South Dakota 4-H looks for host families

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS – 4-H Youth Exchange programs provide youth with the opportunity to reach their full potential as future leaders in communities, as well as, in the workplace, says Suzanne Geppert, SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Partnerships Field Specialist.

“Exchanges mobilize volunteers and communities to meet the needs of youth by creating non-formal, educational opportunities to help youth thrive in a complex and changing world; allowing them to problem solve and plan through various life skill development opportunities utilizing the 4-H Guiding Principles,” she said. “These life skills can be developed even further by allowing our youth to advance their practices in an International Exchange.”

Geppert explains that state and county exchanges are basically a series of learning experiences in which 4-H members visit the homes and communities of 4-H members in another geographical location, and then receives visitors in return. Counties usually host a group one year and return the visit the following year.

4-H also provides its members with the opportunity to travel internationally. Alan Lambert, South Dakota 4-H International Programs Volunteer Coordinator, manages the exchanges which include delegates travelling abroad, inbound exchangees and the host families needed for home stays.

Lambert says host families are currently being sought for one month 4-H International Exchange Programs. Currently Lambert is seeking host families for 24 teens from Japan; ages 12-16. The teens will be staying with local families as part of a two-way exchange program sponsored through 4-H and the Japanese LABO organization.

“The Japanese youth come eager to live our everyday life and make friends that will last a lifetime,” Lambert said.

The exchangees will stay with their South Dakota host families from July 22, 2013 to August 18. The program accepts host families with children of the same gender and about the same age. Families without children in this age range are encouraged to host an adult chaperone for two weeks.

“Families do not need to be involved in 4-H to host, they just need a willingness to share their home and world,” Lambert said.

The Japanese LABO Exchange, in cooperation with 4-H International Exchange Programs, is one of the largest exchange programs involving North American and Japanese youth in the world. Since it began in 1972, more than 40,000 students have stayed with families in 39 states including South Dakota, and more than 6,300 youth have lived with host families in Japan.

There is no need to know the Japanese language. The students have been studying English, and are anxious to use it.

“The program gives host families a chance to share their culture, friendship and family life with an exchange student, and at the same time learn about Japanese life. The home stays last only a month, but the effects last a lifetime,” he said.

Information and host family applications about the program are available by contacting a local 4-H leader, county extension office or through the South Dakota 4-H Leaders website:

For more information contact, Lambert at 605-366-6107 or