Up With People is coming to town! From February 11 until the 18th, 120 international students from 21 countries will be volunteering, performing and living in Fort Myers. But what does it take to organize all that? Hard-working women who sleep little and smile a great deal.
Their names are Isabel Belliard, Jolien Roelandt and Lorna Murphy. Lorna hails from Ireland; Jolien from Belgium; and Isabel from the good old U.S.A. And together, this dynamic trio forms Up With People's international advance team.
"We come into a city 4 to 6 weeks prior to the cast’s arrival to find host families for each of our 120 students, organize volunteer projects and organize and promote the show,” explains Jolien of the team's mission.
It’s our job to get to know everyone in the community and get to know their needs," Lorna adds. "We partner with different local businesses and promote them in our show in exchange for meal donations, transportation, etc.”
For the past few weeks Isabel, Jolien and Lorna have been living and working in Fort Myers. They have been very busy spreading the word about Up With People, getting people excited for the show, the arrival of the international students, and just having a good time in beautiful Fort Myers.
Here is what these ladies have to say about their experience:
Why do you work for Up With People?
Lorna: “I travelled as a student in Cast A 2012 and I just fell in love with the organization and the message is so dear to me that I applied to work with Up with People while I was travelling. I got accepted and started as soon as I finished my student semester. I am a drama teacher and I volunteered for years at home. I believe strongly in the power of performing arts being a communication medium to reach people from all types of backgrounds, languages, disabilities etc. Music really is an international language and Up with People's high energy show and general positive selfless outlook is infectious!”
Isabel: “I work for Up with People because I am passionate about culture, travel, and marketing. This job allows me to get to know and learn from people from all walks of life and all kinds of cultures. It's a beautiful thing to be able to work with colleagues from different countries as well. I strongly believe in the positive impact that Up with People makes in the communities they visit, so I'm very proud to be a part of making those visits possible.”
Jolien: “Up With People and I have a lot in common. We like to travel, we love meeting new people, discovering new places, new cultures and learning new languages. I am very grateful that I work for an organization that inspires young people to volunteer and impact communities all over the world.
What are you enjoying the most about Fort Myers?
Lorna: “I love Florida in general, I always have ever since I visited here with my parents as a teenager. I had never been to Fort Myers and living with a local family that have lived here for most of their lives it really gives me a sense of the happy friendly people here too. The downtown area is so quaint and bustling I just love it! I love that Fort Myers has a little bit of everything, city feel, beaches, shopping and most of all - SUN!”
Isabel: “Fort Myers has a gorgeous downtown! I love walking alongside the water in the River District, and I love how active people are downtown. I also really enjoy how close the beaches are here!”
Jolien: “Downtown Fort Myers is gorgeous and cozy. The people here are so friendly. But what I love most about Fort Myers is the beach: the sunrise and sunsets are incredible.”
Why should people host an international student?
Lorna: “Having stayed with over 20 different host families in the past year I can really attest to the experience. I just love getting to know new people, living the life that they live for a short time and sharing stories over a dinner table. I love how every experience is different, no two families are the same just like no two people are the same. Every family I have stayed with has left an individual stamp on my heart, I have been invited to weddings and birthdays as well as family reunions! I really do have mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and grandparents all over the world. My mam even got a phone call from one of my host families in Belgium to wish them a happy new year - we are all just that close in such a short time. I think families of Fort Myers are so lucky to have the opportunity to host one of our students as each one brings with them their own positive outlook on life and approach to the world. Its also a perfect chance to have a new place to visit for your next vacation!"
Isabel: “People in Fort Myers will absolutely love hosting one of our international students. It gives them a chance to learn from other cultures and open their perspectives to other ways of living. It also allows them to show the students how they live themselves and share their family traditions. You will surely make a new friend for life!”
Jolien: “It is such an amazing opportunity to host one of our international students. During one week you get the opportunity to get to know a different culture, without even having to travel. Those moments of laughing about differences and being surprised about common things, are the moments that you will cherish and remember.
The Alliance for the Arts is asking Southwest Floridians to help out by hosting cast members and attending their 2 and 6 p.m. performances at North Fort Myers High School on February 17. If you are interested in hosting an international student from February 11-18, or would like more information on how you can get involved with Up with People’s upcoming visit to Fort Myers, please contact Isabel Belliard at email@example.com or telephone 210-954-7925.