A Mayo family who regularly host intercultural exchange students from all over the world were presented with an award at the 2014 EIL Intercultural Learning Host Family Awards Ceremony in Dublin last weekend. Bernie and Colum Gavin from Castlebar have opened their home to participants from EIL’s intercultural exchange programme for many years. Speaking from the awards, director of EIL Intercultural Learning, Kevin Hickey, said: “Every year, hundreds of Irish families like the Gavin family open up their homes to international students who come here to study and immerse themselves in Irish culture. A number of the families who received awards have been hosting students for over 10 years, and many of them keep up regular contact with those who have stayed with them over the years. The length of the students’ stays varies from a few weeks up to a year, so it is a huge undertaking for these families, but the fact that most of them do it on an ongoing basis is testament to how rewarding it is not only for the families, but also for their wider communities in Mayo and throughout the country.” He concluded, saying: “The Gavin family’s story is living proof of the enormous impact that these intercultural experiences can have on both the participant and the host family, so I am delighted to be able to recognise that work at this very special event today.”
EIL Intercultural Learning is part of the worldwide non-profit Experiment in International Living (EIL ) Federation, and is now Ireland’s oldest intercultural learning organisation. This year, the Cork-based organisation is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Over the past 50 years, 38,000 people have participated in its programmes, including study abroad, volunteering, language training, travel scholarships, and cultural immersion activities. The Host Family Awards Ceremony, which took place in Dublin over the weekend, is part of a year-long programme of events marking the organisation’s 50th year in Ireland.