Each year, we ask our host families to nominate extraordinary au pairs for the Au Pair of the Year Award sponsored by the International Au Pair Association (IAPA). In addition to selecting three finalists to submit to IAPA for this prestigious award, Cultural Care Au Pair selects one outstanding au pair from each state to honor as the Au Pair of the Year. Shirley Muniz Galhardi is an au pair from Brazil is recognized as the Au Pair of the Year from New Jersey for 2013.
Shirley, an au pair in New Jersey, lives with the Santos family and cares for their three year children: Sarah, 8, Samuel 5, and Seth, 3. The Santos family decided on au pair childcare because as dual working parents, they really needed help taking care of their 3 children. Also, both parents, Carlos and Maria, have similar backgrounds and are raising a Portuguese-American family. By welcoming an au pair from Brazil, it has helped to provide a cultural experience for the whole family.
Following is their nomination essay:
The Santos family nominates Shirley Galhardi for Au Pair of the Year Award due to her caring spirit during one of the most difficult times in our family’s history, Hurricane Sandy. Shirley became our au pair in July 2012 and shortly thereafter in October our home and lives were completely disrupted by Hurricane Sandy. Our home was devastated by flood waters. Shirley and our family were evacuated to a shelter during the storm. There Shirley helped us care for the children pretending they were on a camping trip. Thanks to Shirley’s efforts, the children never really felt the effects of the storm but rather had fun. Through all this destruction, Shirley never considered leaving our family even though everything changed. We returned back to a waterlogged home with no working appliances and unimaginable damage to personal items on the first floor. Shirley’s room was on the first floor. In spite of all the damage and disruption, our family rolled up its sleeves and began cleaning up quickly such that we were all back in the house 3 days later! Shirley and the family had to adapt to a new way of life very quickly and take on many new, and at times overwhelming, responsibilities. Through all this Shirley helped our family through a very difficult situation (which, by the way, is still ongoing). Feeding and clothing a family of 6 was no easy task without a functioning refrigerator, stove and cloths washing machine. Staying warm was also a challenge without a working boiler. Nevertheless, Shirley and our family managed to overcome all of these challenges by working together as a unified team. Despite all of the heartache and challenges Shirley still managed to occasionally volunteer at the local church, St. Paul in Bay Head, to help serve hundreds of meals to those in need. St. Paul was recently on the news (NJ-12) for its tremendous service to the community and National Guard and was recipient of a grant from the Robin Hood Foundation! Shirley was part of that wonderful effort! There is so much more to say but overall, Shirley showed a love for our family that is heartwarming. Our family is truly grateful for her assistance and care during the most difficult time of our lives. We are so glad she is now part of our family. From the bottom of our hearts, we submit this nomination for the Au Pair of the Year Award. Shirley is very deserving of it.