CHI Au Pair USA participant Ilse from Belgium was recently nominated by her host family for the International Au Pair Association (IAPA) Au Pair of the Year Award. Ilse has been chosen as a finalist for the prestigious award. Congratulations Ilse! Please read the nomination letter below written by the Choyt family from Maine.
When Ilse came to us in Maine in May of 2012, she told me she was shy and would take time to get used to a new place, a new family. But those few weeks compressed themselves into about five days. What has impressed me from the start has been her energy, curiosity, and eagerness to seek out new experiences, all within the context of caring for our children and our family with unusual love and kindness. Soon, she felt like a member of the family and our three children were treating her like a beloved older sister. From the slightly anxious person we first met, she’s transformed into a young woman who has blossomed in multiple ways, exploring and adapting to a new culture, a new language, and new ideas with grace, humor and sensitivity.
There’s a depth to Ilse’s care and concern for all of us that moves me daily. When the littlest was having trouble sleeping, she offered to get up early on a weekend so my husband and I could rest. She will quiz our eldest on his Mandarin homework to be sure he’s ready for a test. She will draw and sing with our middle child with incredible patience. And I credit her with helping our baby learn everything from his numbers to his ABCs, from how to put his boots on to loving the outdoors. Whenever Ilse has a chance to teach the children, she takes it, adapting her approach to each child with creativity and thoughtfulness. I love, too, the range of Ilse’s activities with the kids: she will play soccer with them, take them to a forest, bake, read, count, play pretend. What’s so lovely is how much she enjoys them, how well she protects and guides them, and how committed she is to their growth and well-being.
But she has taken her own learning just as seriously and has audited a class at Bowdoin and is about to audit another. She had gone traveling to Acadia and Boston on her own. She has taken to America: she loves this country’s ways. She has met and made good friends with a whole range of people in our town as she and Isaiah, the baby, attend story time at the library or go to the children’s museum. Everywhere I go, people in our village stop to tell me how lovely she is with the kids and what a terrific person she is. She has taken every opportunity to make strong connections with our entire community and we are proud to have her as part of our clan.
In short, Ilse has taken every chance she has had to expand both her own horizons and those of our children. As I write, I can hear the sound of marbles traveling down a machine that she and Isaiah have built. Most of all, I hear the sound of their affection for each other. The love, the humor, the sweetness that they have created between each other. She has helped make my children better people. If I can’t point to one particular moment or act of exceptional kindness, it’s because Ilse brings her exceptional self to her work and to us every day. I love her like a daughter and I trust her profoundly with what I love most in the world. What more could any mother say?