Recently, CCI Greenheart interviewed Montana LC, Ramona about her start in international exchange and her experience with CCI Greenheart. Her story illustrates a global family and a lifelong love affair with cultures and people across the world.

Ramona and Students

Q: Why did you decide to become a Local Coordinator with CCI Greenheart?

My love for international individuals began with my family’s journey of international adoption.  In 2000, we received our first two sons from Sierra Leone, West Africa.  This led to my involvement and the joining as a board member of an organization, Sacred Portion Children’s Outreach (SPCO), that brought older orphans to the US in the summer for four weeks for a vacation from orphanage life and to experience American life with the possibility of being discovered by a potential forever-family who would pursue adopting the child/or siblings.  Our family hosted in the summer of 2006 and nine months later through adoption we added to our home a daughter and son from Colombia, South America. While waiting for the 7 weeks in Colombia to finalize our children’s adoption I got to experience what it was like to be a foreigner and be very vulnerable needing to depend on people I hardly knew.  It made me realize what it must be like for those who come to our country.  Helping these students has given me so much joy. How I actually found out about CCI Greenheart was when Craig, the vice-president of SPCO, gave my name for his reference to become a local coordinator.  During the reference call all I could think is, “He is so lucky!!  I wish I could do that!” About a month later Craig contacted me and said, “If you are interested you should apply right away. ”  I completed the application process, searched for host families, vetted and trained them; and then shortly after I welcomed twelve students in for my first year as Local Coordinator.

Q: What moment has made you laugh the most since your students have arrived?

The best, funniest moment I can recall was my first year with a Brazilian boy, Gabriel.  We were in the car and  I was discussing with the students about Greenheart and the concept of what volunteering was.  Gabriel seemed puzzled.  I tried to explain volunteering as doing work for someone without receiving any money.  He quickly replied, “CCI needs money?!”  I responded laughing, “No! no!”,  and then continued to try to explain what it meant.  It was a great laugh for all of us, including Gabriel.

Q: What moment made you realize the larger impact of what you’re doing as an LC?

I believe that it was when a family would  call me asking for council and asking if I would speak to their student about issues they did not feel  comfortable approaching with their student.  It was always a good feeling when I could assist them in working through issues that had occurred usually by some misunderstandings.  I was glad that I was an important part of the success of the student and their host family staying united and finishing out a wonderful experience for all.

Q: What do you do when you’re not placing exchange students?

My husband and children are very important to me.  I am involved in the homeschooling of my teenagers.  They have various activities from soccer, to indoor track and field, theater, and Civil Air Patrol, that we are either watching them perform or transporting them to.  My family and I are also involved in our church’s music ministry on Sunday mornings and find this to be a big blessing. Additionally I am a mother of two adult children who are married and a grandmother of 10 precious children. I have a business as an Independent Product Consultant for doTERRA Essential Oils and teach others about the power and uses for these oils.

Q: How has your family been affected by your work as an LC, or vice versa?

My teenagers love meeting the students when they arrive and getting to know them.  My kids attend all of the fun activities I have for the students.  They become their friends too.  Due to the fact my sons are homeschooled they benefit in getting some first hand social studies education as they love to have the students in our home and have them show them where their home is on Google Earth and learn about their culture and the similarities and differences we share.

Q: What have you learned/what is a tip for other LCs?

Taking the time to read over student bios to make the best possible student/host family match is what I have found to be very important.  Not only paying attention to common interests with the family but also to what the exchange student’s dynamics are in their natural family and what their relationships were to their siblings if they had them.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a Local Coordinator for CCI Greenheart to bring cultural exchange to your community, please visit http://www.cci-exchange.com/localcoordinator/