Catholic exchange program turns strangers into family
It’s been an eventful school year for three high school students from Eastern Europe participating in a Catholic exchange program in Nebraska.
They traveled to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., got stuck in a snowstorm on their way back to Nebraska and participated in a Teens Encounter Christ weekend.
But most memorable, said Klara Stankova and Noemi Dvorackova of the Czech Republic and Konstancja "Connie" Orzechowska of Poland, will be growing in their faith and developing relationships that are like family through the Global Outreach Exchange Program.
"I’ve had a chance to really grow in faith," said Connie, a junior at Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School in Bellevue. "Global Outreach also gave me the opportunity to develop a wonderful relationship with my host family for a lifetime. I was able to make really great friends with people who share my values and who will help me to grow as a person."
Connie’s host family, Linda and Gary Krupa and their four children – members of St. Bernadette Parish in Bellevue – said they’ve also enjoyed the experience.
"In the Global Outreach Catholic Exchange program one receives perhaps tenfold what little they need to give," Gary said. "The chance to open up one’s home, to create these unique opportunities for these fine young people, to share your lives and Catholic faith is priceless. And, you will create friendships that will last a lifetime."
Chris Johanek-Boro and her husband, Craig, know that’s true.
The couple from Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Omaha hosted four students in seven years through Global Outreach, which started in Wisconsin in 1989 as a way to develop servant leaders for the modern church in Eastern European countries. The program has been in Nebraska since 1992.
"We think it is so sweet that all four of our students have called Craig’s dad ‘Grandpa,’ and stay in regular contact not only with us, but with our extended family," said Chris, who is going to the Czech Republic this summer to attend a former exchange student’s wedding.
Although they currently aren’t a host couple, they stay involved with the program through local leadership roles.
"These students don’t expect to be living in luxury accommodations with ‘perfect’ people who live only in movies and fantasies," said Craig, a member with his wife of the Global Outreach Nebraska Core Team. "They come from real families where they perhaps share a room with a sibling, and they are used to doing chores at home and contributing to family life. They want only to become a part of a normal Catholic American family."
For Klara, moving from Prague to the small town of Weston, Neb., to live with Janelle and Tim Schulz, their four children and three large dogs took some adjusting, she said. But it didn’t take long for her to feel comfortable with them because they shared a sense of humor and just enjoyed being together, she said.
"My host parents now feel like my real parents," said Klara, a junior at Bishop Neumann High School in Wahoo. "They love me, care for me and protect me … and I love them so much."
Noemi, a junior at Roncalli Catholic High School in Omaha, said her host family – Raylyn Ramsgard of St. Philip Neri Parish in Omaha and her children – is generous and now thinks of her as a member of their family.
The feeling is mutual, she said.
"Once you are part of Global Outreach, you don’t have just one family," she said. "I have my second family here in Omaha, and my host family has a second home in the Czech Republic."
HOST FAMILIES NEEDED
Global Outreach is looking for three to four families to host exchange students for the 2016-17 school year, and could help up to seven students if host families are found.
At least two families are needed at V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School and one at Roncalli Catholic High School, both in Omaha.
Host families welcome and love a new member into their family.
More information, visit