French Rotary Youth Exchange student Clérie-Anne Faure, centre, has been enjoying her stay with Salmon Arm host family Dan and Kelli Morin, who are caring for her while international flights remain cancelled due to COVID-19. (Contributed)

“I call her my adopted daughter”: Salmon Arm couple embrace student exchange experience

Rotary Youth Exchange students choose to shelter in place during COVID-19 pandemic

Having to spend more time in Salmon Arm isn’t a bad option at all for Clérie-Anne Faure.

The 17-year-old from the Brittany region of France has been in the community since August 2019 as part of Rotary’s Youth Exchange program. Since December, she’s been living with host family Dan and Kelli Morin.

With the onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent cancellation of international flights, Clérie-Anne and two other “inbound” students staying in Salmon Arm, one from Sweden and another from Brazil, have opted for an extended stay in the community. For Clérie-Anne it wasn’t a difficult decision.

“I’m good here with the family, with where I am. It’s better to stay here,” said Clérie-Anne. “My family is feeling good. My mom sends me a message every day I think on how things are going, what’s going on in France, and just to keep in touch. They don’t worry about me.”

And Dan says he and Kelli are happy to continue hosting Clérie-Anne as long as needed.

“I call her my adopted daughter,” said Dan. “Both my kids are gone now and… it’s been a really good experience, so yeah, we’ll keep her until it’s safe to send her home.”

Patty Garrett, chair of Rotary Youth Exchange program for District 5060, said she’s been communicating with students’ families daily, letting them decide whether students would attempt to return home or shelter in place.

“I can tell you that to date, we’ve only had two students choose to go back to their home countries from our inbound group, and from our outbound group, so far we’ve had six students return and we have three other students whose itineraries should start soon,” said Garrett. “So out of 23 students, our number of families that have elected to return are low at this time.”

With school now closed due to COVID-19, Clérie-Anne said she’s been spending time with the Morins and their dog, doing jigsaw puzzles and watching Netflix – in addition to learning another language – while not letting the restrictions around the virus get her down.

“At the beginning I was anxious, but now I just deal with it and just try to be positive…,” said Clérie-Anne. “It’s something we can’t control, we don’t have anything to do but just stay at home and try to be social distancing and things like this, that’s what we can do.”

Read more: B.C. Rotary exchange students told to ‘shelter in place’ through COVID-19

Read more: Salmon Arm physio, fitness clinics close doors over COVID-19 concerns

As for the Rotary Youth Exchange program, even with the challenges around COVID-19, Clérie-Anne said it’s been an incredible experience.

“With this kind of experience, we get to discover another country, another culture, another language, and we meet people like my host family. I know I will be in touch with them, I hope, for all my life,” said Clérie-Anne.

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