Our favorite annual tradition is here – announcing Host Family of the Year! Each and every year, AYA students and Local Coordinators across the United States submit meaningful, heartwarming nomination letters about their beloved host families.
As always, we were moved by the plethora of incredible stories showcasing extraordinary bonds our between host families and international exchange students. Truthfully, it is always difficult to choose just one winner, and this year we simply could not!
Meet the two AYA families who have been named Host Family of the Year for the 2022-23 academic year.
The Wiech Family in New York State
Brandi and Adam Wiech are a blended family in rural New York State. They are very connected to their community and are volunteering all the time. For the Wiechs, it’s all about family — they have a strongly connected extended family and often meet for family gatherings and cookouts.
This family is not brand new to hosting exchange students. They started hosting with AYA back in 2018 and are still strongly connected to the students they hosted in the past. One of their former exchange students just recently came for a visit!
The Wiechs are empty-nesters and wanted to take a break from hosting in 2022 to finally devote as much time as possible to their passion — travel. However, in early January they decided to put their travel plans on hold for an indefinite time and open their doors to a student from Ukraine who was in need of a host family. Here is what he says about his host parents:
“I love my host family. When I had to switch families, they took me in, and reassured me. They always supported me, and never let me doubt myself. They’re truly my second family, and I love them dearly.”
The Flynn Family in Kansas
Thomas and Belinda Flynn from Kansas were nominated for AYA Host Family of the Year not only by the two students they hosted this year, but also by the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes.
They didn’t plan to host in 2022, but at the very last moment they decided to open their doors to Hasbi, a YES program student from Indonesia, and Daniiar, a FLEX Program student from Kyrgyzstan, so that they could experience high school life in America and pursue their dreams.
At first, the Flynns agreed to be a ‘bridge’ host family for the boys, which means they would be hosting them for 30 days after their arrival in the United States before they would move to a permanent placement. However, once the boys got to their home, the Flynns decided to host them for the duration of the program.
They have gone above and beyond during this year — not only for the two boys they hosted, but also other AYA exchange students in the area. They Flynns have gone to the boys’ bowling, baseball, and tennis matches and supported them at their school events. Thomas and Belinda also invited other students to their house and organized several events for them, such as cookie decorating, making Pysanky Eggs, cooking together. They also took several students on a field trip to a working Dairy Farm. They have helped Hasbi and Dani complete 100 hours each of community service.
The boys also have developed a very special relationship with their 100-year-old host grandma, Doris, and were featured along with her in Topeka Magazine.
“The one thing why I love my host family is because they really care about me and always try to be my home.” – Hasbi from Indonesia