Our family first came across the concept of guardianship when a good friend of ours became a guardian to a Japanese student. We regularly socialise with the family and got to know the student well. Our young daughter would look forward to playing with her when she stayed with our friends and we really enjoyed her company.
We were originally recommended by our friend to The Guardian Family Network as she knew of a student who was looking for a guardian family and felt that we would be perfect for the role. We had previously shown an interest but I must confess that we were quite anxious about whether we would be good enough, combined with the responsibility of looking after a child from another country. The Guardian Family Network were brilliant at putting us at ease and answered all of our questions. Our trial weekend went really well and our student ‘M’ was lovely. We were all so nervous at first as with any big decision, but we decided to ‘go for it’ and are very pleased that we did!
We collected M from summer school towards the end of August, and she came to stay with us before starting her new school. We had a fun couple of days enjoying the last of the summer holidays, getting to know each other a little more and getting the last minute shopping done that M needed for school. The biggest hurdle that we faced early on was our language barrier, but I knew that would improve quickly and it wasn’t too much of a problem.
On the first day of term I drove M to school and spent the majority of the day with her, meeting her boarding house staff and teachers as well as exploring the school. We were all treated to a fantastic lunch and M met up with a friend from summer school, which was great. In the afternoon I helped M unpack and settle in before heading home. I found it particularly difficult to drive away and leave her, but I was completely reassured by the fantastic staff and that she already had found a good friend.
We really enjoyed M coming to stay with us, and found the whole experience very beneficial for our family. Being given the opportunity to have an international student from another cultural background was really fun. M taught us about her family routines at home, the types of foods available and what it was like to live in Japan. M used to play with our daughter, which was lovely to see. Language was no barrier to them and they enjoyed spending time together. M even showed her how to write her name in Japanese! It was also very rewarding watching our student grow in confidence. Her language skills were noticeably better every time she came to stay, which helped considerably.
Having M to stay was a great experience and taught our daughter what life was like in a country far from home. It also helped to teach her how to share not only her toys, but her mum and dad too. M did some baking while she stayed with us and introduced us to Japanese snowball cookies, which were lovely. She became part of the family and we often planned trips out and activities when she came to stay. We would also enjoy just relaxing at home and would regularly watch movies in the evenings together.
I attended M’s parent evenings and school events when invited. This included a musical production and a summer tea party. I also kept in touch directly with the boarding staff and head of year and felt very much involved. I also emailed M at school and kept in touch during term time. I was able to feed back to The Guardian Family Network M’s progress so it could be relayed to her parents.
Our family would thoroughly recommend being a guardian, as it really was a lovely experience. There was a 24/7 emergency contact number, so we always felt that someone was there if needed and they were always very reassuring and helpful. We unfortunately had to stop our placement early with M as our family circumstances changed and we no longer had a spare room, which we all found very disappointing. When we move to a bigger home we will certainly be returning to The Guardian Family Network as we had such a positive experience.
Mr and Mrs A.M, West Sussex.