We received a record number of 2019 Au Pair of the Year award nominations this year! Over 600 host families from around the nation nominated their au pairs, sharing inspiring stories of cultural exchange and heartwarming examples of how their lives have been changed for the better.
After reading every single submission that came in, our team in Boston decided it was impossible to choose only 10 finalists—so this year, we’re increasing our number of finalists from 10 to 15. Plus, with 15 Au Pair of the Year finalists and 15 Host Family of the Year finalists, it comes to 30 finalists total—a perfect number to represent Cultural Care Au Pair’s 30th anniversary this year!
Of course, every single one of our nominees is a winner in their own right—and here at Cultural Care, we’re proud to help bring life-changing experiences to families across the USA.
Congratulations again to our 15 finalists! Read on to see how these amazing au pairs have left their mark on their host families.
Clara, Cultural Care au pair from Argentina
“Our son, who was only 21 months old when Clara arrived, called her ‘MINE’ for a long time before he finally agreed to call her Clara. And she is! She is his caregiver, his friend, his confidante, his big sister, his playdate, his love, his protector, his teacher and his surrogate mama. And she is all those things to our daughter as well.
Clara has expanded our lives in countless ways. We have met and talked with her family and friends in Argentina through video calls. We are learning Spanish. We have learned about and enjoyed special holidays, traditions and food from Argentina. Through Clara, we have met and welcomed into our home many au pairs from other countries, including Colombia, Germany, Argentina, Poland, Mexico, and France. We have learned about their families and welcomed them into ours. In fact, one of her friends from Colombia recently joined us on our family vacation to Florida! In turn, we have received beautiful thank you cards and holiday cards from these special girls. Clara has certainly enriched so many lives with her love!”
— The Morton family in Colorado
Abigail, Cultural Care au pair from the United Kingdom
“Abbie is the best au pair ever. First, she knows me and my siblings so well. For my 10th birthday she got me my favorite snacks, iced tea and Reese’s Pieces. She also got me a set of Harry Potter pajamas and a Harry Potter T-shirt because I am obsessed with Harry Potter. She also knows to put onions in my tuna and that is impressive because only people who know me really well put onions in my tuna.
Abbie even fasted the whole month of Ramadan. Ramadan is our holy month and we don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sunset (16 hours). Even I didn’t do the whole month! It was really cool that she did this with us and I think she’s going to do it again this year!
Abbie talks to us ALL the time, she’s kind of a chatterbox but it’s nice that she wants to know about our day! She always has time for us even if she is super busy. She also spends her free time with us and takes us for froyo and outdoor movie nights in our town center! She always makes play dates fun by joining in with our games and one time she arranged a full sports day for us and our friend.”
— The Ahmed family in Maryland
Filippa, Cultural Care au pair from Sweden
“Not only does Filippa contribute to our day-to-day family life, she is active in the community as well. She has made several friends and has joined networking groups for au pairs in the area. Filippa helps others dealing with homesickness or difficulties with their host families. For example, one time she saw a message from another au pair she had never met before who was very upset. Filippa reached out to her to make plans for breakfast the very next morning to talk about what was upsetting her. It was very thoughtful and kind—an example of how Filippa lives her life and treats others.
Filippa is also taking advanced classes at a state university. She elected to complete coursework in English reading and writing. Her intent was not only to fulfill her education requirements, but to go beyond the basics to challenge herself and experience university culture. She chose to write an essay for one of her assignments on potential solutions to climate change. It was incredible to see her develop the concepts and lay out her arguments for a topic that she is so passionate about—the environment. Not to mention, all in another language! She is seizing the opportunity to build valuable experiences during her time here and has a bright future ahead.”
— The Heymann family in Georgia
Alvaro, Cultural Care au pair from Spain
“Alvaro arrived in the dead of winter in Boston, MA and brought a ray of sunshine to us. In no time, our 5-year-old daughter, Dahlia, became best buddies with him. Despite us telling her not to, she loves to pop into his room unannounced and ask him to play. No matter if he is sleeping or at his desk working or relaxing, he always stops to play with her. She adores him and wants to sit next to him during dinner so she can endlessly tell him about her day—and when we glance over he is always attentively listening and engaged!
Perhaps what we have been most grateful for is the example he has set for our children on how to be a thoughtful, kind, respectful and empathic young adult, especially to my older two sons who are approaching teenage years. He truly has cared for them; often times coming to us worried or troubled to tell us about problems they have had at school which they have revealed to him before we come home.
Alvaro has taken several English courses to improve his already very proficient English. He studied for the TOEFL exam and got an amazing score and is now enrolled in a Harvard Extension school class which he will start January 2019. He also has been playing in local soccer, futsal and basketball leagues and has many American friends. He also goes with his host mom to a local power rowing class!”
— The Beroukhim family in Massachusetts
Andrea, Cultural Care au pair from Mexico
“Andrea has been wonderful in sharing her Mexican culture and traditions with our family through preparing many authentic Mexican recipes (delicious!), showing us her family traditions through story and pictures, celebrating Mexican Independence Day, and immersing our children in Mexican culture and language through role play and Spanish language educational activities. In turn, our family has shared every experience that we can in order to exposure Andrea to the beautiful places, people, and cultures that define America. We did this through travel, food, and numerous activities.
For Mia’s second birthday, she made decorations by hand, including bunny party hats, party favors, and banners. Andrea does these things out of her desire to make our children happy, not because she is asked. On her time off, she often researches and creates fun and educational projects for the kids to do. On our 8-year wedding anniversary, she arranged a surprise party with balloons and homemade signs/décor with our friends.
During the Northern California wildfires, Andrea was quick to volunteer with her church to put kits together and organize donations to deliver to the families in need. Additionally, Andrea volunteers her time to teach Sunday school to children at her church on a regular basis.”
— The Matias family in California
Nina, Cultural Care au pair from Brazil
“When I talk about Nina, one of the many things I always mention is her bravery. Her first time on an airplane or out of Brazil was on the flight coming to the United States to start her journey as an au pair. And since she’s been here, she has been on more flights than I can count. We admire her for making the most of every single opportunity her time here brings her. Frequent road trips, museum visits, and spur-of-the-moment Brazilian cooking feasts all seem to come so naturally to Nina and her friends.
The genuine and true love Nina has for our children is unquestionable. And they adore her—the look of trust that I see in our daughter Nora’s big brown eyes as she looks up at Nina; when Nora is sad and reaches her hands out for Nina to be cuddled; the belly giggles I hear when they’re playing together and I’m in another room; the snuggles Nina gives to our son Will when he’s hurt something; when I hear them roaring together and talking about dinosaurs or watch them building with blocks and then knocking them down with joy; looking out into the backyard to see Nina pushing Will ‘More! More!’ on the swings or catching him for a big, wiggly tickle.”
— The Fox family in Pennsylvania
Noemi, Cultural Care au pair from Italy
“Shortly after arriving, we had a birthday party for our youngest. Noemi was the interest of all of our friends and family. Those that had Italian heritage talked with her about ‘the old country’ and Noemi was gracious in indulging them. She was engaging, charismatic, and warm with every person engaging her. Our families took to her immediately. Aunts accepted her as a new niece, grandmas took her on as a new grandchild, cousins welcomed her into the fold with ease, and our immediate family? Our boys fell in love with her. We had virtually no transition time with her because they took to her so quickly. All four of my nieces are in love with her and believe she is some kind of rock star. The moment they see her, they all start shrieking, ‘NOEMI!’ I doubt Noemi thought she would have her own fan club upon arriving in the states!
As the year has progressed, Noemi spent the holidays with us. Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, we cut down our own Christmas tree. She was a real champ about braving the cold weather and helping us wrangle the kids while we searched for a tree! We took family photos at the farm and she was even in the Christmas card photo that my in-laws sent to all of their friends and family. She is truly our adopted, Italian family member.”
— The Wirkus family in Illinois
Pep, Cultural Care au pair from Germany
“Once Pep got to know us, he brought laughter back to our family. All the games long abandoned in favor of screens have re-emerged. The energy in our house has completely changed. So much more … joy. We plan more family outings, and enjoy more spontaneous diversions. We sit together longer at meals, sharing stories, telling jokes. Except when he makes pasta carbonara—you’ve got to empty your bowl fast to get a chance at a second helping.”
— The Draffen family in California
Gabbie, Cultural Care au pair from Australia
“Gabbie fully took on all aspects of what it means to be an au pair. Not only has she had the most positive impact on all 4 of my children, she has also made long lasting impressions across our state of Iowa and the United States.
Gabbie is always volunteering wherever she can. She is a Cultural Care ambassador and personally reaches out to each and every new au pair that comes to Iowa, welcoming and helping them with any questions or concerns that they may have. She has even won Volunteer of the Month at one of the local food pantries, where she volunteers to help grow fresh fruits and vegetables for those who cannot afford to buy them. Gabbie also volunteers at the kids’ schools. She goes in every Friday and helps the teacher get Friday folders ready for the kids to take home for the weekend, and helps with projects or other needs the teachers may have. Gabbie also made the University of Iowa Club Rugby team where she quickly won the hearts of her teammates and coaches. She was nominated multiple times for player of the game.
Gabbie has won the hearts of our family, our community, and everyone who meets her. She has taught my children more than I could ever write about being a good human. She has been an amazing role model for all of my children. She has been the sister to my daughter that she has asked for her entire life. In a few short months, she will be returning to be with her Australian family who also adore her as much as we do. We are going to have a huge hole in our hearts and in our world not waking up to her being with us every day. We know that she will continue to make a positive impact on the entire world as she makes her journey through life.”
— The Lepic family in Iowa
Katherine, Cultural Care au pair from Colombia
“Katherine’s connection with the kids was immediate, and has deepened each day they have spent together. 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. Our children now love demonstrating their Spanish skills, and don’t hesitate to use them when interacting with their friends. In addition to her language, Katherine has shared her love of Colombian cuisine, culture, and geography with us. She led the kids in celebrating Dia de las Velitas in December, and her Colombian meals are frequently requested. Our kids have even become die-hard soccer fans, cuddling with Katherine 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. 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.
Lastly, Katherine has found ways to be involved in our community. Our family supports a refugee family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The kids from this refugee family adore Katherine—she has extended her warmth to them since their arrival, and has been actively involved in helping them resettle. They see her as we do, as part of the family and an example of why one’s world is so much richer when we actively embrace diversity in the world around us. Katherine also started volunteering with an environmental non-profit, and wrote an informative and comprehensive article about sustainable farming practices in Mexico. She conducted primary source research and wrote the article in English and Spanish for multiple audiences.”
— The Parikh family in Massachusetts
Judy, Cultural Care au pair from Mexico
“In addition to all she does for our family, Judy has served children with special needs in our community by volunteering every week at the local, public pre-school special education program at Jefferson Houston Elementary School in Alexandria, VA. One girl, Alanna, could barely move before Judy starting working with her, and now she has mobility in her neck and can turn her head! She has also reached out to serve families in our community who have special needs but may not have the resources to meet them, specifically immigrant populations. She has a heart for helping people and it shows in all she does. Judy’s passion for growth and giving back to others is contagious.
While she has been with our family, Judy has also studied at Georgetown and taken additional physical therapy seminars while preparing to study toward her Master’s Degree in Spain—a goal she has been saving for and working toward with all that she has, so that she can continue helping others overcome. She is a role model for her friends and our family.”
— The Earle family in Virginia
Angie, Cultural Care au pair from Colombia
“Angie is adventurous, loving, patient, kind, curious, calm and very adaptable. We knew that she was a winner for us when she didn’t hesitate to get outside in the below-zero weather and join in for her first time ice skating, snow tubing, and other outdoor activities within hours of arrival. She is always up for a new adventure, and doesn’t miss out on a new opportunity. Angie leads our children with enthusiasm and a positive attitude that yields a home filled with compassion and laughter.
Angie is loved dearly by all three of our girls and each have bonded with her in their own special way. Angie has become their big sister, and a role model to our oldest daughter—she has taught her how to cook and be more responsible for herself. They like to play board games and words games and just chat. Our middle daughter needed some reassurance getting through kindergarten with a broken leg. Angie was able to comfort her and provide her with cuddles and the right amount of encouragement to help her gain confidence in her new situation. Our youngest loves Angie to pieces. She asks for her whenever she is not around and is always worried that we might leave Angie behind. She wants Angie to be part of everything and makes sure that Angie gets invited to every activity. Angie is her best friend.
Quality relationships are based on honesty and a deep sense of caring; Angie has demonstrated her enormous capacity to do both and become an integral member of our family forever.”
— The Augustine family in Minnesota
Rahel, Cultural Care au pair from Switzerland
“Rahel, James and Mavis set off on a journey to outer space in May of 2018. First, they spent time preparing for their space travels by researching astronomy and aerospace engineering. They travelled to the local library to gather reading materials about their upcoming adventure. From there, they designed and built a miniature solar system so they could plan out their route through the solar systems. Once they had their space ‘roadmap’ set, they got to work building their spaceship. This two person space shuttle was equipped with three main engines, two solid rocket boosters and a phone to call home to mommy and daddy. After the launch, James and Mavis spent weeks (a few hours) floating around outer space (the garage) and discovering new planets and alien creatures! It was an adventure the entire family will never forget! This is just one of the many experiences our two young children have been able to experience with Rahel. Rahel is a creative genius, thinking up new and exciting adventures for James and Mavis. She brings curiosity and creativity to their lives in the most special and unique ways.
What we love most about Rahel is that she is up for anything—whether it’s a last minute trip to San Francisco or an impromptu family dinner or a family trip to Costa Rica! Since Rahel moved here she has signed up for several film production and screenwriting classes. She made her first documentary movie and through all these experiences she has found a love for film. Rahel also has joined a local band where she plays her saxophone with three other musicians. She spends time with other au pairs from the neighborhood, taking weekend trips to Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and Monterey. She has also had the opportunity to travel through California and to Hawaii.”
— The Green family in California
Rômulo, Cultural Care au pair from Brazil
“Rômulo demonstrates an ability to encourage and empower those around him in both the little and big things. When our oldest son—who is in speech therapy and has difficulty articulating various sounds and words—interacts with him, Rômulo constantly reminds him that he can do, be, and say anything. His encouragement with our son has truly helped our child blossom into a confident boy who is proud of what he accomplishes. Or when Rômulo interacts with our youngest son, who has a respiratory illness and needs extra love and support when he is ill, Rômulo always reminds him that he is strong and resilient, no matter how sick he may be.
His encouragement and empowerment go beyond the children, though. When Rômulo and Kyle asked Ashley to go skydiving with them, Ashley responded that she was afraid of heights and did not think she could do it. Rômulo immediately responded to Ashley, saying, ‘Of course you can. You are a woman; you can do anything.’
In his free time, Rômulo continues to make the most of his time in the U.S. and to incorporate himself into the community. Apart from traveling with friends he has made since his arrival, he has participated in a local soccer league, helped coach a local soccer team for two- and three-year-old children, and began volunteering as a firefighter at our town’s volunteer fire department. Not only is our family better because of Rômulo, but our community is as well.”
— The Lewis family in Connecticut
Charity, Cultural Care au pair from South Africa
“At 25, Charity came to us with a lot of life experience. She understood responsibility because, under difficult circumstances, she helped to raise her own siblings in her home country of South Africa. Now, she helps raise our kids with kindness and humility. She also is really accomplished, having completed a college degree and having worked professionally as an athletic trainer before joining our family.
Charity has such a kind heart and is gifted with people of all ages and backgrounds. She puts everyone at ease. I love that we can speak with Charity candidly (and with humor!) about difficult topics such as race, oppression, religion, politics and cultural differences, and she helps us to discuss these with our young children. She doesn’t judge or shy away from these topics. She keeps an open heart and mind and has a genuine willingness to understand things from others’ perspectives and to help us understand her own experiences.”
— The Schwartz family in Washington