agreed to host her.
This mild, shy, cute young girl came straight from the airport and right into our hearts. Dana blossomed into a friendly, outgoing, vibrant, inspiring young lady with so much to give. She volunteered with the elderly, read books to children, worked on a disabled veteran’s home and shared her culture with the young and old. She is just amazing. Dana quickly became part of the family, so much that we decided to get married before she returned home. We wanted to share our moment with her.
Some of the exciting firsts we experienced with her such as seeing the ocean, Disneyland, the Hollywood sign, a zoo where she could pet a sting ray, are something we will forever treasure. Through it all she has been gracious and we loved that she saw things in child-like awe.
Dana excelled in school, joined the tennis team, won numerous awards in school as well as Student of the Month for FLEX and her high school. We are excited that she will return home with new beginnings, new experiences to share and to think we played a small part in that is incredible. She will always have a special part in our hearts, we love her as our own and wish her nothing but success and joy in life. We look forward to a visit either back in the United States or us venturing out of our comfort zone to Kazakhstan in the next year or so. What a blessing it has been to host and to think we could have missed out. Must have been fate or divine intervention when Margie walked through those doors. I am forever grateful.