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Basque students bask in Sequim sunshine, friendliness
Spanish teens — a baker’s dozen of them — are making Sequim their second home, at least for a few weeks.
This summer 13 visitors are in town to enjoy the good life the peninsula provides.
The teens, all drawn from the Basque region of Spain, come to improve their English, to learn about American life and not incidentally to share their lives with local families.
Six Sequim-area churches participate in the program, which is sponsored by Young Life, a nondenominational Christian ministry that works with adolescents around the world.
Leah Andrews, who helps coordinate the visits, says, “We’ve seen increasing numbers each year.” In fact the local folks have created an admirable record. While across the U.S. about 10 percent of the students who visit once return to their second families, “about 70 percent” of the travelers to Sequim have made at least one additional visit.
Most of the first-timers arrive as part of Young Life’s “Summer in the USA” program, which matches teens from around the world with host families in the U.S. While they’re here the teens live as part of a family, but they also attend a weeklong Young Life gathering. This year the visitors went to Antelope, Ore., on July 10 to Young Life’s Washington Family Park. They’ll return to Sequim on July 16, then on July 25 they’ll take off for home.
A joint effort
The Young Life program costs $4,000 per participant, with the Sequim families and churches providing $1,000 of that.
The students who are returning simply to visit their “second home” make arrangements on their own, which usually includes little more than paying for an airplane ticket.
The local churches support the program by finding hosts for the students, by helping with fundraising or both, Andrews said. As an example, Andrews noted that Sequim host students and their Spanish visitors performed together at a fundraising concert at Sequim Vineyard on Wednesday, July 6.
Asier Cabeza of Tolorosa, Spain, is enjoying his third stay in Sequim. He says he’s returned so often, “Because I had a great time and I really like these people.”
He’s spending his second summer with Travis and Amy Hurdlow, members of Dungeness Community Church. The Hurdlows, who have three children of their own, say Asier has become a part of family.
“When he was gone, our 3-year-old asked just about every day when Asier was coming back,” Travis said.
He said two years ago he and Amy were invited to learn more about the program and attended a presentation. “We went not knowing anything and left wanting to host a student,” Travis said. “We totally recommend it. It’s a wonderful relationship.”
Cristina Vrruhbeazcoa also is back for a visit and again is staying with Leah and her husband, Sequim Assistant Fire Chief Ben Andrews.
“Last year I had lots of fun,” she said. “And I learned about differences in Spain and in the USA. The people here are really friendly in the supermarket, they talk about anything and they are very interested in my culture and ... me.”
Leah said it’s much more than an exchange program. “It blesses so many. It blesses everyone involved.”
The six Sequim-area churches include Sequim Community Church, Dungeness Community Church, Sequim Vineyard, Olympic Vineyard Church, Fairview Bible Church and Eastern Hills Community Church.
Reach Mark Couhig at firstname.lastname@example.org.