In March of this year Ben and Val Kostomo, my wife Michelle and I volunteered to accept exchange students into our homes. They had come to attend Tumbler Ridge Secondary School from April 2007 through to March 2008.
On April 27, with my two children trying their best not to explode with excitement, we waited at the Dawson Creek Airport for the kids arrive. Mayu and Hiroki arrived and with great anticipation, we all set out for Tumbler Ridge to start our new adventure.
We got the kids settled in, got them into school. Things were working out nicely; they were making friends, and started to actively take part in the community and events. The kids are not allowed to work while in Canada, so they have volunteered at the library, were clowns in the Grizfest Parade and are now going to participate in the upcoming Emperor's Challenge.
Toward the end of July we found out that the School District had told World Youth Services that the kids cannot stay and that they would have to move to another community because the policy for exchange students was not followed correctly, but if they wanted to pay $10,000 for tuition each, they could stay.
WYS Japan offered to pay a subsidy, but that was refused. I have been trying to resolve this issue with the school district, and have been making little headway. I keep getting told that we need to follow the policies set down for the school board and if the policies were not followed there is nothing we can do.
School District 59 has signed Letters of Acceptance in March for these two students to come to Tumbler Ridge. Right or wrong, as a community we have made a commitment to these kids and their families and we need to live up to our responsibilities. Let's not make these kids suffer for the mistakes of others. They have been here for just about four months now, and it will be very hard for them to start over again. Why should they have to?
They have become a part of our families and our community. Just think for a moment if this was your child, half way around the world in a foreign country and immersed in foreign customs, would you be happy with the way they are been treated?
After all, the school district's motto is kids come first.