Cultural Care Au Pair is very excited to announce that we have an official winner for our prestigious 2019 Au Pair of the Year Award! Her name is Katherine Robayo Vanegas, and she’s from the beautiful country of Colombia!
Katherine is currently in her second year as a Cultural Care au pair. She came to the USA in May 2017, and has made the most of her time ever since. She was nominated by the Parikh family who lives in Massachusetts. Katherine is their 4th au pair, and a very special part of the family.
“Not only was Katherine kind, generous, warm and loving, but she was the PERFECT fit for our family,” says host mom Elizabeth. “Katherine epitomizes the very best of the au pair program—she is responsible, mature, ambitious, loving, and enthusiastic. Katherine is adventurous, too—with dozens of new experiences this past year: Her first time rock climbing, her first 5k race, and her first time on skis. She is always up to try new things, and her enthusiasm never wanes. She energetically embraces every challenge she faces, and actively seeks out ways to help not only our family, but also the community around her.”
Not only is Katherine beloved by her host parents Elizabeth and Pranay, she formed an instant bond with her two host kids—Zivia, age 9 and Aavi, age 7.
“Her outgoing personality and inquisitive nature make her a friend that the kids always seek out, yet she never tires of engaging them in creative, collaborative play,” says Pranay. “She encourages them to try to new things and be independent, even when we can’t! Within in a week of her joining our family, the kids knew their colors in Spanish, and we could heart hem joyfully playing Twister, with our 6-year-old exclaiming, ‘Right foot – Azul!’”
Beyond providing loving, reliable childcare for Zivia and Aavi, Katherine revels in any opportunity to share her Colombian culture with the Parikh family. She has shared her love of Colombian cuisine and geography with the family, even leading the kids in celebrating “Dia de las Velitas” in December—a Christmas tradition in Colombia where thousands of lit candles illuminate the streets.
According to Elizabeth, “Katherine’s Colombian meals are frequently requested, and seldom yield leftovers.” She adds that her children have even become die-hard soccer fans thanks to Katherine, cuddling with her nonstop to watch the 2018 World Cup and cheer on Colombia in their matching yellow jerseys.
“In addition to sharing her culture, Katherine is also very excited to learn about our family’s traditions, and experience the diversity of cultures in the U.S.,” says Pranay. “She invited several other au pairs to join us for Diwali, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Passover, to share in our celebrations. Her open-mindedness, (and love of new foods!) has made her the favorite sous chef for the kids’ grandmother, when she is making traditional Indian food.”
Katherine is also always engaged in what the family is doing, whether it’s a family trip, a local event or a special holiday! Elizabeth and Pranay both agree that she has truly become part of their family. One time, Katherine joined them in Wyoming for an extended family vacation and was keen on joining for all the family activities. And even back home in Massachusetts, Katherine is always snuggling the kids when they’re sad, hugging everyone as they come and go, and looking forward to dinner together with the family.
According to Elizabeth, she’s also an expert at anticipating the family’s needs. “For busy working parents like us, Katherine’s ability to anticipate the family’s needs is remarkable,” says Elizabeth. “She takes initiative and always remains flexible—getting kids to activities, packing healthy school lunches, and dropping off forgotten snow boots, all while navigating her college classes.”
Beyond just the Parikh family, Katherine has made an impact on her local community, always finding new ways to get involved. The Parikh family works as part of a “circle of care” that has welcomed refugee families into the community to provide safety and support. They specifically support a family from Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the kids from this refugee family absolutely adore Katherine. She has extended her warmth to them since their arrival—and they see her as the Parikh family does. As a part of their family.
“Katherine is a beautiful example of why one’s world is so much richer when we actively embrace diversity in the world around us,” says Pranay.
Cultural Care was thrilled to help her Local Childcare Consultant (LCC) reveal the exciting news to Katherine at a recent monthly meeting. Katherine’s LCC took her and the entire au pair group to go bowling, and then presented Katherine with the prestigious award in front of her friends and her host family, who made a special trip for the surprise.
Part of Katherine’s award for being 2019 Au Pair of the Year is a travel voucher to come back and visit the Parikh family once her au pair program is over—something she is already looking forward to doing.
Congratulations again to Katherine!