Print Friendly

Introducing you to the stories, and faces, of some of the wonderful people who are hosts with the IOE Volunteer Host Program.

The Weegberg Family and Jacob

The Weegberg family and Jacob My family have been involved with Interchange Outer East for a very long time. In fact we first became involved when we hosted a child through the host program, around 25years ago. That host match lasted for over ten years!

When I married and had children of my own, I knew that hosting was something I wanted to be involved with again. My husband, Brett, and I were planning on waiting until our boys were a little bit older before we started hosting. But that was before we met Jacob!

Jacob began attending the same family day care placement as my two boys (Jesse was 5 and Kyle was 2 at the time). I talked to his mum, Wendy about IOE and she seemed quite interested in the program . Because Brett and I had already discussed hosting at some point, we put our names forward as a potential hosting match for Jacob. He started coming to our house on a Friday, at first spending just a couple of hours with us. Jacob was only 18 months old at that stage, so we all agreed to ease both families into the hosting arrangement. Jacob is very easy going and relaxed, which made the transition very easy for everyone.

We then progressed to a fortnightly visit but for a longer period of time so we could spend more time with Jacob. This once a fortnight arrangement has continued, with the length of stay being flexible, depending on what is happening with both his, and our, family’s plans.

Jacob has genuinely become part of our family; my boys treat him as if he is their brother, and he fits in very easily with anything we do.

We are enjoying have Jacob as part of our family and we look forward to watching him grow up with our boys. Hosting Jacob is working so well, I know that we’ve made the right decision with the right person!
Erin Weegberg

… and a few words from Jacob’s mum Wendy “The program is an absolute lifesaver. Jacob is learning from interacting with children closer to his age (his siblings are quite a bit older then he is.) He loves Jesse and Kyle and it appears that they adore him but best of all they treat him like a brother so, if he gets in their way they will sometimes give him a bit of a shove. Just like brothers! Erin and Brett are great, they treat Jacob like a member of the family and ensure he is well looked after.

As Jacob is now at preschool and busy with other appointments his  visits to the Weegbergs are taking place on a Saturday afternoon. This has had the unexpected benefit of giving Andrew (Jacob’s dad) some respite too.  Jacob is very active and busy and into exploring everywhere and this is the only time we feel we can truly relax!”

Alyse Cahill and Tommy

Alyse Cahill & Tommy 3 years ago I was lucky enough to be pulled out of the ballot to go on family camp. I only had done one family camp in all the time I had been a recreational volunteer so I was really excited particularly when I found out all the other volunteers and families who were going. A quick few weeks later and we were down at Coonawarra camp where I met this amazing little boy called Tommy, his family and his host family.

Tommy is a young boy with Autism who loves to be on the move. He has a smile and a laugh that lights up the room and when he cries or is scared it breaks your heart. He loves driving in cars, hats and sunglasses and listening to music on his Ipod. He loves his mum, dad and sister Emmy. Tommy doesn’t have an expansive vocabulary and has some personal care needs.

Tommy and I did a lot of running over the next few days of camp as I ‘stole’ him from his parents for a break and began to get to know this active little boy. By the end of camp I was in love. This little boy had stolen my heart but it was time for him to go home. A couple of months later I bumped into his mum at Interchange and she invited me over for a chat and a play with Tommy. I kept putting it off as I didn’t think it would be right by Interchange but eventually gave in. Around that time I learnt about the host program and questioned whether I would be able to get involved, as I have a busy lifestyle. Karen the Host Coordinator, assured me that it was OK and we began looking for the right match for me. As I thought more about it, I wondered if I could host Tommy but then I remembered he already had a host family. The next day I called Karen to have a chat about looking for someone like Tommy. I was in for a big surprise. Tommy’s host family had decided to stop hosting him! One quick call to Tommy’s mum, Rachel and we organised a meeting immediately.

I now had a new role, I was a HOST MUM. Tommy and I have spent a lot of time together over the past 18 months. We spend a few hours or even the day together and then I drop him home to mum and dad. We have done some really exciting things like Cold Rock dates, Healsville Sanctuary, visit to the sand sculptures, and Surfing with the Disabled Surfing Asociation down on the Mornington peninsula. Sometimes Tommy and I just go to a local park, grab some maccas or go for a nice long drive. I don’t mind whatever we are doing as I love spending time with him. Whenever I go to pick up Tommy he turns bright red and runs to the other end of the house. I know he is happy to see me and loves spending time with me too.

At the end of last year Tommy had a couple of seizures and was diagnosed as epileptic, this was a scary time for me. Not the seizures, as I had seen many before, but I was scared for my little boy as I knew that he must have been too. Tommy is now on medication to help control the seizures and is doing quite well.

I have formed a really great friendship with all members of Tommy’s family now and always end up staying for a chat when dropping him home. Tommy and I are a now looking forward to some more exciting ‘dates’ together.
Alyse Cahill

The Cantwell Family

profiles_cantwells_jaydenAs a family with 5 women and only one man, having Jayden join us once a month has proven a bonus for the ‘him’ and a wonderful learning experience for the ‘hers’.

We learnt not to leave razors in the shower as Jayden was anxious to prove he was a man by shaving the fluff he alone could see on his upper lip. We learnt that boys of any age must make grunting noises while watching football and umpires are always wrong. Language is no barrier when they discuss the merits of a team’s strategy.  We learned that Michael Jackson rules and, seriously, don’t expect a boy to wear a windcheater when a footy jersey is an option.

Each month for the past 5 years Jayden has come to stay for a weekend and joined us as part of our family.  He has been the impetus for thinking up great things to do and places to go, local footy to watch one of the boyfriends play, our extended family gatherings, snow in the highlands, concerts, the beach, country markets and more.  Jayden has also joined in the ordinary weekend activities tidying the garden; within limits of course, he likes the fun stuff such as planting not the weed pulling, shopping for groceries, playing wii over and over again.

Jayden instituted a tradition of bacon and eggs for Sunday morning breakfast which now happens even when he is not with us. We recently laughed when we caught him dancing while flexing his pecs, wearing just his pj bottoms, in the full mirror and, as he has grown from a boy to a teenager, we’ve celebrated his ability to finally win wrestling matches with Ailsa.

Jayden is an important member of our family celebrations, 21st’s and family events. He recently joined us at my birthday breakfast at the Fire House restaurant and later headed off to a twilight concert at the zoo with the girls.

Having Jayden come to stay has also meant the development of a warm friendship with all his family with whom we have shared many lovely times. It has been a delightful surprise to find that what our family needed was the addition of a lovely boy to the mix and it has been a constant joy to include him in our family.
Bernadette Cantwell

Mia and Evert Jansen

profile_mia-jansen Mia and myself, Evert, started hosting about 31 years ago. Has it been that long – how the time has flown! We made the decision, because we thought it would be good to help another family, to give them some time off.

We have two sons who are married now and with children of their own. They were about the same age as Brendon, who was 9 years old, when he became our host child.

It was a good experience for both of our boys, they learned to appreciate Brendon, as just another boy and friend, and not as someone with a disability. My boys have now known Brendon for all that time and, to them, he is still just another friend and a member of our family.

For us, having Brendon stay has never been a problem, as he does whatever we do, so we do not do anything different when he is staying with us. He knows our wider family and always asks to see them whenever he comes. Two things he loves to do when he visits are to go shopping and ride on Puffing Billy.

Of course, in the beginning there were some challenges, but over time as he got to understand our limits in regard to a couple of issues, everything worked out so there was not really a problem. We have always had a lot of fun with Brendon as he has a good sense of humour and is always ready for a joke.

Over the years we have also become good friends with his family and parents David and Jenny, and after 31 years and them living in a different part of Melbourne, we still see both Brendon and his parents.

We are both involved in other organisations such St.Vincent de Paul Society, Dutch Care, R.E, as well as other Church groups. For 22 years we were also involved with St.John of God in Lilydale.

Hosting Brendon through Interchange has given us a better understanding of living with disability. All in all it has been a great thing to do and still gives us a great deal of satisfaction and joy.

Evert Jansen

The Munzel Family

profiles_munzels There are four of us in our family – Karen (mum), Freya (20), Chiara (18) and Aidan (16).
Our interests include basketball (Aidan plays for two teams), movies, music, going for walks especially around parks and exploring new places in Melbourne, Victoria and Australia. Catching up with our family and friends is also important to us all.

We really are an ‘Interchange Family’. Freya started recreation volunteering when Interchange visited her school, and Chiara and Aidan both started volunteering when they turned 14, after hearing all Freya’s great stories! We started hosting Lilly early last year because we thought we would like to get to know her and her family better, and she is now an established part of our family and friendship group.

Lilly is a bundle of fun and affection with a splash of cheekiness thrown in. She loves Dora the Explorer, Dr. Seuss books and dancing around to music. Lilly is our resident expert on everything electronic – especially iPods.

Lilly is a generally a happy go lucky girl and joins in on our weekend activities. She supports Aidan at basketball – sometimes wanting to run out onto the court and help his team! She also watches NBA with us; Freya is hoping she will go for Chicago.

At home we read lots of stories, sing songs, wrap ourselves up in blankets, play hide and seek and jump on Lilly’s bed (don’t tell mum!). We get to visit the best parks Melbourne has to offer. It’s a good excuse to have a swing!

Lilly sleeps in the spare bed in Freya’s room (which is always referred to as Lilly’s bed even when others use it!). Some mornings Lilly will wake Freya up by playing ‘stacks on’. Other times she will bring over a toy or DVD so we can start having some fun.

Lilly is a very popular young lady and our family and friends love to spend time with her – she is teaching us all such a lot about different ways to communicate, having fun, and to accept  people.

Karen Munzel



Subscribe to the IOE eNewsletter

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Interchange Outer East