Looking to adopt a child led Paul and Tammy Olk of Manawa to the foreign exchange student program.
Paul said he and his wife don’t have any children, and that is why they were looking into adopting a child. He said one of his wife’s friends knew someone who was familiar with the foreign exchange student program, and his wife met with that person.
“I came home and she says, ‘We’re going to do a foreign exchange student,'” Paul said. “I said, ‘Oh, we are?'”
Within in two months, Paul and Tammy were in contact with a representative from the FLEX foreign exchange student program. Paul said the program is run by the government.
Paul said there were a lot of forms that needed to be filled out, and plenty of background checks were done. Once accepted into the program the Olk family was given information about two potential foreign exchange students they could be a host family for.
“One was Anna and one was another student,” Paul said. “The form that was given to us was the actual form she had written out in the application process. We read it and made that decision. Once we made that decision on Anna, then the program gave us the authority to talk to her.”
The student they chose was Anna Akastyelova, who resided in the Ukraine.
Once they chose Akastyelova, their information was given to her. They were allowed to contact each other. A couple of weeks later, Akastyelova was in the United States.
Paul and Tammy said the experience has been wonderful so far.
“We have two cats and a dog, and she just adds to the family,” Paul said. “We can sit down as a family at the dinner table and have a meal.”
Akastyelova said she enjoys having pets while living with her host family. She had a dog in the Ukraine, but her family had to give it up because her mom’s allergies.
“Anna is a wonderful girl,” Tammy said. “I have really enjoyed having her come live with us.”
Paul said Anna is part of the family and has a daily routine, including daily chores.
“She has become a daughter to me and I will love her as such for the rest of my life,” Tammy said.
“We couldn’t be luckier than to have Anna,” Paul said.
Their experience has them thinking that they want to become a host family again in the future.
With the wonderful experience, both Paul and Tammy said it will be difficult when it is time for Akastyelova to return home.
“I’m sure there are going to be some tears,” Paul said.
He also said it is inevitable that they will stay in contact with Akastyelova.
“I am going to have the hardest time letting her go back home,” Tammy said. “This is definitely a relationship that will continue for the rest of our lives.”