Letter To All Parents Of Foreign Exchange Students
From Danielle Grijalva, Director
Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students,
November 30, 2005

Dear Parents:

It has been three months since you’ve said goodbye. It will be another seven months before you say hello to your child.

I have some questions for you that I want you to seriously ponder.

How does your son or daughter sound when you talk on the telephone? Listen…really listen to your child's voice. For some of you, there’s something in their voice that isn’t quite right. You can even tell in their emails to you that something is missing.

By now, your instincts tell you your son or daughter cannot still be homesick. Listen and trust your instincts parents, and begin to get serious.

For some of you, your son or daughter will break down and cry during your conversations. No matter how often and the many different ways you ask, you will not be able to find out exactly what it is that is weighing heavy on their heart. Have you attempted to speak to them in your language, however, find that they are only able to respond in English? Do you get the feeling that their calls are being monitored by someone standing close by?

Let’s go a step further. How many times have you reviewed time and time again the packet of information you were provided regarding your son or daughter’s host family? You’re looking for reassurance by staring at the pictures of your child’s host family and confirmation that this family is, in fact, taking good care of your precious child.

Sadly, for many of you, the original host family, for one reason or another, is no longer your child’s current family. You are unclear as to the circumstances. You know who you are and I have your full attention.

Do you know how many times your child wants to tell you exactly why they’re so unhappy? And your suspicion is right; your son or daughter still cries themselves to sleep at night. For many, they do not want to disappoint you. They’ve seen you work so very hard and know how long it took you to save the money to fulfill your child’s dream.

For many of these students, this was their idea; to become an exchange student and they also don’t want to disappoint you and break your heart by telling you that instead, all they want to do is come home. They want to be in your arms where they feel safe.

I am asking you to be strong and place a phone call to your child now. Right now. I am asking you to say, “If you’re not happy, do not worry about the money.” Ask them to answer if they are prevented from speaking with you in your native language. Tell your child to be honest with you, and you will not settle for less.

If you’re feeling helpless with little, if any, assistance from your child’s student exchange organization, ask your son or daughter to talk with a trusted friend.

Tell your child that even if you are across the ocean you will help him or her.

They are welcome to reach out to the Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students by visiting www.csfes.org. A team of caring members make no excuses for the protection of children will take the time to listen and assist your child.

To set aside the time to hear the voices of the victims is an act of simple, human decency.

Danielle Grijalva, Director
Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students
P.O. Box 6496
Oceanside, CA 92052

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