GOOD WORKS ENCORE
From Foreigners to Family Host family forges bonds across the globe LISA MACKINDER
n August 2017, Ken and Karin Rourke finally realized a dream that took a year and half of planning: a vacation just east of Malaga, Spain, with 10 of their 13 “kids” — foreign exchange students from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Slovakia, Denmark and Norway — whom they have hosted in their home during the last 12 years. “We were really happy to have so many (on the trip),” says Karin, a child life specialist at Bronson Children’s Hospital. “We heard about the few who couldn’t come and it was so heartbreaking. But my mom was like, ‘Karin, really, 10 out of 13 is good!’”
16 | ENCORE FEBRUARY 2018
Above: Holding a picture from their reunion with past exchange students, Karin and Ken Rourke, center, with the exchange students they are currently hosting, Sofie Nehlsen of Denmark, left, and Flavia Cocchi of Italy, right. Opposite page: Photos show past exchange students and adventures the Rourkes have had.
For both Karin and Ken, an emergency department informatics liaison at Bronson Healthcare, each of the exchange students holds a unique place in their hearts. They have all become family, Karin says. “I don’t think when we started doing it we really thought about it like that — that you’d be a lifelong family,” Karin says.