Would you believe that right now is the most wonderful time of the year at the Cultural Care Au Pair office in Boston, MA? It’s not because the Patriots just won the Super Bowl or the fact that Snowmageddon 2015 is still in full force (we are over it already). We appreciate this time of year more than any other because it’s when we get to read our families’ nominations for the “Au Pair of the Year Award”.
Every year, the International Au Pair Association (IAPA) invites host parents to nominate au pairs they want to honor and chooses one winner to act as an ambassador to the program. Cultural Care Au Pair received hundreds of nominations this year from host families describing the exceptional young women and men who have joined their families.
It’s a team effort to read through and discuss each essay to select our three finalists and our state winners, and, not surprisingly, there are no shortage of volunteers to be a part of the process. It’s not uncommon to hear staff members whispering to each other at their desks, “Did you read this one?” or to see someone in tears, moved by the incredible way an au pair made a difference. Each story is a gift, reminding us of the power of cultural exchange and the opportunity we have to change lives.
It was a very difficult decision, but our committee did choose three finalists and 31 state winners. Cultural Care will reveal our three finalists starting today on the Buzz and you will hear more about our state winners in subsequent posts throughout the year. We hope you enjoy reading about the nominees as much as we did.
Finalist: Anika Krieger, 21 from Germany
Host parents: Brooke and Jon Borgen
Host children: Three girls ages 7, 5 and 1
Hometown: Denver, CO
“I don’t need a babysitter. I need a wife!” Brooke admits musing with her friends before she decided to host in-country au pair Anika Krieger last June. At the time, Brooke ran her own business part-time and had a babysitter for just 15 hours per week to cover her schedule. Whenever needs arose outside of those hours, she scrambled to find friends and family to help out. After Brooke invited Anika to join her family, things immediately changed for the better. “I’m able to spend more quality time with my girls. If the older two have places they need to be, I can take just them, and Anika can stay home with the baby, who absolutely loves her. Overall we are a happier family with Anika as a part of it.”
Beyond an appreciation for the great care she provides for her children, Brooke included many examples of Anika’s thoughtfulness in her nomination letter.
One night my husband and I were out [late] and Anika was still awake when we got home. She told us “I am waiting for the dog to rise.” Pause. “Anika, we don’t have a dog.” We all chuckled when she pointed to the dough that was rising in the kitchen. She was staying up to make homemade German bread for my cousins who were in town and as a gift to my friend who we planned to see the next day in Aspen. Wow.
For each birthday [in our family], she has found inspiration on Pinterest and has spent countless hours making cakes and fondant from scratch. For our youngest’s first birthday, she made a delicious eggless banana cake because she didn’t want to expose her to egg in case she had a reaction. Remarkable.
One recent Friday night, my husband and I realized that we had used the last of the whole milk for the baby’s bottle. I figured I’d have to run out early the next day but low and behold, I woke up to find a text from Anika, “Grabbed some milk, eggs and bread on my way home.” It was her night off, out with friends. Amazing.
On December 1st, she presented the girls with the most amazing advent calendar I have ever seen: darling painted yogurt containers glued to a cardboard wreath, each filled with something special: stickers, candy, notes saying: “Movie night on Saturday!” They jumped out of bed every morning to open that day’s treat. I received a beautiful birthday painting with all the girls’ hand- and footprints. Incredible.
“What makes Anika stand out is everything she does above and beyond what we ask of her,” adds Brooke. “So, I didn’t get that wife I was looking for,” she chuckles, “but I did get Anika instead, who turned out to be just who we needed. How did I survive before she arrived?!”
As for Anika, she feels just as lucky to have found the Borgens. “I consider myself a full family member. I have a voice in what goes on like anyone else.” Her hope is to one day join the police force in Germany, and she became an au pair to improve her English. “I never thought the kids would consider me their big sister and I would have a new family once I came here.”
Anika found a copy of her host mom’s nomination wrapped up under the Christmas tree this past year and will treasure it always. She says, “I was like, oh my gosh, I never thought my host family felt this way about me.”